Sunday, July 25, 2010

says who?

Beware of voices you hear in the night. The ones that insist you're wasting your time. The ones that contend you're only kidding yourself. You have no future. The ones that demand to know what it is that makes you think you have anything of value--anything of interest--to say or to draw or to sing about. The voices that claim you will never publish, never make it into a gallery, never find your way onto a stage. The one that predicts you will never be a success. It may be the voice of a parent...something about earning a decent living or keeping up appearances or connecting with the right people. It may be the voice of a teacher or boss or classmate or co-worker...all of them with "your best interests at heart" as they scatter corrections and cautions and conventions along your path as if your journey weren't difficult enough without them.

What's worse is that it may be your own voice that you hear. When you tell yourself that you aren't good enough. Or that you are foolish or selfish or conceited for wanting to write or paint or sing or dance when there is so much else that needs to be done--the hungry to feed, the homeless to shelter, the grieving to comfort. It may be your own voice that makes you feel guilty because you are caring for yourself for a change, doing something that you enjoy, something that is fulfilling when others are so empty. And because it's your own voice that you hear, you can't walk away from it. You rant and rave against it when someone encourages you or supports you or congratulates or thanks you. Should you experience a moment of inspiration, a surge of confidence, a glimmer of optimism, you tell yourself not to trust it. Not to believe it. Not to act upon it.

I've been hearing voices for years...the voices of restraint, of uncertainty, of shame, of guilt. If this happens to you, you must politely excuse yourself and hurry to your nearest friend...someone who encourages you and supports your dream. Someone who understands how hard this is and respects your courage. Someone whose friendship isn't invested in your success or wealth or fame. Like Lynda Barry, a friend will tell you, "It's good...Good!"...not necessarily your writing or painting or performance, but it's good that you had the courage to begin...good that you were willing to try...good that you are determined to persevere.

 If you hear voices in the night, call up a friend. But whatever you do, don't alter a word of your story, a stroke of your brush, a step of your dance or a note of your melody in deference to the critic within who is, after all, a liar and a fake.

What have the voices been telling you?

"So long as you write what you wish to write,
That is all that matters;
And whether it matters for ages or only for hours,
Nobody can say.
But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision,
A shade of its colour,
 In deference to some headmaster with a silver pot
In his hand
Or to some professor with a measuring rod
Up his sleeve,
Is the most abject treachery.
                                            --A Room of One's Own--
                                         Virginia Woolf

In my next post, I'll consider some affirmations for your creative spirit and your aching soul.

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