Not too long ago, an acquaintance of mine, Brandy Dawley wrote something about her inner critic and what it looks like, how it acts, and what it represents in a Medium article called On Creative Paralysis, Feeling Naked Online, And My Inner Critic Whose Name is Chad. I wasn’t originally going to write this, at least not today or tonight. I’ve been very depressed lately, especially with regards to my creative writing. And I’m just going to tell you all now that my inner critic, my judge, my arbiter-out-of-control doesn’t have a gender, or an interesting aesthetic, or is even all that interesting.
My judge is Time.
What can I tell you about Time that you don’t already know? I’m not talking about kindly old Grandfather Time, or even Fotamecus: a chaos magick sigil turned into a servitor, Egregore or complex thought-form, and eventually new god of time, if you want to learn something more obscure. No, I’m talking about the old man with the scythe. I’m talking about Cronus or Chronos who castrated his own father, and ate his children out of fear. But not even that. Think of this grey cloaked figure with a scythe, or maybe more of an impulse that tells you that it is bigger than it really is, while also greatly under-exaggerating the size of its heart: which is, like a singularity, a large implosion with a very small, dense, pitiless centre.
Time is capricious. It likes to tell me that I have plenty of it, sometimes, or that I have all of its attention. It can lull me into a false sense of confidence, or complacency. Time waits as it encourages me to procrastinate, or bears down on my chest and stomach, on my esophagus, and ticks away on the corner of a YouTube video I’m watching to calm down and clear my head. And all that time, it keeps score. It writes down, much in the way that I’m not, everything I’m doing except for what it thinks I should be doing: what it alternatively whispers and shouts at me what I should be doing.
Sometimes Time likes to get fresh. It likes to throw something in my face and yell “Surprise! Deal with it! This is your only chance, but no pressure!” It gets relentless and manic: jabbing, kicking, and screaming at me about how I need to do this thing now Now NOW NOW NOW but it won’t always tell me what I am supposed to do, or how I should do it. And when I ask it why, it mostly answers in the negative. It tells me that if I don’t do this, I will suffer, I will remain in stasis, or I will rot from the inside like the spoiled creature that it claims and makes me feel that I am.
I’m not even talking about when Time decides to take me on a trip down memory lane. It’s like the TARDIS from Hell. It likes to show me everything I was, and what I’m not anymore. It likes to show me what I could have done instead, but no backsies. It likes to show me what I could have been, but how I will never have those chances because of my own ineptness: my own sense of paralysis. It explains to me, in immense detail, how it will stretch out and test all of my friendships and relationships — all of my connections with them — and slowly, and carefully fray the emotions around them over time until I feel detached and disassociated from everyone. It tells me not to trust anyone or anything: how one day, they will all leave me, or I will leave them first.
And then, it takes me into the future. It takes me to a place where it confirms the worst of my fears. Time tells me that I wasted my life. It tells me that I am a loser for living at home after having worked and had scholarships at university. And then, Time likes to be cruel. It enjoys offering me opportunities, waving them in my face, and then right at the last second in an inverse of “no backsies” go “just kidding” and kick me right back into the metaphorical gutter that it took me from: sort of a reversal of fortune writ petty, and small, and banal.
Time likes to play “The Pit and the Pendulum” below me and over my head. It likes to wear me down and remind me of every stupid thing I’ve done, and how no matter what I have done since I will always be that whiny self-entitled child that doesn’t deserve a single thing he gets. It tells me that I’m useless. It says I’m too old, or that I’m getting too old to make anything that will turn my life around.
Time tells me that I am unkempt and that everything is shallow anyway. It tells me I am not nearly as clever or as smart as I think I am. It reminds me of the children that taunted me as a child because I talked too slow, or because I fidget and rock back and forth. It said that I used to be good at “passing” as “normal” but I’ve lost that ability. It says that nothing I do, no creation of mine I create, and no relationship I seek or make matters. Nothing I do will matter. Sometimes, when it is really cruel, it likes to remind me of how good things used to be and how horrible they’ve become now: how I made them that way. It tells me I’ve imprisoned myself, locked myself away, made myself think I am weak and pathetic and rubs my delusions of grandeur — of working hard to excel and be someone — right back in my face like shit.
Then it tells me my only future is around people who I will never relate to, and that I will be alone.
In this way, this version of Time as my inner critic and judge is like Chronos: like him it cuts away the good memories of the past by making me think I’ve learned nothing from it, and it eats my children by paralyzing me, and telling me that I will accomplish nothing but thwarted, angry, bitter dreams.
And Time has been louder these days. Like I said, it wears you down. You defy it over and again like screaming at a brick wall. But you get tired. You get drained. I’ve worked for so long for very little money. I know I should send out pitches or stories, but I don’t feel motivated to do them: as negative motivation from Time is a terrible reason to want to do anything worth while. I don’t even know where to go. But that isn’t true. I have a comics script I never finished because of procrastination and Time telling me it’s too late, and reminding me about my inadequacies. I have a Toronto Comics Anthology I could submit pitches to, but again too much Time has passed and I don’t feel the same way about Toronto as I used to: making it belong to another life. I’ve had talks I’ve put aside because of the fear that something will be over, even though it may well already be, or because I just let it go for too long. It mocks me about how my fanfiction is useless because I will never get paid and there is no reason to do it. It looks at my articles and tells me I am wasting my time reiterating matter I didn’t even create. And it tells me not to get close to anyone because I will end up losing track of the emotions, and by the time they lurch in me full stop they will be long gone.
My judge has the power to freeze itself, to slowly make me watch things change and do nothing to stop them. But it isn’t linear. My critic is definitely cyclical: as circular as this entire post has probably become.
A long time ago, someone I loved wrote a poem before she ever met me. It was called “Where Time Goes to Die.” And sometimes, when Time tells me I should have died in the Summer of 2008 when I was happy and I thought my life was just beginning and everyone was still with me, I wish it would just die. I wish Time would die and I would forever avoid that place where it perished.
Then I would finally be free.
But that’s not what’s going to happen.
What will happen, I think, is this. You see, my inner critic has a weakness. It doesn’t always realize this, but it’s there. Like I said, it likes to pretend to be bigger than it actually is. But what it doesn’t realize is that sometimes I can cut it up into little chunks. Into little bits. Sometimes, I can takes parts of it as well. Sometimes I eat it just like it tries to eat my creations. I take them, these pieces of my judge, jury, and executioner. I eat them one by one with my fork like the pieces of breaded cutlet I sometimes microwave at night.
Then I have dialogues with the parts of myself that Time thinks it has taken away from, or locked away from each other. We exchange notes. Sometimes we wear masks to hide from it. This becomes dialogue. Dialogue becomes interactions and the formation of scenes and descriptions. Sometimes I steal bits of Time when it doesn’t think I can even get out of bed. I take it and read something like Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles: which makes me remember my comics script and dialogue and wondering what might happen if I write just the dialogue of what I want to say and fill in the description later from I have already done.
My past selves talk with each other, to me, on the grapevine that the scythe can never really serrate that well. Then I recall the opportunities. I look at what I have done before and I wonder if I can adapt it into something else. Or I take some space and think of something I haven’t done before.
And then when Time wants to implode like powerful gravity, I just let it. Sometimes I just let it weigh me down and I don’t fight it. I feel it. I remember it. I remember this Spirit of Gravity and I think about its power, coming from a black hole and string theory, and if blackholes are wormholes and if I can harness the power of Wormhole Technology to do something completely ad hoc.
So I work through it. I do the little things that Time doesn’t think are all that important or worth its notice except to make delicate, beautiful, egg-shell bombs. But eventually, one day Time will reach too far. It will offer me something that I can grab back. It will step onto one of its deadly little Easter eggs. I will have more friends. More allies. People talk about Time. I’ve already talked about Time here and what it likes to do. Some people might not like that very much. Some people might not like that at all.
I will take Time’s regrets and uncertainties and create a world out of them of my design. I will take my pain and I will write with it. I will create new life. And then, one day, when I send in more pitches, and better more defined works of which I will have enthusiasm, and I sleep better, and eat well, and people will talk about my name to other people and places all across its surface, I will make the that place. I will create that space. I will make the site of the area of the grave of the ground where Time — my Time — goes to die.
And I will point and laugh. And I will be utterly satisfied.