The kids each got their own snow/storm day this week as an elementary school closed one day at the beginning of and a middle school at the tail end of Tropical Storm Sandy. It’s always a challenge trying to get work done when either kid is home, but when I have one or other of them alone, I try to take advantage of the situation and get some quality time. That was how we ended up enjoying an impromptu breakfast at the infamous Round Table that occupies the back area of our local country store. It was also how I had an unwanted encounter with an inner critic I’ve been trying to silence the last few months.
The Round Table is infamous because everyone in Arlington and Sandgate Vermont knows that on any given morning that table will be surrounded by it’s ‘Knights’. Mostly male and often around retirement age, these loyal patrons are keen on sharing and hearing the latest opinions on everything from climate change to who’s doing what in local and federal government to the deer population. Often loud but always good natured, the conversations are as popular as they are passionate, and I wasn’t sure if we would find an open seat. However, the normal crowd seemed to be occupied with storm preparations, and we got lucky.
Thing2 and I grabbed a couple of breakfast sandwiches and sat down to eat and to listen. There were only a few other visitors, and when they tired of storm speculations, one of our companions absently started thumbing through one of the Norman Rockwell calendars on the table (they are ubiquitous around this town) and the conversation turned to the life and work of this illustrator who once lived here.
Two of our companions, more interested in subjects of the paintings, discussed which local citizen had modeled for which painting and how some of the magazine covers captured the essence of Arlington, Vermont so well. I’m of fan of his work on many levels, and though I tended to agree with them, I also tend to listen more when I eat at the Round Table. Listening turned out to be the better part of valor as the visitor who had sparked the conversation, launched into a fairly unfavorable critiques of the artist’s subject matter. His opinion of Rockwell’s technique was even less favorable, and as he dissected one of the illustrations in the calendar, I gleaned that the critic was a working artist himself. Now I was even more determined to hold my tongue.
As Thing 2 and I ate, I silently thought of all the reasons I felt my companion was wrong, but knowing that he was a working artist, while I had only recently begun reviving my doodling skills made me doubt all those reasons. That doubt began feeding a weakened inner critic, and as I gnawed at my sandwich, it began to gnaw at me.
“Maybe the reason you like this artist or that one is that you don’t know any better,” it whispered. “Maybe your ham-fisted illustrations are the result of a sophomoric sense of art. Maybe you should learn how to make iPhone apps instead of wasting your time on a blog that’s going to fizzle anyway.”
Thing2 and I finished our sandwiches, and I was relieved to get up from the table. I hadn’t written all weekend, and guilt was making the inner critic stronger. I knew my schedule would prevent any writing for a day or so, but where those lapses usually produce annoyance at my lack of organization, for a brief moment I wondered if it was just an admission that I wasn’t any good at my avocation.
As we stepped out into the bluster that was heralding the storm, it hit me. It didn’t matter if I was good or not or if Rockwell was good or not. Sticking to my guns and the doodling and the disclosing that is the heart of a blog is about feeding the soul. And good or not, the more the soul is fed, the harder it is for the inner critic to feed off of my doubts or the comments of others.