As artists, designers or any kind of creative, or human being(!), we all know that our inner voice can be kind of a Debbie Downer. It can be harsh, overly-critical, and downright mean. Artist, blogger, speaker, author and all-around awesome person Danielle Krysa knows a lot about the inner critic, and she’s waged war against it, on behalf of all creative people. Writer and curator behind the contemporary art site, The Jealous Curator, Danielle has also curated shows from Washington DC to Los Angeles, San Francisco to Toronto. In 2014, she published two books, both with Chronicle Books, titled Creative Block and Collage. Her third book, Your Inner Critic Is A Big Jerk was released in October 2016. Danielle has also had the great pleasure of speaking at PIXAR, TEDx, Creative Mornings, Altitude Summit, and was interviewed for several video segments on oprah.com.
Since it’s the end of the year, and almost the beginning of a new one, we could all use a creative mantra in 2017, a fresh outlook. Perhaps 2017 can be the year of recognizing and confronting your inner critic! I asked Danielle to give us her best 5 tips to help us combat that big brain meanie:
Ah, that little voice – nameless, faceless yet ridiculously powerful. The inner critic can stop brilliant, talented, creative people before they even start. Unfortunately, I know how loud that voice can be, and I allowed it to stop me for years—but those days are over. I’ve learned that with a bit of work you can actually turn that jerk into an ally. It’s not impossible, I promise! Here are my 5 tips on how to quiet that voice, putting you in charge of your creative endeavors:
1. Give it a name. Ok, so I don’t actually like term ‘inner critic’. How are you supposed to make friends with something that’s 50% “critic”? The solution—rename it. Choose something non-threatening like Gary, Lydia, Sheldon, etc. Sure, you might not always get along, but this trick turns that big scary voice in your head into a dude named Gary. Tell Gary to sit down and shut up, because you’ve got stuff to do.
2. Say Thank You. This sounds easy, yet it’s strangely difficult. When someone compliments your design, art, writing etc say THANK YOU, instead of responding with an itemized list of flaws! You might have to bite your lip at first, but every time you do this your inner-Gary loses some power. And, as a bonus, it makes you so much more pleasant to talk to at a party.
3. Say it out loud. What does that voice say to you? Mine usually calls me an amateur (but with more swearing). Write down the go-to jab that your inner critic uses, and then say it out loud. Like, really loud, and preferably at someone else—a friend, spouse, co-worker. I know that sounds mean, and that’s because it is. If it doesn’t feel good to scream it at someone else, then why on earth do you scream it at yourself? Ta-dah! See what I did there?
4. Write it down. So, after you yell those mean words, grab a scrap of paper and write them down. Next, flip your paper over and write the positive opposite. For example, mine would start with, “You’re an amateur—you have no idea what you’re doing”, and would become, “Everyone starts out as an amateur—the only way to become an expert is to keep going every single day, which is exactly what I’m going to do.” Pin that up on your wall, and repeat this process whenever Gary says something snarky.
5. STOP MAKING EXCUSES! Oh, did that sound like I was yelling? Good, because I was. Every time you make an excuse not to be creative—i.e., the sun is too bright, your desk is too small, your house is too messy, your cat is lying on your paper (yeah, I’ve heard ’em all)—your inner critic has the upper hand. If you’re not making, Gary is winning. Do NOT let that jerk win!
Paintings by Philadelphia based artist Martha Rich.