I have been thinking about doing a blog series – a series of related posts on something lately. I just couldn’t come up with what that something would be. Then this past week someone asked me to talk about criticism – specifically that which comes from within.
Hmmmm. Big topic.
So today’s post is the first in a series exploring criticism – that which we do to ourselves and to our creative work.
We are not talking about “constructive” criticism – we all need a guided voice to help us improve the mechanics of whatever creative work we do.
This is about destructive criticism. That shaming voice on tape in our heads that belittles what we’ve created and who we are. You know what I’m talking about. That voice that keeps you stuck where you are and is keeping you from exploring your dreams. Like my cyclamen picture above. That’s how I feel when criticism strikes.
- “No one will ever like this. You need to stop wasting your time.”
- “This looks like everything else you’ve ever made – it’s all the same old crap.”
- Or the more subtle, “It’s not that terrible, it’s just not any good.”
Affirm the Good
There are solutions to all these old tapes. We need to start speaking new tapes. The new tapes will replace those old tapes. These new tapes are called Affirmations. Here are some ideas:
1. Someone somewhere will like this – starting with me. Repeat after me: “I like what I have created. ”
I have an art mentor who told me for the next 6 months to only say positive things about my artwork. I thought that would be easy. Turns out it’s quite difficult. It actually makes me a better artist because I want to produce good art. I do find something positive to say about each piece. And if something isn’t wonderful? Keep painting until it is. All art goes through a less-than-lovely stage so don’t stop there!
2. All your work looks the same? Lucky you. That means you have found your voice. Consistency is what makes artwork (and quilting and writing and other created things) identifiable. You know instantly when you see a favorite artist pop up in your Pinterest feed. As for the “its the same old crap” part, see step 1. Lather, rinse, repeat.
3. Ah, subtle jabs. Sometimes we don’t realize it’s a jab until we think about it. By then, it’s slipped in amongst the good thoughts and caused our affirmations to ring hollow. I must interject that as a beginner in any creative field, your work will not be as wonderful as it will be if you keep learning and practicing. Managing expectations is necessary. But do find a way to say something good about what you have produced. Again, repeat step 1.
Affirmations make for a happy cyclamen
Here are some other affirmations to try out:
I value my work and the time spent creating it is important.
I see beauty and express it with creative materials.
Creativity is a gift I have been given to contribute to the good of this world.
I write affirmations on sticky notes and post on the doorframe going into and out of my studio. I read them every time I go in and every time I go out. No studio? Post them in the bathroom. Reading these many times a day is necessary to reprogram the brain: negativity out, positivity in.
Want to learn more about affirmations? Julia Cameron, author of “The Artists Way”, is highly recommended.
Besides affirmations, we have to have some inherent value of the work we do. We will discuss more on this topic next time.
Do you have an affirmation that you repeat to yourself? Share it in the comments below – I’d love to hear it!