Welcome back to Notion Potion! I hope you were inspired by last month’s post about the way tiny steps toward a project can really add up. This month we’ll take a look at a creativity-bully that’s nearly impossible to shake: ourselves.
Prepare to be Punished
Watching reality shows is one of my not-so-guilty pleasures. I love listening to people’s more-or-less unscripted dialog, and I’m always intrigued by the way a narrative is created later by what the show’s editors choose to omit, how they splice things together, and what sort of music is played in the background. (Usually if you mute the ominous music, whatever’s happening is not particularly ominous!)
So I was watching Work Out, a show about a personal trainer in Beverly Hills, and a 270-lb client came to her for help. This was intriguing! All the other clients at her gym were already in great shape. I was eager to see how they’d handle this more “real” person who I could relate to.
And then they worked her out until she puked.
I was disappointed. So disappointed, actually, it got me to wondering why I had such a strong reaction. What I decided was this: when we’re trying to improve ourselves, when we’re trying to build positive habits or shape our lives into the most joyous, creative version of itself it can be, we have plenty of internal and external resistance to overcome as it is. We have friends who laugh at our aspirations because they haven’t got the stones to go out and try new things themselves. We have the awkwardness of being new at something, a learning curve that’s no fun to trudge through. And sometimes we set aside time to start nurturing our creative selves, only to have a genuine emergency crop up and derail our plans.
Given that we face all these hurdles and more, is it really necessary to PUNISH ourselves into making a positive change?
Maybe weight loss isn’t an issue for you. But maybe you’ve always wanted to sing. Or to write poetry. Or paint some tiles at the ceramic shop or learn genealogy or create a computer game. You get the idea. That elusive pang, that tiny murmur that whispers to you, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I tried that?” is what I’m talking about.
There are so many ways in which we bully ourselves. Here are just a few.
- Who am I to think I can write/sing/act/draw?
- This is useless, I can’t learn new things.
- I’m making a fool of myself
- If I can’t work on this project two hours a day I might as well not bother.
- Everyone will laugh at me
We Won’t Stand for That!
Okay, lets sass that damn bully back. Because it’s so used to getting its way, a little backtalk should stun it enough for you to get started and pick your way through that difficult beginning stage of your project and start to build positive momentum.
I can’t learn new things. Learning curves suck, I guarantee you I can relate to that. See if you can tweak your goal from “knowing” how to do something to “learning” how to do something. Usually the first few sessions, when you’re a beginning beginner, are the hardest. Things get easier when you start getting the hang of what you’re learning.
I’m making a fool of myself. Most people are so self-centered they probably don’t even notice what you’re doing. And if some troll decides to seize on your efforts and go around mocking you to make themselves feel better, then you can count yourself among the elite group of creatives getting panned by critics.
If I can’t work on this project two hours a day I might as well not bother. This is the voice of the perfectionist, and it’s telling you lies! Last month I talked about how you can make progress toward your goal in as little as 15 minutes a day. This isn’t a race. It’s a journey. It’s better to take a year to finish a project (even if you know people who can do it in a month) than to never do it at all.
Everyone will laugh at me. Even if a few knuckleheads do, it’s likely there are other people who are admiring the fact that you had the courage to put yourself out there and try something new. You might even inspire them to start heeding the whisper of their secret dream.
So the next time your inner bully starts getting you down, see if you can spot that trash talk for what it is—a mere opinion that’s only got as much weight as you choose to give it—rather than presuming it’s true.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my ruminations on the creative process. Please let me know if there are other creativity topics you’d like me to touch on in future columns! Looking for more inspiration? I have three years of writing podcasts archived at Packing Heat.
(I’ll be on the road when this column is posted, but I’ll pop in later in the day to say hello!)