Updated: Nov 21, 2020
I’ve worked very hard this past year to get unblocked. I have pushed my creative self to start a podcast, publish a website, begin working on an art course for kids, work on a creative accountability group, and many other things. I know that creative u-turns happen and that my inner critic will pop up. I didn’t expect her to show up so soon when I got to Texas though. There she was standing outside my studio this morning. My beautiful art shed, one of the reasons that we bought this house. She sat there all day staring at me, daring me to open the door and try to paint.
“You? A painter?” She said. “You really think you deserve this studio? You haven’t painted in a month.”
It doesn’t matter that my paints were packed away so they could be moved. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been living out of a suitcase for almost two months. She made perfect sense to me. And I hate myself for listening to her.
My inner critic looks just like me. I imagine her as the teenage me, in that awful trench coat I used to wear. Hair slightly greasy and unevenly cut. Eyeliner over enthusiastically applied. Chains dripping of her pants.
I tried to ignore her off by doing the dishes. Bringing order to the chaos helps me shake off the lies that linger.
But she was still there.
I tried to run away from her. Literally. I ran. Not fast or far, because even though I live in a different State, I am still me.
And she was still there.
I made my favorite food (homemade guacamole) and talked to one of my best friends on the phone.
She was still there.
I tried playing outside with my daughter throwing a ball around.
She was still there. Sitting on the step of the studio.
My husband came home. I picked a fight. A fight over something dumb and meaningless and unsubstantional. Because he loves me, and I know that at the end of the day whether we fight or not, he’ll love me. I don’t want to fight with her though. She doesn’t love me at all. She hates me. She thinks I’m stupid and ridiculous and not worth a dime. She thinks I should give all this art stuff up and go back to picking up my paints once a month and staring at my easel longingly most days without actually stepping towards it. Fighting with her is one of the worst things in the world. I don’t want to fight her. I just want to let her win.
I tried to fight her tonight and I lost. My Sam, my wonderful loving Sam made me go out to the studio tonight. He shoved a glass of wine in my hand and booted me out the back door.
“You’re working too hard,” He said, “you’re burning yourself out.”
And he’s right… of course. He almost always is.
I love fighting with Sam, because Sam loves me. And at the end of the fight he gives me wine and kisses and tells me everything will be alright and to take some time to relax.
So there I was, sitting in my art studio. My brand new art studio. A realized dream. Something I have longed for for years. My inner critic sat by the door laughing at me. Because that’s really what critics do don’t they? They laugh, they belittle, they demean. They minimize the courage that it takes to create.
I wish I could say that I defeated her. That I kicked her teeth in with drawing. That I throat punched her with a paintbrush and pen. That I did a knock out piece of artwork that will be treasured in one hundred years. But… Tonight… Tonight she won. I spluttered about in there. I did some journaling, unpacked some boxes, and organized some paints. No brush touched canvas or pencil to paper. And that’s okay. That happens. I am human. I am not an artistic machine. Some days I will lose the battle of my creativity. Some days will be like today, when the fear and the anxiety of creating something truly awful will win. And that’s okay. Although my inner critic won this battle, she won't win the war. I have a team, a creative team that I messaged and they wont let me avoid this rematch with myself. So tonight I watch the Great British Bake Off and eat M&Ms. Tomorrow, I’ll be back in the studio.