Pardon me


Yesterday, I wrote about my experience as a member of a Pentecostal church when I was in my twenties. I struggled to write it, and I struggled with publishing it.

The first reason I struggled was that I would be publically acknowledging something about myself that has been a source of shame to me for a long time. How did someone who was once thoroughly skeptical of fundamentalist Christianity get caught up in a Pentecostal church to the point where he would pretend to speak in tongues? That’s a topic that would take more than a few hundred words to explore. For now, what’s important is that it was very difficult to make this embarrassing episode in my life a matter for public consumption.

The second reason I struggled was that I was sure that it would offend some people. When I posted a link to the piece on both Twitter and Facebook, I added this note:


As I write this post, I have no idea if I was right or not. I haven’t logged onto Facebook, haven’t looked at my Twitter notifications.

I felt as though I had to take the risk, anyway. Fear of giving offense is the inner critic’s backup attack vector when, “You suck” stops working:

  • Your mother won’t like being presented in that light.
  • Your father will be so disappointed in you.
  • What will your family think?
  • What if your boss/potential employer/customers sees that?
  • You’re going to lose friends over this.

It sounds so reasonable, but once you give in to the impulse to self-censor, it grows. Today, you can’t write about religion. Tomorrow, politics. Soon your own memoirs are off-limits, and eventually, there is no topic you can write about.

I’m just starting to find my voice again, so I refused to shut myself down.

I had another reason to find the courage to publish the piece. I often counsel other writers to overcome their fear. How could I have any credibility if I couldn’t do the same thing? I had to show the same willingness to be vulnerable, the same courage to speak my mind that I advise others to develop.

Now, having finished this entry, I’m going to check in on social media and see if anyone hates my guts yet.

A conversation with the inner critic


“No one is going to want to read this.”

The voice sounds a lot like me. Like a phone call in an old horror story, it’s coming from inside. Inside my brain, in this case. Unlike the frightened protagonist of that old campfire story, though, I can’t exactly run away from it. Every time I sit down to write anything more demanding than a grocery list, this jackass starts running his mouth. That’s his go-to line up there.

So I tell him, “Pipe down. I don’t have to listen to you.”

“You should. I’m the one who keeps you from making a fool of yourself. Which is what will happen if you publish this.”

I shake my head. This guy. I’ve never seen him, of course. He sits behind my eyes, over on the left side of the brain. That’s not a right-brain/left-brain metaphor. It’s literally the side I hear him on.

“How am I going to make a fool of myself if no one wants to read it? I mean, if no one reads it, what does it matter?”

“It’s not going to be any good.”

That’s the runner up in the Inner Critic’s top ten list. Variations: It will suck, it will be lame, it’s stupid.

“I don’t care if it’s any good. Success is 250 words or more. I’ve only got a handful left and then I’m done.”

“It’s just self-indulgent twaddle.”

“Maybe, but it’s done.”

(Photo by Christian Newman on Unsplash)