Taming Your Inner Critic

Being a creative type can be a lonely affair as one toils away at their desk and/or in their studio.  To combat the negative, yappy little voices in my head that say “this sucks” I keep a good supply of reading material on hand to feed my “inner cheerleader” so that I may merrily stay the course.  I just finished listening to a very good book that I would recommend to any person that needs to keep their inner critic at bay which is…

Your Inner Critic Is a Big Jerk: And Other Truths About Being Creative,   by Danielle Krysa and Martha Rich

daniellekrysa-yourinnercriticisabigjerk

This 136-page gem is packed full of wise advice and anecdotes gleaned from the author’s interviews with other artists and from her own experiences.  She covers such topics such as facing the blank page, dealing with criticism, jealousy, excuses, and blocks with humor and sensitivity.  You’ll get advice on how to navigate through roadblocks with various exercises designed to make you stronger.  Though I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the book and will listen again, I will be buying a hard copy so I may mark it up and enjoy the great illustrations by Martha Rich.  Put this one in your toolbox!

 

 

Throwing Stuff Overboard

hook-111316_1920CHECKLIST

High School

CHECK

college

CHECK

work

CHECK

marriage,  divorce,  marriage, child, divorce

CHECK, CHECK, CHECK, CHECK

Grad school, career

CHECK, CHECK

Child leaves home

CHECK

Retirement

CHECK

?

REALITY CHECK!

Continue reading “Throwing Stuff Overboard”

The Creative’s Nemisis

I have no trouble coming up with creative ideas.  It’s fear that is the creative’s nemesis. Really, that’s what a creative block is, just plain old fear.  Sometimes you have to look under your creative bed and make friends with the monster.

              Fear

snake-2082037_1920The opposite of courage

The backside of love & creativity

Its tendrils approach from behind

Silently wrapping themselves around your neck

Until you are paralyzed

Suffocating in its sticky web

 

Ultimately it is your breath that will save you

From these paper thin bonds

Grab a breath deep into your soul

Allowing another, and yet another

Until your life force finally finds a foothold

To break free from the spinning chaos

 

Choose earth, choose nature, choose good

Choose whatever infinite force is truth to you

Grab its hand and pull yourself up

Keep your gaze forward, never down

And  walk quickly across the precarious bridge to the other side

And announce loudly

I am here

girl-918799_1920

When the Creative Party Ends

It happens sometimes to creatives- your head is filled with a party of ideas & inspirations and then all of a sudden the party is over.  You’re left with a bunch of rubble, an empty IMG_1398room, and a creative hangover.  That’s where I am at.  I’ve been here before and it’s not fun.  You feel lost, lonely & a sense of despair.  The one thing I do know “This too shall pass” (but not without some effort).

Parties can’t go on indefinitely.  At some point, you need to rest & recharge.  The first step is to clean up after the party- literally.  I am doing a total cleanup of my studio.  On Saturday I swept down my cement floor, got rid of unnecessary items that lined the walls and occupied the floor and then hosed down the entire thing.  Afterward, it smelled fresh and sweet.  Today I am cleaning and organizing my table surfaces.  For some reason cleaning my physical space also cleans my mental space.  It’s not a cure-all but sure is a positive start to make room for new ideas.  Best of all- It’s something I can do now and feel good about.

I wrote the following poem at my low point (also posted on “Poet’s Corner”).  I look forward to hearing the songs of birds again.

 

BURROW

If I had a burrow

I would crawl into it

Make a bed of soft moss

Block the entrance with piles of rock

And curl up & sleep until the songs of birds

Wove their way into my consciousness

To wake me

rabbit-burrow
Image courtesy http://animalia-life.club

ESCAPING PERFECTIONISM

Perfectionism is a like having a raucous little beast, its claws firmly embedded in your 8f878f17bf65dcfb17b8b14daa544668shoulder, whispering in your ear that your work is not good enough. You need to try harder. You need to do more for it to pass muster. But you’re never quite satisfied and you’re filled with lingering doubt about the value of your work, and worse, yourself. It is the enemy of creativity. When I speak of perfectionism, I am not equating it with the precision required of a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist. This kind of perfectionism does not lead to positive outcomes. It often goes hand in hand with unhappiness & anxiety.

Looking at my work now, one would never know that I am a recovering perfectionist. My work is often playful, spontaneous, & made of torn paper or clay forms that have intentionally been altered or misshapen in some way. I gravitate towards the asymmetrical & wonky shapes that you might find in a Dr. Suess book. It’s my private rebellion against perfection. In a round- about way, I’m rejecting the notion that our bodies must conform to a perfect ideal as celebrated by our culture.

The seeds of my perfectionism developed during my teenage years. I suffered from some misaligned parenting that left me carrying a heavy backpack of low self-esteem into my adulthood. The message I internalized from frequent criticism was that I was not good enough. As a result, I became critical of myself & began down the path of perfectionism to compensate.

Perfectionists often set themselves up for failure- or perceived failure. It made sense that one of my first art forms was calligraphy. To make proper letter forms, one has to be quite exacting. I strove to achieve the strictest proportions with my work, often starting over & over. Eventually, my body started to give me signals that made me begin to question my perfectionism. I developed carpal tunnel syndrome & neck & back pain. This started a period of intense self-examination since I was suffering from depression as well.

It took months of therapy and hard work on my part to begin to free myself from the grip that low self- esteem had on my psyche. I started taking medication to treat my depression.  Eventually, my perfectionism began to dissipate. Now I practice “imperfectionism.” This does not mean I am into sloppy craftsmanship, but rather that when I have expressed what I’ve needed to express I stop, walk away and declare it done. The little flaws that remain, unnoticed to others but myself, are no longer deal breakers. They are the marks that a human hand made Wave pot1the piece & not a machine.

I keep an awareness about me when I am working lest my evil little beast lands on my shoulder again. If my mood shifts from a positive one to anxiety, I start to question the motives in my work & refocus. It’s a great time to get up, flick the beast off & take a break.

The creative process should bring happiness. If your perfectionism is robbing you of that, it’s time to think about where it came from. Check out the books by Keri Smith such as Mess, The Manual of Accidents & Mistakes to loosen you up. Adopt the practice of “imperfectionism” & experience the joy you deserve.

These Lines

writing-828911_1280

THESE LINES

from my pencil

anchor me to this earth

like a kite on a string.

These lines

form words on pages

giving shape to my thoughts

running wild in my head.

These lines that form words

are lassoed into sentences, then paragraphs

a calm order brought from the spiraling chaos.

My soul is tamed

At least for a while

From the simple act of writing.

Why I Meditate

606-to-507-028For many, the word meditation conjures up images of Buddha- like figures sitting in lotus position, hands in prayer, dressed in monkish robes or yoga gear & chanting Om in long breaths. Find me in meditation & you would see a disheveled middle-aged woman propped up in bed first thing in the morning, legs stretched out under the covers, hands upturned in her lap, eyes closed & silently breathing.  It’s an unglamorous but serene picture.  This is how I prefer to start my day.

Meditation has been a part of my life off & on for over 20 years. I turned to it, as many do, during a period of great upheaval in my life. The liberal minded church I was attending at the time offered a free class.  It was a simple procedure.  Close your eyes, scan your body for tension, & then breathe observing your thoughts without judgement.  The teacher suggested picking a 2 syllable word, known to some as a mantra, to focus on while breathing.  This could be something like “om-sa”, “breathe in-breathe out”, “I am” or something that holds meaning to you.  You can visulaize a peaceful scene. That was it.  No need for a guru, a specially assigned mantra, or shelling out lots of money.  The deal breaker for me was the suggested 20 minutes twice a day.

I did start on that schedule & then could not stick with it.  Rather than throw out the entire practice this is what my practice looks like now- 12 minutes before I start my day.  It really helps for me to throw in a late afternoon practice before dinner but that is usually the exception than the rule.  Sometimes all I can muster is observing my breath 5 to 10 times during my day.  It all helps.

This is what I’ve gained from meditation- focus, grounding, & insight.  Previously I had the mistaken notion that meditation was about controlling my thoughts. I was wrong. It’s about observing the mind & body without judgement. If you find your mind wandering, just come back to the breath & note what you were thinking about.  This will happen over & over.  Eventually you will gain an awareness of your thought patterns throughout your day & a habit of self- correction.

One of my first realizations was that my default body position is with my shoulders scrunched up to my ears.  That may not sound like much, but relaxing my shoulders has helped relieved me of back & shoulder pain. Then, being a creative soul, my thoughts tend to be all over the map often wrapping themselves in a tight knot than constructive recognizable paths.  Now I am more able to develop ideas in a more constructive way. I can think in a more positive manner. It’s a defragging for the brain, a reboot for the thoughts.

Meditation is the ultimate reality check.  Slow down, stop, and go inward.  If you think you don’t have the time, all the more reason to start.  You will not regret it.