Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Slaying the Dragon: Creativity and the Critical Voice

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up." Thomas Edison

No one gets to the end of a creative process without slaying the dragon. The dragon is the critical voice in your head that says your work is no good. It says your effort is useless. It looks on a mistake and says you are worthless, devoid of brilliance.

If you cannot look that dragon straight in the eye, tell it to go to hell and proceed forward with the next step, the next sentence, the next brush stroke, your vision is lost. It will be swallowed hole. Nothing will come of the goal you once held with resolve and enthusiasm.

There is no getting around it. It takes courage to create. Success sometimes involves making a ton of mistakes and still coming back to try again. If one does that, then he or she will climb higher. It’s the law. Thomas Edison said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. The law is this: If you don’t give up you win. You reach the summit.

Slaying The Dragon
Below is a proven approach to slaying the dragon. Practice it and you’ll gradually rewire your brain to provide a neural pathway that circumvents the critical voice.

The Mistake: Think of the last time you made a mistake or were challenged by bad news for which you felt somehow responsible. Write it down a piece of paper.

The Criticism: Now write down what your critical voice said to you. (How could you have let this happen? I can’t believe you did that. You’ve ruined things).

The Belief: Next, look at the beliefs behind the criticism and write these down (Example: I’m a loser. I’m not good enough. I’m irresponsible):

The Consequence: What does your critical voice think this mistake means for your future?

Look at what the critical is voice saying that is distorted or factually incorrect. These negative statements about you, your character, and your ability are far from true. Don’t believe them. Write down a realistic statement about your character and ability. If there is some factual truth in what the critical voice states, acknowledge it without condemning yourself.

Perhaps you made a mistake but it is likely you also succeeded in another way, or you succeeded in this situation at another time. Become your own character witness. Identify things you did that were positive.

Negative self-talk puts all the blame on you. Name one contributing factors that might have caused the problem.

Negative self-talk is often fixed on worse case scenarios, exaggerating consequences. How likely is it that this imagined calamity will happen?

Recall your initial intention in this situation. Write it down? Does it still matter? If so, how do you feel when you make your intention count? If your hopes were realized what would the outcome be?

Look back on this situation. Think of one positive, true quality you see in yourself that can turn the situation in a positive direction. Write it down. How would it feel to dedicate the day to remembering this about yourself?

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  1. Your PR outreach hit my inbox so i came for a visit. Nice site. Nice ethic. It reminded me of just starting on my journey to become a psychologist, standing in a Paris bookstore and letting the universe guide me toward just the right book for my first step... "On Becoming A Person" by Carl Rogers—a voice of luminescent authenticity in a cacophony of fear and falseness.

    As for my dragon? I think it distills down to today's world of hype. Several big publishers have bothered to say that a book I wrote, meant to help parents engage parenting itself as a mindfulness practice akin to yoga, is both "brilliant," and "moving," and also "too broad" to find a target in today's world of talk-show glare... unless I could build my profile.

    I believe in an interconnected world, and so I struggle to own my truth—that I want to help, contribute, etc. but I do not want a higher profile. Now that J.D. Salinger is dead I'm hoping to sign his publicist.

    And yet you appear to be playing the game and having fun, so I see you as the part of the collective that I am not... yet probably with a rather similar message in the service of a better world.

    Another angle on dragons, however, can be the Jungian idea that just slaying it will not suffice. One must cook and eat the thing to be fully good to go. For that, I suggest adding a good portion of honey.

    Good luck with your quest—the less fear we have in this world the less vulnerable people will be to buying things they do not need and hurting people that they do not realize are essentially themselves.


  2. I love the Edison quote: "If you don't give up you win." Thanks for the blog (and the book)!

    And privilegeofparenting.com, I don't know much about your work, but aren't parents who have adolescent children who are barely home (or adult children who are barely present) a ready target demographic? I would say there's definitely a -need- for your work.