October 8, 2020

The Inner Critic is a Sneaky Little Bastard.

frankie cordoba/Unsplash

I’ve been turning over in my head the ideas of fear and pattern.

I do this because it feels to me that this combination is the biggest holdup to my progress, to my creativity.

I’m grappling with it, and I haven’t found a surefire way to feel more motivated or more satisfied.

The idea of satisfaction, in itself, is rooted in an end goal. “I’ll be satisfied when…” or “I’ll be satisfied if…”

There are always attachments to those statements; they come with notions of having a product or a story or a song or an image—some tangible result of the creative act.

It’s been hard for me to find the joy of creating—simply creating. Creating is a means to an end to me, and the fear of that creation not being “good enough” is a powerful paralyzing factor.

This is something I chew on daily, and it’s embedded within my psyche like a pebble in a shoe—not large enough to stop me in my tracks, but mobile enough to roll from insole to heel to toes, rubbing and chafing and annoying me enough that I can’t enjoy the f*cking hike anymore.

The smart thing to do is stop, take off my shoe, and get rid of the stone. But I’m in single-minded doing mode, and that doesn’t let me pause.

I see I also have an efficiency problem, and creativity and efficiency don’t always go hand in hand. Another paralysis point. I’ve placed so much emphasis on goals—the end results, the items to be checked off lists—that I’ve lost sight of the doing. And the doing is where my focus needs to be, because there’s no end result without the doing.

I’m taking little steps to establish the pattern of doing, of creating. I’m back on the Martin guitar again, now that my fingers are stronger, more healed from their injury. Still not 100 percent, but stronger. I’ve lost my callouses in my long hiatus from the guitar, and that’s another thing that f*cks with my head. Why go through this pain when I can watch TV or listen to real musicians?

That inner critic is a sneaky little bastard.

At any rate, I strapped on the Martin and made a little music of my own. It was something. Even though the notes floated off into the air, never to be seen or heard again, they had a short life of their own—from my mind to my brain, through my hands and my fingers. That’s something, right?

It is something. I want to believe that anyway.

I find myself gauging what I do against artists I admire—and I always come up wanting. What I always seem to forget is that they’ve put in their Gladwell Hours, and I haven’t.

They certainly have innate talents, but that only goes so far, I’m reminded. If they drop their instruments for months, they’ll be in the same place I am: tentatively, spiritually willing, but physically setback. It takes time to earn those callouses back, you see? If they freeze and quit writing because they’re scared, it’ll be sh*t; they’re in the same place I am. They push on, though. They push through. The ones who get heard always push through.

Nobody’s poetry gets read if it sits unwritten or unsubmitted or unpresented. No one’s stories get told or read if they never get written because the writer was afraid one person in the Universe might not like them.

So that’s where I find myself—in this familiar, comfortable state of anxiety that spurs numbness, dissatisfaction, and fear of change all at the same time. I don’t have any answers. I face these things alone, just like every other artist. I nibble about the edges, hoping to change patterns.

Inside, I’m wishing for a miracle.

I find those are hard to come by.


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