I’m away from home as I write this, away from normal life, on the very left edge of the United States, perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
I’m at a 4-day writing and performing workshop with Ann Randolph, in a truly glorious house (where I plan to run my own creative workshops and retreats sometime in the not-too-distant future, btw), and it has been an amazing day-and-a-half so far.
A dozen of us spent three hours on Thursday night, three hours Friday morning, and three hours Friday afternoon, playing improv games, writing in mad bursts, and then reading what we wrote out loud for the group, all under Ann’s facile direction.
Why improv games? Not everyone here is interested in performing, but the improv games are potent tools for everyone: they get us moving and playing — into our bodies and out of our heads.
It’s amazing what flows out in your writing when you get out of your head and into your body first.
Can’t think of what to write? Ann always offers a plethora of prompts, and if you ever draw a blank, Ann instructs to simply write “what’s next, what’s next, what’s next” until a new idea comes.
It always does.
There’s no editing in these writing sessions. This is stream-of-consciousness, folks. And yet some of the readings astound me in their cohesiveness, clarity and just plain brilliance.
“Wow, YOU can’t write like that!” the Inner Critic Gremlin taunts me. “They’re all so much better than you are!”
“You’re right, I can’t write like anyone here,” I acknowledge. “I can only write like me.”
“Which sucks,” the Gremlin pipes in.
I know better than to get into an argument with my Gremlin — Inner Critic Gremlins love arguing, and it’s an argument I will never win.
But thankfully, I also know that my Inner Critic Gremlin is full of shit. (To put it bluntly.)
Even when part of me believes that maybe my Inner Critic Gremlin is right, the fact that I’ve unmasked it as the Gremlin robs it of its power. Although it tries to convince me that its voice is actually the Voice of Truth, I know my Inner Critic Gremlin is lying.
I’ve learned the trick of discerning when my Gremlin is doing the talking, and though I may not be able to shut it up, I have learned to persevere regardless, which is the important thing.
“I see you, Gremlin. I know that’s you,” I say. “I appreciate your concern, but I’ve got this one covered.”
Sometimes my Inner Critic Gremlin throws a bit of a tantrum at this point, but just like throwing water on the Wicked Witch of the West melted her away, unmasking the Inner Critic Gremlin shrinks it from 8 feet tall to about 2 inches. Small enough for me to put it in my pocket. Or flick it off the balcony into the Pacific Ocean.
Don’t worry — lest you’re concerned for my the little bugger, it never gets hurt in the process. Inner Critic Gremlins are hardy, resilient creatures, and always come back in full regalia. Maybe not the same day, but just you wait — it’ll be back.
Which is why it is so critical to learn to manage the damn thing.
An untamed Inner Critic Gremlin is like an untrained German Shepherd: it’ll jump on you, knock you down, run around and chew up the furniture, and poop all over your stuff.
But just like the wild German Shepherd, the Inner Critic Gremlin has good (if misguided) intentions. It may be hard to believe when you’re on the receiving end of its jabber, but it’s only trying to help.
And just like with the German Shepherd, the answer isn’t to kill it, or try to stuff it in a closet, but to train it.
And just like with dogs of all breeds, 99% of the training is actually training the person.
Sure, you need to teach your dog what you want it to do, but if you don’t stay consistent with your demands and limits, all the money you spend on training is going down the tubes.
And well, okay, maybe it’s really 50/50 person/dog, and since the Inner Critic Gremlin is your own voice of self-doubt and self-criticism, it’s really 100/0 person/Gremlin, but hopefully you get my point.
My point being that you can learn to manage that Inner Critic Gremlin of yours.
And since it is not going to ever completely leave you alone, don’t you want to learn whatever techniques you can in order to bring it to heel?
I’ve learned a lot of tools for taming that pesky little monster, and I’m sharing all of them in my upcoming Gremlin Training Lab on September 18.
Because I believe that getting the voice of self-criticism and self-doubt under control is absolutely core to living the fully creative life that is your birthright. If the Gremlin has you cowed, there’s no way you’ll make what is calling you to be created. And if you somehow do manage to create, there’s no way you’ll ever share your creation with the world.
You’ll stay stuck, and quiet, and blocked, your creative spirit locked away in a closet, because the Inner Critic Gremlin convinced you that everyone else’s work is better than yours, so why bother?
Or that your ideas are lame.
Or that they’ve already been done, better than you could possibly do them (so you might as well give up).
Or that you have no talent (and who do you think you’re fooling, anyway?)
Or that you’ll never be able to accomplish your dream (and who do you think you are to have such big dreams?)
And in this world that so desperately needs — is so hungry for — each and every totally unique, creative output from each and every one of us, believing the lies of your Inner Critic Gremlin would be a shame.
So let’s bring those pesky little critters to heel, shall we?
Watch for an announcement this week of how to get in on my Gremlin Training Lab on September 19. And sign up on my mailing list to get early-bird pricing.
PS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!