“I am my own worst critic.” How many times have you thought or said that sentence? Probably countless times, if you are a quintessential artist, writer, musician or other person striving to create something meaningful or memorable. If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit the tendency to be critical of our own work is what drives us. Without that constant process of evaluation, we would not be able to function and the quality of our work would not improve over time.
But too much of a good thing can be . . . well, too much. Our own critical assessment of our work can run amuck to the point that it paralyzes us, completing derailing the creative process.
At those times, writing coach and freelance writer Joanna Young advises a step back from the messages being imparted by our “inner critic” in favor of finding the positive purpose of our efforts. She explains that our purpose in embarking upon a particular creative endeavor might be “for other people – a gift, a lesson, a thanks,” but none requires nor depends upon the approval of others.
It seems to me that what Joanna calls “positive purpose” is akin to, if not synonymous with, what others describe as “self motivation” or, even more simply, “direction.” No matter how you verbalize the concept, the underlying meaning is the same: Creative pursuits originate from within ourselves and come to fruition only when they survive the scrutiny of the creator’s internal critic.
Joanna recounts overcoming her inner critic’s restraints on her creativity by focusing upon the “positive intention” that compelled her to undertake a photography project. In doing so, she discovered that all of her intentions were “entirely within my gift. No one could judge them ‘good enough’ (or not).” In other words, she focused upon the purity of her inspiration to create someting tangible in order to regain her confidence. In the end, she didn’t care whether her readers liked her photographs or not because, as she explained it, “I’m enjoying myself. I’m creating, and learning, and feeling mindful as I go.”
Purposeful. Intentional. Mindful. I am inspired by each of those words and the images they connote. And they are going to focus my writing endeavors going forward: I am going to approach my creative projects purposefully and intentionally, always mindful of those forces that motivate me to be creative and productive.