Everybody's a Critic

A struggling artist is confronted by the voice in his head while trying to create a new painting.


I stare at the blank canvas in front of me with a glimmer of desperation in my eyes. It’s happening again. My body is frozen, trying to pull inspiration from thin air. My eyes scan the empty room. The paintbrush in my right hand feels like a dumbbell begging to be put down.  It’s been half an hour at this point and still nothing.

Another ten minutes pass. Those ten minutes turn into ten more minutes. Those ten minutes turn into twenty more minutes. I have nothing but a blank canvas to show for it.

I sag in defeat and let out a deep sigh. From across the empty room, I hear a familiar voice.

“Pick your head up, princess. Your tiara’s falling off.”

I look up. Standing there with a sinister grin is… me. Or rather, my doppelgänger. My worst enemy. I can only shake my head.

“You again. Look man, I’m not in the mood right now.”

“I just wanna talk. No need to be so hostile.”

“I’m busy.”

“You ain’t gotta lie to kick it. I watched you stand there for an hour staring at the ceiling and picking boogers.”

“I was scratching my nose.”

“Whatever. I don’t even know why you’re still doing this shit, man. I can’t take the secondhand embarrassment anymore. I actually feel sorry for you.”

“How come you don’t ever have nothin’ nice to say, huh? No ‘good morning?’ ‘How was your day?’ ‘Cool shirt bro!’ You don’t ever get tired of being miserable?”

He considers it, then: “Nah.”

“I just can’t stand to see you wasting your time chasing some stupid pipe dream that’s never gonna pan out. If anything I’m trying to help you.”

“What do you know, man? You don’t know shit.”

“You couldn’t even get into art school. What makes you think you’re good enough to get in a gallery?”

Straight for the jugular. I search for a rebuttal, but words escape me. Maybe he’s right. 

He’s got me right where he wants me – against the ropes. A flurry of verbal assaults follow:

“Stop lying to yourself, you and me both know you’re gonna let everybody down.”

“Just go home and curl up in a ball like you always do.”

“Get a job and quit wasting your time.”

“Who do you think you are - Basquiat? More like Basqui-not!”

“You’ll never make it.”

“You ain’t shit.”

Those last words are the knockout punch - a haymaker to the chest. I feel my blood boiling and my eyes swelling with frustration. He laughs maniacally in front of me. Before I know it, I’m holding a paint knife. 

I leap from behind the easel and lunge at him with the knife like Jordan flying from the free throw line. He’s too busy laughing to notice, but his snickers quickly dissipate as he realizes he’s been stabbed. His eyes get wide and he looks down at the blood slowly trickling from his chest. He collapses on the wooden floor with a thud.

The magnitude of what’s just happened hits me. I’m going to jail for murder. I panic - start pacing around like a madman. Make my peace with it. As I turn back towards him, I see -

No one is there.

I furrow my brow in confusion and search the room. It’s just me in here. All alone. I let a chuckle of relief escape before gradually returning my attention back to the canvas.

I step back behind it and take a deep breath. I pick up the paintbrush I was holding earlier and dip into the paint.

I make a stroke on the canvas, and it’s beautiful.