27 Feb 4 Mindset Shifts to Quiet the Critic and Awaken the Creative.
By Arin Pitcher
Every human being on Earth is wildly creative.
Yet, as I sit in front of my computer screen attempting to write this very article, I can’t help but notice that 30 minutes have gone by before I even started typing…
Why is creativity so elusive sometimes?
Ten minutes of browsing other the internet, 3 minutes adjusting my seat and posture, 45 seconds finding just the right spot on the desk for my computer and over 15 minutes alternating between my bag of chips and the blank screen.
It didn’t take long before I finally heard it.
A soft but constant whisper. A seductive voice purring in my ear.
To my surprise however, when I tuned into what she was saying, it was hardly sweet nothings.
“You’re not creative,” “you’re not a good writer,” “you’ve never published anything before,” “you don’t have anything worth saying,” “no one will listen to you.”
At least the last 30 minutes spent avoiding the task I sat down to accomplish makes sense now. No wonder I was subconsciously looking for any distraction I could feast upon.
This is the voice of the inner critic.
She has her place and time to be sure; standards are an essential part of creating great work, and it’s her job to ensure success and survival in life.
However, for many of us, this critic puts in overtime. She tells us how to dress, what to say or not to say, she tells us we’re not trying hard enough, doing it right or getting the outcome we want. She says we’re too fat, too skinny, too quiet, too loud, too tan, too pale. She says we aren’t tall enough, smart enough, funny enough, clever enough, sexy enough or sophisticated enough.
It has an opinion about everything, and the gist of it is that we better avoid failure at all costs.
And no wonder it’s ever present in our lives, we grew up in a world (and an economy) that was built on and driven by messages of “not enough;” messages that said, “buy this or do that…and THEN you will be happy.”
But don’t buy it! Pun intented.
Not only are we intrinsically whole and complete beings, but we are ALL also wildly creative geniuses! We were each born with the same creative potential as Dickens or Dali, but our individual expression largely gets stuffed into a box over time by pressures to fit in, conform or consume.
But the world is begging for a creative awakening!
Yes, more art, music and literature in the world would be a beautiful thing, but we are also facing a great many challenges as a species and planet right now that need utterly creative solutions.
But to tap into one’s own creative genius requires a few monumental perspective shifts, that the inner critic isn’t going to like right away. After all, its purpose is to protect us…and nothing is safer than the completely predictable, unchanging status quo.
So, here are 4 key mindset shifts to quiet the critic and awaken the creative within you.
The first shift is that failure is not bad. In fact, it is essential to our lives and the creative process. Failure is not something to be feared as a step backward, but to be actively sought after as an illuminating step forward. Failure brings information and insight about what does or doesn’t work and reveals new paths forward in life and the creative process.
Next and complementary to a new view on failure, is the notion that there is no such thing as a bad idea. A willingness to entertain all ideas, regardless of how big or small, wacky or wild, unoriginal or inventive sends a message to the unconscious brain that it is safe to be unconventional. The very act of acknowledging something that seems preposterous or even laughingly obvious is like sending a message to the shy internal creative within, coaxing it out of its shell.
The third shift in perspective is that there are infinite right answers to a single problem. Moreover, there are many ways to arrive at the very same solution. Our individuality and uniqueness can springboard us out of the monotony of doing things the same old time tested ways, and arriving at the same old solutions. However, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to be and express all of who you are; from the start of our lives we are taught that standing out or doing things differently is dangerous and not “normal.” Rather than look for ways to be more like others, start to celebrate the ways in which you are uniquely you!
Finally, the last core shift that will help you quiet the critic and unlock the creative wizard, is to unattach yourself from the outcome you are working to achieve. It is useful to visualize in our minds the direction we are headed, but when we chain ourselves to that direction it limits our ability to improvise and to flow. Moreover, attachment to outcomes is a setup for disappointment, because very rarely do things ever go according to plan, or turn out just as we thought they would. When you choose a direction and let go of the need to reach that exact destination, you leave yourself open to being delightfully surprised by where you actually end up.
These perspectives are game changing, not just for the creative process but for our lives in general. When we can find more acceptance for ourselves and our uniqueness and stop running away from things we are afraid we will fail at, we open ourselves to new experiences and more aliveness. And when we feel alive, the creativity juices flow through us like water!
So if you’re ready to stop reading and start creating, here are a bonus 5 tips to help you tap your inner wellspring of brilliance!
- SET UP YOUR SPACE. Sitting on a bed or couch can be comfy but it causes energy to sink, try something comfy that supports an upright posture to create a channel for energy to flow. Eliminate distractions; eat before you sit down, declutter your creative space, turn your phone on Do Not Disturb (or better yet leave it in another room)! Make sure you have all the necessary tools for whatever you’re creating, there’s nothing worse than reaching for a brush or color and realizing you don’t have it (though in some cases this can make you MORE creative…as long as you can stay in the flow and approach challenges as opportunities). Give yourself some inspiration; fresh cut flowers, instrumental music, or a favorite work of art can all get the juices flowing! For other tips on setting up your space check out this article for 6 Tips For Building The Perfect Home Office and Getting Sh*t Done.
- SET AN INTENTION. Before sitting down (or gearing up) to work your creative magic, set an intention for yourself. How do you want to fill the time and space you dedicated? Will you have fun? Get playful? Be silly? Feel deeply? Be bold or courageous? Whatever it is, give yourself 45 seconds to close your eyes and simply focus on that intention. Then completely release any expectation you have about what the fulfillment of said intention will look like. Expectations, like attachments, often lead to disappointment because physical reality rarely conforms to the pictures in our heads. It’s much nicer (and more fun) to allow ourselves to be surprised by what DOES show up! Also, by focusing on the intention rather than the outcome (physical piece of art, written piece etc.) you give yourself space to actually enjoy the process. Chances are, if you’re just starting out giving your creative muscles a flex, your creations may not look like you thought they would…but that doesn’t mean you aren’t creative. It just means that you haven’t spent a lifetime cultivating the techniques and abilities to articulate your creative ideas like the masters. Remember creativity isn’t a goal it’s a FLOW.
- GET INTO YOUR BODY. Give your inner critic a rest by dropping into your sensations. Before beginning your creative exploration, allow the energy in your body to move. Put on your favorite song and dance, do jumping jacks, push-ups or go for a walk. Raising your heart rate heightens the rest of your sensations and sharpens your focus because of the release of adrenalin into the body. Adrenalin is fundamental to the fight or flight response, in which executive functioning in the brain is largely shut down and the body’s intelligence takes over, leading to less mental chatter. Moving your body is also a great way to overcome writer’s block or creative frustration.
- SET THE STAGE, PLAY THE PART. Embody the energy of your creation! Writing a mystery story? Turn off all the lights in your house except what you need to write by. Drawing an abstract? Put on the funkiest outfit your closet can concoct. Writing about a foreign land? Speak in an accent. By stepping into the reality of what you have set out to create, you become a living breathing extension of it. Allowing yourself to get a little wacky, also gives the most off-the-wall ideas more permission to flow up and out of you…after all, how could you judge an idea if your painting in a ball gown?!
- GIVE YOURSELF A BOX. This seems counterintuitive to the flow principle, however parameters give structure. In the same way that a river bed guides the flow of water, frameworks help guide the creative process. Some useful frameworks can include:
- Time blocking. Give yourself a time limit for a specific task or project and go all out letting everything flow. Don’t delete, erase or stop, just flow. Once the time is over, walk away from that item and revisit it later.
- Get crazy. Allow yourself to speak gibberish, flail your arms around, make funny sounds or shake. This gives your body and mind permission to feel safe expressing whatever comes up.
- Imitate. Look for inspiration from your favorite books, works of art etc. and allow yourself to recreate those works in your own unique style.
- Reconstruction. Take individual elements from other works and combine them in a unique way.
Above all else, be patient and enjoy! Creative re-awakening is a process, it’s not (always) a switch that can just be flipped. Just have fun, and be open to being surprised and amazed by the things you can create, after all, of all the BILLIONS of organisms on this planet, we are the ONLY ONES that can do and create in all the ways we do!