Can you hear it? Does it get louder every time you try doing something creative and new? You know what I mean, the thought that says "you're not good enough," or "this work is crap, no one will ever read it or want to see it." That's the Judge. Many people I've spoken with struggle with these thoughts that hinder or stop any kind of creativity or new actions. They agree that when they try something they can hear this voice inside their head condemning their attempts or worse yet, laughing at them. It's time to bring the Judge out of hiding and deal with him.
I've dealt with the Judge all my life, in every new endeavor, every new creative effort. There is this thought that my work is never good enough, people don't want to see it and that I'm wasting my time. Sadly I've noticed that the Judge has not grown quieter over the years even after three books and other successes. It seems that he is now emboldened and he has taken on a new tack: "nothing you create will live up to what you've already done so you might as well quit while you are ahead." Sound familiar?
I'm use to the Judge, the nagging voice telling me to "get it right." I even would say to people "I am my toughest critic." Midway through last year I let the Judge win. Telling myself and others I had writer's block, I stopped writing anything. I stopped being creative in my work and bascially just went with the status quo. But I'm also aware that when we engage in negative behaviors we do so because we gain something from them. So I had to ask myself the question, what do I get out of listening to the Judge? And the answer came back loud and clear, safety. When there is nothing new or creative no one can critize or challenge me. I can't underperform precisely because I'm not in the arena. And so for about six months, the Judge succeeded.
So, for those of us who have the Judge in our lives how do we eliminate or at least control him? Create an advocate.
For me, there was tremendous clarity about what I gained by not writing or creating. I gained safety. But what did I lose? I lost the joy and spontaneity of creativity, the exhilaration of the process of creating. I love the feel and sound of new thoughts and the possiblity of the worlds they hold. And I lost the moment when even one person resonated with something I wrote or said.
That's too much to lose.
And so I began thinking of how I feel when I create. I remembered what it is like to let loose. I savored even picking up my fountain pen and filling it with ink before writing (yes, I still use a fountain pen). And I starting hearing the voice of the "Advocate." The Advocate is the voice that encouages me to let go and trust my instinct. The Advocate laughs, as I do, at the sheer joy in creativity. The Advocate comforts me when the fear of something new creeps up by reminding me how often I've been there and have chartered the rough waters successfully. Now I'm starting to realize how loud the Advocate's voice can be.
So I don't know if I'll ever banish the Judge. The old curmudgeon does make me aware of my work and pushes me to be better. But I want to allow the Advocate to speak and speak loudly on my behalf. Because there is nothing like being creative. It unleashes the best of us. What we have to do is overpower the Judge.