Is your creative life getting the first class treatment, or is it shivering in a corner and slowly starving to death? It's important to invest time, energy, and sometimes finances in your creativity to let it know that it matters. This is one of the most important factors in a vibrant creative life.
The inner critic.
Being hard on yourself.
Maybe even "being a realist."
Whatever you call it, negative self talk is a prevalent behavior that's been coming up a lot lately with writer friends, coaching clients, and even popped up as an issue of concern on a podcast I was listening to yesterday.
I'm going to guess that it affects you too. I know it certainly affects me. Wouldn't it be awesome if we could be our own best cheerleaders, encouragers, and motivators, rather than our biggest critics and demoralizers? Imagine how many creative risks we might take, how many new things we might explore, how much more good we might do in the world?
The first step to solving any problem is understanding it, so let's tune in to Self Talk Radio KERRY, a station that is playing continually in the background of my consciousness, usually without my awareness, and see what's playing.
(NOTE: When I wrote the first draft of this I included stuff other people have said and kinda made stuff up. This is the honest transcript, because I want you to know that whatever is going on in YOUR head, you are not alone.)
What makes you think you can pull this self employed thing off? You'll be crawling back to the day job before a year is up.
Getting a little big for our britches, aren't we?
Maybe you used to be able to write, but you certainly can't write now. Nobody is going to read this shit.
I don't know what you were thinking to start this podcasting project, because you know you'll just get bored and drop it and nobody will ever listen anyway. All full of ideas, but you never finish anything.
You know you're going to fail, so why bother to start...
Yikes. Okay. That was helpful.... NOT.
Know this. If your private self talk station sounds anything like this, you are not alone. Pretty much everybody I know deals with this type of self criticism on a regular basis.
Recently, I was lucky enough to go on a cruise with Cruising Writers, hosted and run by Christina Delay, my business partner for Creative Wellness Retreats. I facilitated a group for the writers on the cruise about our inner critics that turned out to be surprisingly powerful, even for me. We all took a few minutes to download the negative self talk going on in our brains (something I'm going to invite you to do in just a few minutes.)
One of the writers stopped writing, looked up at me, and said, "This is so mean."
Well, yes. It is mean. And it got meaner.
Because the next thing I asked them to do was to choose one of those things they were saying to themselves, and then deliver that line to somebody else in the group. There were actual tears, here, my friends. Not from the person the line was delivered to, but from the deliverer. Things they had been saying to themselves unconsciously for years made them cry when said out loud to another human being.
I would never look at another human being on a journey and say, "You're totally going to fail at this," or "Your writing sucks, dude."
This isn't being a realist. It isn't tough love. It's mean and hurtful and not helpful.
Imagine the damage done by having this kind of toxic garbage playing in your subconscious day in and day out, year after year after year.
Now, are you ready for the good news?
You can change it! You can convert the Self Talk Channel into a motivational channel that will encourage and inspire you rather than dragging you down. I'm going to give you the steps of a simple practice, drawn from Kaizen-Muse coaching, that you can implement to start this transformation.
1. Awareness. Start tuning in to that negative voice so you know what it's saying. Much of its power comes from the way it runs in the background, influencing you while you're busy doing other things. Take five minutes to free write the critical messages. Don't stop to think or analyze, just scribble them down.
2. Draw a big heart around them. Write a message like, "This is normal, I accept that everybody does this." Or, "I am not alone with this." Or, "Thank you for sharing." (Do this step, even if you want to skip it. It's important. It takes some of the energy away from the critic.)
3. Reframe. Look at those things you've written down and see how you might turn them into encouraging messages. Imagine you are delivering them to a friend you love and believe in. What might you say then?
Try focusing on a positive aspect. For example, I'm converting "You know you're going to fail, why bother to start?" into "You're awesome for starting this project. I love your energy and enthusiasm!" That feels so much better. It gives me energy to keep going, rather than fulfilling an expectation of failure.
Or, reframe the negative into a positive question. Like this:
"Nobody is going to read this shit," becomes "What if this grows into an awesome book and my readers love it?"
Again, this question makes me want to keep going. To keep writing. It gives me permission to grow the book, to develop it into something good even if it isn't awesome yet.
4. Say nice things to the woman or man in the mirror. I got this one from the podcast I was listening to yesterday - LOA Recon with Jeannette Maw. What you do is say nice things to yourself, every day (or as many days as you remember - no beating yourself up for missing!) while looking in the mirror. I think Jeannette mentioned a magic number to aim for - like 40 days, or something - but anything you do will help.
One important rule: You don't get to beat yourself up for your negative self talk.
A funny thing happens when we start in to change this pattern. We start beating ourselves up for beating ourselves up, in an ongoing endless cycle. Funny how we're like that, right?
It's taken a lifetime to develop this pattern, so don't be surprised if it takes some time to shift it. Hey, if you’re reading this, you've already taken the first step! Now, where can you find a few minutes to do the exercise?
I do have some more resources for you to take this work deeper. I made a little video, and my 2nd episode of the Creativity Quest podcast with Authors on the Air Global Radio Network is on this topic and will be up later today. If you missed the very first episode, on Becoming the Fear Whisperer, you can listen to that here.
I'm also offering coaching calls where we can work together to create an individualized plan for transforming your self talk radio station into positive motivation.
Reprogramming this one thing makes such a powerful difference, my friend. Undertaking this work is one of the most important steps you can take toward being your best, most creative self--which in turn makes the world a better place for all of us.
I just recorded my first ever podcast for Creativity Quest, my brand new adventure with Authors on the Air. I honestly had so much fun figuring out how to do all of the components of this, including a crash course in how to add in the music track and everything. Honestly? I was scared to do all of this, but it ended up being a ton of creative fun!
I’d love it if you’d give it a listen and then give me some feedback. It would also be awesome if you’d share with a friend.
Hey, creative person! I just had this brilliant idea about - ideas!! I love generating ideas, and now I’m offering this as a brand new service. I can’t wait to work with you on accessing the brilliant, magical ideas that are already in your subconscious, just waiting to be discovered. Learn more here!
Creative dreams come in all shapes and sizes
I'm excited to have a guest again this week for Don't Wait 'til You're Dead, my series about going after your dreams. Last time I featured my writer friend Susan Spann, who is currently on a quest to scale 100 sacred peaks in Japan. Last week she literally reached the pinnacle of her dream by arriving at the top of Mt Fuji - at sunrise!
But not all dreams involve closing a law practice, selling your house, and moving to Japan. Dreams come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and all of them want to be lived. This week I talked to Julie Martin, a poet and teacher who has always dreamed of going on a dinosaur dig. A couple of weeks ago she made this dream come true and I've invited her to talk to us about that.
My hope is that her story will inspire you to go after a dream of your own - or give you the courage to keep going if you've run into some difficult terrain.
Hi Julie! Thanks so much for being part of Don't Wait 'til You're Dead! Can you tell us a little about this amazing dream of yours? When did you start dreaming and how long did it take for you to start doing the thing?
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of digging.
There was no lawn yet when my parents bought their house in a new subdivision and my brother and I dug all over our double lot until my parents confined us to one area in the backyard. We worked diligently trying to reach the earth’s core. We dug systems of tunnels that connected and spiraled in all directions and were amazed to find one day a salamander had taken up occupancy in our tunnel system. We immersed ourselves entirely in the soil registering nuances of temperature, texture and color: hot and sandy on the top layer, cool and deep brown humus as we reached deeper levels.
I've always been intrigued by the secrets contained in soil and rocks. filled with a sense of awe, wondering what was here before me. As an adult I still love to play in the dirt. There was a wild space near Saint Paul that was the exposed remains of an Ordovician Sea. I used to love going there and collecting fossils. My favorites were tiny columnar segments of ancient sea lilies - crinoid rings. They look like cheerios. I wear one on a string around my neck. This area has been closed for years because of dangerous mudslides. I began searching for other places where I could find fossils.
I stumbled across NDGS (North Dakota Geological Society). They have digs that are open to the public. The deadline had already passed for that year, but I marked the registration deadline on my calendar for 2018, then I forgot about it for awhile.
What obstacles were in your way?
I suppose all the usual obstacles that people face: time, money, family support, and my own mindset. Raising two boys, my focus for the past 18 years has been caring for them and balancing family life with a busy, demanding job as an inner city teacher. Add into this equation my husband and I had aging parents on opposite sides of the country. They could no longer travel, so our travel budget and time was devoted to trips to Colorado,New Jersey, and New York. Trying to cope with all of this made it difficult to believe there were any dreams that I could pursue.
Most people have a dream, look at the obstacles, and never get past them. What is your secret for moving past all of the things in the way to where you are now?
I've kept a notebook since I was about 12 years old. In these notebooks I explore my own thoughts, wishes and observations. I have been working on some poems about the fossils I've found, trying to understand why they are tugging at the edge of my attention.
The impetus that urged me to take action can be attributed to hanging out in the Dream Weavers’ Attic. Kerry, you led us through a guided visualization where we were imagining doing something that we loved. I was having an outrageous fantasy of doing some kind of conservation work with orangutans- working hard and getting filthy, then going to an eco friendly spa and getting all clean again. I think the next question you asked was “what is a small step you could take to move in the direction of this fantasy?”
I remembered that I had written information in my notebook about public fossil digs in North Dakota. While it wasn't exactly the way my fantasy went, it connected to the same deep desire. Exploring that fantasy and what was within my power helped me to make a plan and to take steps. Putting the date on my calendar, writing down the action plan to call, gave me the persistence and tenacity to call over 100 times until I got through to reserve a spot to participate on a dig.
Calling over 100 times is impressive tenacity!! Any particular mantra, motto or affirmation that you can share with us?
Not a mantra, but a talisman of sorts. I wear a fossil, a crinoid ring, on a string around my neck. I also have a favorite rock that I often keep in my pocket and tuck under my pillow at night. I know it’s strange, but I find solace in these pieces of the earth. I wrote a poem about this particular rock - the elements have worn a hole through it and I learned that ancient people called rocks like these ‘hagstones’ and believed they had power to protect, heal, and gave the person holding it the ability to peer through the hole into other realms. While I can’t report that I have acquired supernatural powers, I find my rock and fossils to be good company, and a way to keep my questions and dreams at my fingertips.
What about YOUR creative dreams?
I know you have at least one. We all do. For some of us the dream is deeply buried. Others of us have been dream chasers for as long as we can remember. If you don't think you have a dream, take a minute to remember being a child. What did you love back then? What inspired you? What did you want to be when you grew up? Maybe you can't be an astronaut or a ballerina, if those were on your dream landscape back then, but maybe there's a part of that dream you can still pursue, like taking dancing lessons or taking a flying lesson. You're never too old to go after a dream.