Smack Your Inner-Critic

It’s an odd segue, I admit, but today’s news of the Atlanta Braves trading Evan Gattis led to my saying, “It’s a sad, sad situation,” which reminded me those were song lyrics. With my husband’s guess of an Elton John song, I quickly found a 1976 video of Sir Elton singing “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word.” Surprised that the song was that old (I would’ve thought early 80s), I watched the scratchy video and listened to the words. Noting how much Elton’s look changed over the years, I thought about how many of his songs are some of my all-time favorites. From “Crocodile Rock,” the very first 45-record I ever bought with my “own” money, the purchase of which has its own story recorded in my childhood diary, to the Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road album, which I won the following year by being the eighth caller to the WQXI radio station in Atlanta, to “Blessed,” which became my baby’s theme song while in utero as we worried about his development after we were involved in a head-on collision with a drunk driver while I was pregnant, Elton John’s songs have filled my life. I can’t imagine how empty that space would be if those songs weren’t there.

What about the books on the shelves? All those stories—from the collection of childhood books my parents bought me that arrived in the mail monthly for a year and remain in my possession today, through some classics, to the bookcase full of contemporary authors, many autographed copies by local authors I’ve had the pleasure to meet and refer to as friends. What if they hadn’t written those stories? What if they didn’t take the time to do the work, or second-guessed themselves and thought the stories weren’t good enough, or that no one would read them? I can’t imagine how empty that space would be if those books weren’t there.

What about the paintings and art on the walls? Beautiful oil paintings hang on our walls, one-of-a-kind pieces so rich in detail to look at them makes me feel like I could walk right into the scene. Two of my favorites were painted by a local artist who signs her work “Dixie,” and though I’ve never met her, her work can easily be spotted in galleries at a glance. The colors are so vibrant and lifelike, you’d likely reach out to pull a lemon from the painted bowl or check to see if any of the geraniums in the vase had dropped a withered petal to the floor. What if Dixie had thought no one would want to buy a painting of a bowl of fruit or a window-box of flowers? I can’t imagine how empty that space would be if those paintings weren’t there.

What is it for you? What is that niggling feeling inside you bursting to be created that you keep pushing back, tamping down, and talking yourself out of making? Is it a culinary delight, something in your kitchen? Or are the supplies you need to make your dream available at a craft store, a hardware store, a salvage yard? Do you think about it often, but your inner-critic makes you feel foolish so you dismiss it before taking a step?

I know I do.

What if Elton John, Claire Cook, or Dixie had let their inner-critics beat them down?

It’s a new year and time to smack that inner-critic to the curb. What if someone is out there waiting for our music to be made, our stories to be written, our pictures to be painted? It won’t be for everybody, but it will be for somebody. And even if that somebody is just you alone, you’re worth it, so is your art. Regardless, that niggling feeling . . . it could be the Holy Spirit nudging you to get on with that gift or talent he placed in you. Do it. If you deny using your God-given gift, it would truly be a sad, sad situation.