How to Kill the Mental Bully and Start Creating
If you are struggling with creating, you may be under attack from a mental creative bully. Here’s how I overcame my mental bullies and am now living a prolific artist’s life. And, you can too.
I know something about bullies. I was verbally attacked by a bully in high school several times. The hateful comments burned in my heart and made me doubt myself. I liked myself a little less just from a few horrible comments I took to heart.
However, the bully(ies), that did the most damage to my spirit were the mental offenders who lived in my mind and constantly fed me negative thoughts about my creative potential.
Let’s call them Ms. Fear, Miss. Perfect and Mrs. Self-Critic. They badgered me constantly to make sure I stayed stuck in a boring, colorless life.
I’m sure you’ve read many articles and blogs about “How to be more creative in your life,” or “How to feed the creative spirit in 5 easy steps”.
All that information is great.
But unless you have the tools and courage to identify YOUR creative mental bully, your creative life is going to be lived in short bursts — a few days of enthusiasm and creation, followed by SCREECH TO A HALT fear and creative paralysis.
I can speak honestly and passionately about this subject because I’ve spent over 30 years battling my inner bullies and can say that I finally have put them in their place!
They haven’t gone away and continue to pop up usually in the most stressful moments; however, they don’t rule over me and quickly leave me alone. My creative self finally feels strong and free to stretch and breath.
Painting is flowing.
Life is good.
Oh, but how far I have come since I swore I’d NEVER be a professional artist 30 years ago! My creative self was so intimidated by my mental bullies, it locked itself up and threw away the key
IDENTIFY YOUR BULLY
Let’s get back to Ms. Fear, Miss. Perfect and Mrs. Self-Critic. Perhaps you have one of these bullies living in your head RIGHT NOW.
Ms. Fear — Loves to create imaginary negative scenarios when a creative impulse hits and you attempt to begin a creative project. You can identify her easily by the dialog in your head: “This will not go well. Don’t even try. You don’t have time for this! THEY will think this work is terrible. It costs too much to buy the supplies.”
Miss. Perfect — Loves to compare your creative work against that of others. You can identify her by the inner voice saying, “That is the worst painting I’ve ever seen. You’ll never be as good as HER! Why even try, it’s not perfect.”
Mrs. Self-Critic — (This one is particularly cruel because it goes right for your self esteem.) Her dialogue is focused on hitting self-confidence, self-worth, and your lovely spirit, “Who do YOU think you are trying to do something different?” she says, “You don’t have what it takes to be an artist. You’ll always be lazy and never amount to anything in the art world!”
I’ve heard these actual voices in my subconscious for the better part of my life and FINALLY I had enough. With lots of help from my family, prayer, great inspirational books and just some darn conviction to beat each bully down; I managed to get them under control and BEGIN my creative life.
FIGHTING OFF THE BULLY
So how did I fight back these horrible discouraging thoughts? Here is my formula to help YOU win the war.
- GET BUSY
- SET A DEADLINE
- SCHEDULE TIME
- FEED THE CREATIVE SPIRIT
You’ve heard the saying, “Idle hands are the devil’s playthings.” Well, this is true in a creative life as well. When you stay parked in your mind space pondering over and over when to begin and how to begin, you open a door to allow the bully to get a foothold.
Grab a brush and some watercolors and paint an apple. Find a piece of paper and draw your dog. Make cupcakes. Find a YouTube tutorial and learn an easy technique in your favorite medium. (I suggest encaustic, but I’m bias! Hee. Hee) Here’s mine.
You get the picture. Just starting throws Ms. Fear off her tracks. You started, she failed.
Now, Miss. Perfect will undoubtedly pop up with something like, “That doesn’t look like an apple! Quit right now!”
Hogwash, I say! It’s YOUR apple, YOUR way.
Keep going. Laugh at the process, learn a lttle something in the process, love that you’ve just conquered Miss. Perfect!
Now, most likely, you’ll hear from Mrs. Self-Critic, “See. You can’t paint an apple. You’ll never be an artist. You’re not good enough!” Time to put on your mental boxing gloves and hit back hard.
Say to your bully, “Ha! Really? I just proved that I am!” After all here is what being an artist looks like:
Make some art =
is it good? — keep going.
is it bad ?– keep going =
Make more art =
YOU’RE AN ARTIST!
She’s down for the count!!
So goes the process . . . over and over.
Be prepared to counter the negative dialogue.
SET A DEADLINE
Congratulations you made it through the toughest part — starting!
Now, just like an exercise program, you’ve got to exercise those creative muscles.
I’ve found the best way is to set a deadline that you can not break. My trick is sighing up for an art exhibit where I’ve committed in writing that I will be supplying X-number of paintings on a certain day.
You can start with a much smaller committment. Try setting the goal of knitting a scarf as a gift for a friend’s birthday coming up. Or, promising your child you’ll sit down and paint with him for half-an-hour. Or, finally signing up for the community theater audition.
This deadline will give you the push you need to make the next step . . . sitting down and scheduling time to do it.
You will not meet your committment if you don’t schedule the necessary time to get it done. Yes, self discipline is involved; but it’s not that bad — really. Just sit down and plug in on your iPhone calendar a set time each day that you will dedicate to reaching your goal.
There is no way that I could have created 35 paintings in 5 weeks for my last show if I didn’t dedicate time each weekday to making it happen.
(Oh, and it takes a little faith too!! I really didn’t think I could do it — but I did. Lots of praying helped. Hallelujah!)
Start small. Half an hour each day. Go to a special area in your home. Sit down with your supplies. Set a timer, if you have too. (I had to do this so I wouldn’t get too engrossed in my work and forget to pick up my son from school!). Create. You’re Done!
Slowly, you WILL meet your deadline. It feels great!
FEED THE CREATIVE SPIRIT
Let’s admit it. We’ve starved our creative spirit for a long time while the bully had a field day in our heads. She’s hungry and doesn’t trust that it’s safe to come out and play, yet.
As you continue dedicating time to honor her, your spirit is going to trust that coming out to play is okay. You’ll start thinking of all sorts of creative ideas. Being stuck will be a thing of the past.
To really kick start this process, feed the creative spirit by searching out and exposing yourself to the Arts.
Go to a museum, gift store, community theater production, or even Hobby Lobby. Flip through Pinterest, magazines, and art books.
I caution that viewing professional work can really set off Miss. Perfect.
Make sure you promise yourself that you will NOT compare yourself to professionals — ever. This is still a challenge for me, and I consider myself a professional artist.
COMPARISON KILLS JOY!
PERFECTIONISM INVITES PARALYSIS!
Just surrounding yourself with beautiful color and creative expressions will get your creativity energized. You’ll find yourself thinking up all sorts of new projects and an excitement will begin to grow in your heart. Just what the bully DID NOT want to happen.
Bye Bye Bully!
YOU CAN DO THIS!
Take it from a woman who has been in your shoes. You are a wonderful creative spirit meant to express this miracle of YOU each and every day. That is how we are all made. But, there is a bully in your head who wants to dim your beautiful creative self.
Everyone has a bully, but not everyone takes her on.
It’s your turn to fight back Ms. Fear, Miss. Perfect and Mrs. Self-Critic . . . or whatever bully is plaguing your creative mind. They are weaker than you are and they know it. Time to take action.
So, here is your assignment:
- Think up of something to make and start. It’s that simple. No judgement allowed. It can be just for yourself, like new placements or greeting cards.
- Set a deadline for when it must be completed. (Try to pick a date not too far into the future.)
- Determine how long it will take to make it. Break it down into small increments that are manageable. (You may need to get some support from your family that they understand Mom will be “incommunicado” for a few hours each night. Whatever works for you.) Put it on your calendar.
- Schedule a trip to an art supply or music store. Fill your head with ideas, color, design, sounds, inspiration.
MY FAVORITE RESOURCES
An absolute must for any creative person battling fear is “Art and Fear, Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking,” by David Bayles and Ted Orland.
Here’s an exerpt:
“Basically, those who continue to make art are those who have learned how to continue — or more precisely, have learned how to not quit. . . . Quitting is fundamentally different from stopping. The latter happens all the time. Quitting happens once. Quitting means not starting again — and art is all about starting again.”
“Hannah’s Art of Home” by Hannah Keeley. I bought this book hoping to improve my decorating skills, but she writes also on how to better manage your home and make it an inviting place to live. When your home life is better managed and beautiful, it makes finding the time and motivation to create much easier.
“Taming the To-Do List — How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day” by Glynnis Whitwer. This book is about setting priorities and taking back your schedule. She writes to those who struggle with procrastination and how to overcome it to free up the day for more enjoyable endeavors (like creating).
Now click over to your Pinterest “Things I would like to make” board and pick one and BEGIN! Or go over to my Pinterest board for ideas on creating a bunch of great stuff.
Happy Creating Beautiful!