Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Inner Critic

Reprint from March 2014. Because I didn't have an idea for today's blog post, Pink gave me the idea to repost, and we all can use the reminder from time to time.

An artist friend had an interesting blog post the other day. She expressed her feelings about not always being satisfied with her own style, and she wondered if others felt this way, too.

I'm sure she is not alone. She's brave and honest for admitting her negative feelings in an ether-world where feelings are projected as rainbow unicorns all the time.

I think we all compare ourselves to others, and because we can be hard on ourselves, we come up short. We listen to the little voice. That voice, the one that says we're not good, or not good enough, or wonders why we can't be more like [insert name of artist, author, person]  is The Inner Critic.

An author friend told me about an exercise she had to do at a writing workshop. She was given a small scrap of paper and envelope. On the paper, she was told to draw a portrait of herself or something that would represent her. When the drawing was completed, she was to fold the paper, stuff it in the envelope, and seal the envelope shut. That's where the Inner Critic belongs. Out of sight, out of earshot, out of mind.

To listen to The Inner Critic, to believe the words, to internalize the words is destructive. Those negative words destroy creativity and spirit. Harry Chapin's Flowers are Red illustrates the point.

The Inner Critic exercise was a good one, but it hit home for me when Himself's karate group was having a discussion about their forms. As martial artists, they worried their forms weren't good enough and when would they ever grasp the elusive ideal of perfection? Could they ever be perfect? Someone brought up  Wabi Sabi, a Japanese concept. Wabi Sabi states: Nothing is perfect. Nothing is permanent and nothing is complete.

There were times I'd worry about making the first mark on a sheet of pristine paper. What would happen if I made a mistake or ruined the paper? The feeling was terrifying, sometimes paralyzing. And silly because no one was going to die if I smeared ink on the paper. Wabi Sabi gave me confidence to try and perhaps fail. I just had to believe in myself and my abilities. I found this concept so freeing applied to myself and my own work. I used to fret that the lettering in my journals wasn't "perfect". Sometimes, I'd tear out journal pages to start again. Which really defeats the purpose of keeping a journal.  Wabi Sabi made me realize, "you don't need the feather to fly, Dumbo." I didn't need to rule up lines. My work became more spontaneous and full of life, and I found I can pretty much write a straight line without guidelines.

I can't make perfect letters, but I can strive for perfection. The work I do today will be better than what I did yesterday. Tomorrow's work will be better than work I did today because I'm still growing, still reaching towards perfection. I'm good enough for today. I'll be better tomorrow.  I have my own voice because I know I won't be happy painting "flowers in neat rows of green and red."

So my friend, embrace Wabi Sabi. Deep down, you know you're good, and you don't need the feather to fly.