When you undertake a creative project, there’s always part of your mind designed to resist: your Inner Critic with That Voice
And guess what? The Inner Critic doesn’t play fair. It runs you down in every way it knows will destroy you. Psychological & neurological explanations indicate that we have a predilection for keeping things “The Same”:
"It’s the lizard brain that tells you that you’re not qualified, that your degree isn’t advanced enough, that you didn’t go to a good enough school. It’s the lizard that tells you not to apply to a great school, because you don’t deserve to get in. And it’s the lizard that cares deeply about grades, and not a bit about art or leadership or connection."-Seth Godin, Linchpin
"Safe and Predictable", in creative terms = GGAAAAAHHHHHHHH!
When you’re fighting The Critic, you’re fighting your greatest and most cunning nemsis…YOURSELF.
*grumble, grumble, curse*
If you’re intent on lying around just letting it work: you’re a victim.
If you’re not trying anything new and never taking a chance on learning something new, then you’re done. Your lizard-brain, That Voice, is nice and silent.
BECAUSE IT WON!
If you dream of succeeding, you’ve got to face the discomfort. Move from “victim” status into “survivor-and-thriver”.
IT IS NOT EASY to outwit our x-thousand-year-old limbic system at work.
So grab some techniques and help your Inner Artist out-battle the Beast.
Three ideas I’ve found helpful:
Take dictation, then turn it around (via Julia Cameron, author of "The Artist’s Way")
- Write down what THAT VOICE is saying, word for word, as fast as you can and DO NOT CENSOR IT. This isn’t a graded essay. Spelling and punctuation do not count.
- Second, take a few key phrases and turn them into positive actions and write those down.
ex: The Voice Says: “you never finish anything, you’re a talentless washed-up hack”
Turnaround (what you write afterward): “I complete my work. I have skills, and I’m always learning more. My viewpoint is unique.”
2. PUT IT IN ITS PLACE
- Listen to THAT VOICE.
- Now repeat what it says.
- Do it in a little kid voice.
- Try to sound like the sneering villain from your favorite movie.
- Now try sounding like Glenda, good witch of the North, your favorite superhero, etc.
Repeat until you laugh or throw up—-I figure either way, the thing’s purged for a little while.
3. COMFORT AND CONQUER
Play Therapist and Give Lizard-Brain A Little Smothery Love
- Pretend THAT VOICE is a person.
- Picture him or her, lying on a therapist’s couch, saying THOSE THINGS.
- Be sympathetic. Say “um-hmm”.
- Reflect the words “So what I’m hearing/sensing/getting out of this is you’re worried about being embarrassed…”
- Urge it on. “Tell me more…and this is because?”
- Finish the “session” by giving your imaginary person a hug, or a kick in the backside, or a pat on the shoulder.
IMPORTANT. Tell THE VOICE “I hear you. I will think about what you have to say. Let’s just take a break for, oh, say, thirty minutes, and I’m going to write. When I’m finished, let’s regroup and see where we’re at, okay?”
Image: Elizabeth Everson 2013 No rights reserved
Other writers have luck with doing things like writing as quickly as they can, self-hypnosis, meditation, creative routines, and so forth. It’s worth having a look around to see what else might serve. Sometimes all it takes is a good 30-45 minutes of exercise for me to help soothe my anxious inner self.
DANGER DANGER DANGER: Drowning your troubles by abusing yourself creates more problems than it solves. Getting drunk, doing drugs and destructive habits like overeating, isolationism, or over-scheduling yourself can run your creativity into the ground and take you along for the ride.
Take action to break self-critic-induced paralysis.
Survive. Thrive. Stay creatively alive.
AND DON’T STICK TO ONE TECHNIQUE!
Change up your methods from time to time to keep one move ahead of the beast. If you keep those feet moving, it’s harder to get cornered.
Go forth, create, and conquer!
Elizabeth Ellen Everson
(Dang it, now I’ve written this I have to go out and do all of it, don’t I? *sigh* Yes, yes, I do. Drat!)