While writing this post, there are two ways I can feel. One is to feel free, completely unhinged, and let my fingers type like a mad woman. Like I'm doing now. The other is to feel tentative, hesitant, a little scared, and to question whether I'm good enough to write this post or if I have anything worth saying. I live there a lot too. Most of us live in this realm – the realm of the inner critic.
The inner critic comes around when we're trying to be generative and creative. The inner critic likes to prevent us from feeling really free and crazy, because we might get hurt. The inner critic whispers... This isn't very good. You haven't written in ages. You should just go back to your spreadsheets. Who will listen to this? Who will care? This is shit. Sometimes the inner critic sounds like a harmless, helpful editor who crashes the party a little too early. This sentence doesn't sound right. This period doesn't go here. You must elevate your diction.
Whatever costume or degree of severity your inner critic takes on, she is stopping you from being generative, from letting loose, from letting the subconscious spew out the really good stuff. The stuff that matters.
Great art emerges from the subconscious. It doesn't emerge from the pre-frontal cortex (unless it's super intellectual or conceptual). Great art emerges from a lack of control... from taking your bra off. And how impossible it feels to let ourselves live in that. Like right now, I'm writing forward with fervor and find myself thinking, This must sound nuts. 'Taking your bra off,' really!? but I keep going. I keep writing. I keep digging for the juice.
And the truth is: I rarely live on this island. The island of the wild, free, unhinged kind of creativity that makes you feel alive, the way you did as a child. Because it's scary as fuck! It feels like you don't have the ground below you. It feels like you're falling, falling, falling...
It helps to start with a spark. The spark for this post was actually a client (as is often the case, thank you honeys), who mentioned she wanted to write creatively, but as she faced the blank page all she could hear was her inner critic. As she wrote word after word, her inner critic consumed her thoughts. In fact, all she could do was write out the thoughts of her inner critic as they emerged, getting through a lot of her gunk.
It's easy to chalk this up as fear – easy to say that fear, disguised as perfectionism and comparison, was her problem. But it's also a design problem. Thank Goddess for design! The blank page was far too wide. She needed a spark.
What's a spark? A spark is a prompt from which the imagination flies loose. In our session, the prompt we tried was "carrot," and we came up with 20 different images about a carrot. Some of them were outrageous (we had a good laugh): Eating a carrot... became putting a carrot in a museum in the future because it's so valuable and rare. Chopping a carrot... became a man putting a wedding ring on a carrot and asking his wife to marry him. Grating a carrot... became making a fence of carrots.
All these quirky scenarios kept unfolding. We were being generative. We were being free. We were giggling like little girls. Like mad little girls! How sweet it felt. How rich and beautiful. How rarely we come here, to drink from our own imaginations, our own crazy instincts. How rarely we come here, to feel our bones dance. To feel the cackle of our aliveness. Can you feel it? When you're there?
It starts with the spark and a quiet inner critic. Those are the two essential ingredients. Actually, scratch that. The inner critic doesn't need to be quiet, but it does need to be temporarily suspended. The inner critic needs to be gently invited to go play somewhere else for now. Come back later please, when we need sharp analysis and editing. But for now, the artist is here. And she's playing like a sorceress, image after image.
And she has learned to trust that all this madness is going somewhere... that it belongs somewhere. Even if it doesn't make any sense for the moment, it will become something worthwhile. That's what it means to be unhinged – to let yourself go crazy and loose, to let yourself sing from the bottom of your belly and find a melody.
I can't think of another time of feeling so alive. Conspiring with spirit. Being in conversation with my imagination, my sensuality, my creativity... Can you? Tell me.
I want to live here more often. Don't you?
I'd love to know.
Your friend on the path,