Nurturing Creativity and How to Make Friends with the Inner Critic

Nurturing Creativity and How to Make Friends with the Inner Critic

We go back a long way…  creativity and me. It began when I was small. Actually, it probably began when I began. I believe that creativity is born in every one of us, until all too often … it gets quashed by messages from parents, teachers, our culture, ourselves. We absorb these judgmental beliefs and incorporate them into our lives; before we know it, we have built our very own internalized critic, whose inaudible, but powerful communications are far harsher than the original version. It can feel like this critic is our enemy.

“You’re no good.”

“That’s rubbish.”

“It’s a waste of time.”

I’m sure you can add to the list!

Actually, believe it or not, the function of the critic is usually an attempt to make us better at what we do, make sure we don’t embarrass ourselves, make sure we do our very best.

Unfortunately for the authentic, intuitive and often unconscious part of us that seeks to express itself, it can be stifling.
Embarking on any kind of creative venture, can feel terrifying, intimidating and far too risky.

In short, it can feel like a civil war is going on within the country of our body and mind.

Louisa K Aspden, KL Aspden, author, writer, anxiety, anger, children’s self-help books, trauma, overwhelmed, lonelinessSo what can we do?

I wonder how you would feel if I invited you to be playful; to create with no agenda other than to enjoy yourself?

What thoughts come into your head?  Are you full of resistance? Does your inner critic suddenly spring into action?

How does your body react? Does it tighten, or would you be able to dive straight in?

Noticing these responses could be the first step towards bringing some peace to this inner conflict.

Perhaps you could begin to consider what it is that the critical part of you needs and why it is there. Often the critic has its root in a younger self, who, back then, was trying to protect you from feeling bad, feeling ashamed. It wants to stay in control in order to keep you feeling safe.

I have found it is possible to help my critic to take a step back; ask it to move out of the way whilst I engage in a few moments of creativity. Simply acknowledging its presence and purpose can help tone the messages down.

If you imagine your critic as a young child rather than a towering tyrant, and offer some kindness, perhaps it would allow you some space – allow you to create freely without interference for a while. Then – once you have expressed whatever needs to be put out there (onto the page for example), the critic can be invited back, to enhance the raw material. It can come in and add some finishing touches. You can become a team, rather than a country at war.

What is your play history?

It can inspire our creative side if we think about how we played as children.

What was your favourite game or toy? Who did you play with?  What was your family’s attitude to playfulness and the imagination?

A few years ago, my sister worked for a museum. Her job involved visiting care homes for adults with dementia. She took in old toys and facilitated discussions about how the residents played as children. The responses astounded both staff and relatives. Previously uncommunicative people came alive and shared their stories with excitement and glee. Considering our childhood memories of play can spark our innate joyful nature and light up our brain.

Whilst looking at our play memories, underlying emotional injuries can also emerge. Though sometimes very painful, this can be helpful too. Once we are aware of them, we can attend to them. There may be losses to grieve. There may be old messages which can be discarded. According to Claudia Black who wrote a book about it, ‘It’s Never Too Late to have a Happy Childhood’.

When I was a girl my mother let us have our friends round, in and out of the house with muddy footprints or creating all kinds of rumbustious and imaginative games. She wasn’t houseproud. We could let our clunky dolls slide down the banister – chipping the paintwork, or play wrestling in the front room (even though it was usually reserved for the more elite visitors from the church). She didn’t exactly facilitate our creativity but she pretty much let it go under the radar. In this respect, non-interference from adults was a gift to us.

I have stored up many happy, and funny play memories. They balance out the not so good ones. They are a resource which I have built upon and I now find I have easy access to my creativity. I am so glad that part of me has never grown up. Ursula le Guin, prolific writer of novels, poetry and children’s books said it so well:

“The Creative adult is the child who survived.”

Small people are inherently creative. They can’t help it. You only have to watch a four-year-old playing, or have a conversation with them. By this age, they haven’t normally learned to suppress their impulses or their curiosity. They are less hampered by perfectionism. They can just ‘be’ themselves so long as they have lived in an environment with a degree of acceptance. Even if this is not the case, creativity simmers away under the surface because it is central to who we are as human beings.

Young children are often filled with huge creative confidence. I once heard a story about a girl in infant school. She announced to her teacher, ‘I’m drawing God’. The teacher told her – ‘No-one knows what God looks like’. The child replied, ‘Well they will in a minute!’

Wouldn’t you like to tap into that source – to live from that place of joy and confidence?

I believe that engaging regularly in some form of creative activity is  not only life-giving and life-changing, but it is fundamental to our health and well-being. For me it’s a must. For me, it has grown into a spiritual practice, enabling me to listen closely to myself so much more deeply. And of course, it has well and truly crept into my professional life!  Creativity is how I am in the world. If we feed it, it mushrooms!

“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow…”

– Kurt Vonnegut

Please do contact me if you would like some support on your creative journey, whatever form that may take: art, music, writing, journalling, collage, any sort of making or expression of YOU. I can come alongside you as you overcome blocks to creativity, and I can inspire you to expand and grow.

I would love to hear from you.

Leave a reply