I hear little voices. These are not ones I made up, once upon a time they came out of the mouths of people. Or were typed. Words of dismissal and incredulity, words of damningly faint praise and scathing criticism. When I can’t sleep at night, they haunt me, like hungry ghosts. Now, if I could hold the belief that every last one of the nay-sayers was jealous/mean/foolish then I could shake it off, but that’s never worked. Sure, they had their reasons, some better than others. Not giving up has depended to being able to subdue those voices, forget them, ignore them. But of course they feed into every doubt and uncertainty I ever had.
A degree of doubt and dissatisfactions seems to be key in creativity.
Get too comfortable and you’re going to stop. It’s that sneaking belief that it could have been better that makes you try again, and again, and again, because resting on laurels, real or imagined, is never enough. It doesn’t make for an easy life, but I’ve yet to meet a creative person who feels totally satisfied by the last thing they did, and who doesn’t wince a bit over the early stuff. There’s a difference between having a desire to do better, and never being able to trust your own judgement and creativity.
The little voices say you are rubbish and bound to fail. You can’t even sing in tune you sound like a cat. You’re not pretty enough. You didn’t go to the right university, and you didn’t study the right subject. You don’t have the right friends, and you aren’t smart enough to handle the industry. Basically you’re going to make a total fool of yourself if you try, and we’re telling you this for your own good, to spare you the inevitable humiliation that will come if you keep down this stupid route.
The little voices say this is not a proper job, you’re lazy and sponging, no one will ever pay you for the worthless stuff you do/create. People like you are ten a penny, get over it. You’re not special, you’re not even good, you will fail. And we will be there, when you’re flat on your face, to say ‘I told you so’ and have a good laugh. Looser.
These are not imaginary voices. These are people, and I have a nasty suspicion that anyone who tries to be creative, picks up some of these along the way.
Last week I fell apart, for lots of reasons. I let the little voices in. I let them shout all their usual rubbish in my head just the way they announced it whenever it was first aired. Smug and self important voices. Disappointed voices. I rolled up in a little ball, ready to admit that they were all right about me and that I should never have tried.
Then that other thing happened, that stunning rush of other voices, here on the blog, on facebook, google+ twitter, by email and text, people got in touch with me. A veritable tidal wave of other voices, saying you have, and you can and you will, and some offering help, and direction.
It felt a bit like that moment in Peter Pan, where Tinkerbell is dying, and Peter asks all the children to clap their hands if they believe in fairies, and they do, and she lives. Looking around I realise there are a lot of Tinkerbells out there, spirits of hope and creativity, or inspiration and magic, that are all too easily poisoned, and very much in need of the clapping. I am humbled by what happened last week. I’ve had to sit with it quietly for some days, making sense, getting to a place of being coherent enough to talk about it.
I shall try to carry that with me. Next time the little voices in my head are offering the poison cups, I will remember, and maybe I will do a better job of holding out. I think the odds are good. The other thing I’m going to do I watch out more intently for where else that is needed, those acts of belief and trust and confidence in other human beings, because it’s not just me.
Thank you all.