The very worst times in my life have been marked by silence: times when I wasn’t allowed to write, or couldn’t write, or when language completely failed me. I didn’t write a word, beyond e-mails or Facebook status updates, for nearly two years after I finished graduate school.
After I had finished each of my two books, I spent at least six months casting around, writing nothing new. Each time, what finally got me off the block was digging for its root: It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t think of anything new to say, it was that I believed what I had thought of wasn’t any good. I realized that when I approached the page, I brought with me a ruthless, internal critic who killed words, lines, and whole essays before giving them a chance to breathe. Now I’m in the practice of writing nearly every day, and it’s because I learned to silence the voice of that ruthless critic, especially when starting something new. I type whatever comes to me, and do so with curiosity, not judgment. If I bring anyone to the page these days, she’s an adventurer, not a critic. She says only one thing: Let’s see where this goes.
—Lacy M. Johnson, author of The Other Side (Tin House Books, 2014)