Monday, February 22, 2010

Facing Your Inner Critic

What does your inner critic look like? What does he/she sound like? Lately, mine looks like this (above).

We all have thoughts. Agreed? And usually we are in charge of them. We call the shots. Rule the roost. We are the emperor or empress of the whole of Rome in our brain. Do this, do that, peel me some more grapes. That is, until The Critic arrives. Our inner voice that, well, criticizes the hell out of everything we do. His/her POV is that s/he is in charge of quality control.

"And you call yourself an artist. More like a fartist." Though this image is from Ben's and my book, The Boy Who Went Ape, the omni-max in red is my second grade teacher, Miss Foot, mixed in with my piano teacher, Miss Hand, or was it Miss Hook. Both hated kids. My inner voice looks and sounds like her sometimes.

I find that the inner critic can paralyze me from proceeding. Why bother when it seems so frikkin' impossible? One way to shut her/him up is to drag her into a scene. Here are some notes I jotted down from a recent tête-á-tête with my inner critic (loosely translated).

"Avast! Ye scurvy fog headed poltroon. Belay! Set to! Unfurl the mizzen you sorry wet dog. Goad the Fates and heave ho! You lard rendered lubber, you Jack-of-no-trade. Put your back into it , Sea Foam-For-Brains. Pull!! We're bound for the Outer Hebrides and sun burnt gold that glistens like sweat. Not that you've ever sweated, pig.

Haul yore rusted rump about, uncork that rum soaked noggin and burn yore oars, fire the crow's nest. What a far sighted fake. I've seen mermaids with more muscle. Show some fish guts, tan yore hide, slice the water and butter the bow. You call yourself a writer? Get me a bucket and a linen hanky, while yer at it."

We all need to self adjust. It makes us better people. We need to respectfully listen to others and to our inner critic. And then when we can't stands it no more, we make our inner critic walk the plank.


Anonymous said...

My inner critic is a kind and gentle individual compared to the external critics I grew up with. Of course that does not mean to say that my inner critic does not get on my case on a daily basis, it is nagging me to get back to work right this minute.

Protege said...

What an absolutely great post in words and pictures! I loved it! I love the Miss Hand-Foot-Hook creation! I honestly recognize all of it so well.
My inner critic used to rule me. Not any more though. As I get older, I feel I listen to it less and less. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that really care very little what others think. I will never disrespect or insult anyone, but when it comes to expressing myself and stand for what I believe, I have asked my critic to walk the plank a while ago.;))

Always a joy to stop by here.;)I know I have said this before, but I really love your art.


A mermaid in the attic said...

Oh yes, know the Inner Critic well (hah! I just did a typo, and it said "sheesh, call yourself an English Graduate?!" and so I went back and fixed it). Yes, it has more power over me than I like to admit, I have those days when I wonder why I bother, everyone else seems so much more talented, and it just paralyses me and makes it so hard sometimes to do ANYTHING creative. But then I have days when I think I'm the most amazingly talented maybe it's there for balance! ;-)

storyqueen said...

My inner critic is less fierce, but just as effective...kind of like some little black slug with no self esteem that says things like, "what were you thinking...oh yeah, that's right, you weren't thinking. And you're kidding yourself, by the way....just so you know..."

I hate the slug.

(But I love Mrs. Foot-Hand-Whatever...I think I could kick her butt...)


Julia Kelly said...

Hi Richard! was wondering what you were up to! My inner critic seems to think life needs to be perfect for me to create- uhhhhhhh- that never happens-or tells me I am so odd and strange no one will identify with me if I do create-transitioning to full time freelancing has been hard this year- glad to know a "seasoned" artist/writer deals with the same thing!!

Richard Jesse Watson said...

Thanks, Anonymous. The inner critic does seems to be obsessed with work, but pops up during fun too.

Thank you, Zuzana. You are most kind. I am glad that you have dealt with your inner critic. Freedom! It is so important to be true to what you know to be true.

Mermaid, you've got it right. The inner critic is there for balance.
I mean let's face it we are so very clever, and the world may crown us kings and queens anytime now. But then again, there are those typos and foibles--somebody has got to do the dirty work of telling us we may be slightly out-to-lunch.

Hey Julia. It really is like someone said, "Life is what happens while you are waiting for the good stuff." Or it may be: "Stuff is what happens when the perfectionist dumps her latte into her laptop."

steven said...

richard you really nailed this puppy! the paintings, the words, the stories, the asides, in-between chuckling and oohing and aahing, i was thinking uh huh you've got that right my boy!! the inner critic you describe is just like the one that yaps at me as i teach - yep i'm standing there in front of thirty elevel and twelve year old critics but my own critic's much louder and wayyyy more vicious than any of them. keep on working richard - you're talented and clever and the world needs more of your work!!!! steven

Martha Brockenbrough said...

I've made huge progress dealing with my inner used to be literally a nightmare--a yelling mouth in my worst dreams, and I'd wake up sweaty. I still have miles to go (she says, gently). It's especially difficult when some of my work is now out in public, or in development, and being discussed by agents/editors/etc. The one thing that remains true is that doing the work without worrying about what might come is the only salvation. Not every day has those moments, but the ones that do are good matter what.

Richard Jesse Watson said...

Thanks a lot, Steven. Teaching in front of thirty ten and eleven year olds ought to qualify you to overcome any difficulty. I've read Lord of the Flys, kids can take you apart. It made me laugh that you revealed a lttle grown up secret: that "my own critics voice is much louder and waaay more vicious".

Thank you gentle Martha. Great point. When you are putting your work, your labors of love, your ego out there on the line, you have to anticipate the flak ahead of time, and head it off at the pass, to mix cowboy/WWII metaphors. I sometimes think that people who are in committees are obligated to get out their shotguns and blow holes in our lovely ideas if for no other reason than to justify the fact that they get to be on a committee.:+)

1Lifeofsky said...

Hey Richard. Love it!
All hail! The Captains here! or Oh hell@#%* The Captains here in all it's blundering blistering voice. Well, now the real Captains here. Sometimes shivering in me timbers. But, I'm starting to show up on the scene now. Watch out below. And that's exactly where he belongs, that @#%&* voice. I am the victor and I should do well to remember that.