Thursday, July 2, 2009


When you create something are you your own worst critic? I think a lot of us are. I think most writers are. I wonder if that is why a lot of writers are often riddled with performance anxiety. Heck, let's throw all of the performing arts, actors, artists, comics and musicians into that mix as well.

In my life I have had the privilege to meet and get to know a lot of different artistic folk from a variety of different industries. Lumped together, the first thing that strikes me about all of them is that they each pushed themselves to become better at what they do.

Some of them fanatically so, some in just a healthy I know I can do better kind of way. And it doesn't seem to matter how high the success rung is that they're currently standing on. They want to drive themselves to do more.

But what is really startling to me when they are viewed as a group like this is that a lot of them just plain lacked confidence in their own obvious talent.

Thinking about that this morning, it made me start to wonder about people, expectations and the place that rock solid human connection has in the artistic life.

As far as expectations go, when do you know that good enough is good enough? How long do you stay on the treadmill churning the same idea round and round until it goes way past the hey this is good ice cream stage and sours into something that you have to put down the garbage disposal?

Well, one way is to have some kind of mirror to hold up to yourself so that you can actually see what is going on with you. The BEST mirror is one that only has you looking back at yourself giving yourself love and approval and honest critiquing of your work. That's the A mirror. The one that it takes a lot of soul searching to acquire. The one that everybody aspires to. The one that you have when you can have peace and quiet in your mind any time you take a still point in your day for yourself and your sanity. The one where you say, hell yes, that's good. Let's go with that. And release what you've created out into the world and let it take wing to become whatever it is destined to become.

Successful people have this mirror and use it to their advantage to live and create in a healthy manner in a sometimes not so healthy work or life environment.

Another way is to surround yourself with friends or trusted others who hold up a mirror that not only reflects you but your work in a kind, honest straightforward helpful way. That's the B mirror. Still a great mirror and certainly one to aspire to having. Getting more than one person in your life to believe in your talent is nothing to sneeze at, let alone having more than one person walking behind you cheering you on. Believing in your talent because other people believe in it is human nature, but you're still limiting yourself if you only believe in yourself only if others believe in you.

But many many successful people have this second kind of mirror and it hasn't seemed to hurt their career, their souls or their sanity one bit.

Then there are the folks that don't believe in themselves at all, and are even more fragile for that non belief, but somehow become wildly successful anyway because of a mix of talent, timing, tenaciousness and trusting others to manage their careers.

What toll if any does that last kind of propped up success take on your soul?

Especially when it gets ripped out from under you because of human nature. Because you got older, or the type of art you make goes out of style, or because you no longer have that THING that allowed you to create in the first place.

Well, when that happens, if you're strong you reinvent yourself and move on. And with any luck you'll still have people in your life to help pick up the pieces and let you accept that just because your creative talent has run out, or your looks have left the building, your value as a human being hasn't.

Because a friend with a hug and some kind words in the deep dark lonely portion of the endless night when you think that you are no longer the wunderkind that you once were beats a valium followed by a revolver or a noose hands down any time, any day in the same situation.

As an artist, go out into the world and create, but remember to create healthy strong human bonds as well. These are the ties that bind. The ones that heal a broken spirit, a broken dream, a broken mind.

The ones that matter when all is said and done.

The ones that stay with you for life and then take you on to the grave……. and even more importantly keep you from an early one.

I have been lucky enough in the last two years to have time to make the journey to the place where I have acquired the type A mirror. And I am also extremely fortunate to have loving positive people surrounding me virtually and otherwise from all walks of life. Each of these people touches my life in different ways, but each is invaluable to my creativity, my sanity and my spiritual and physical health.

A lovely person recently asked me if Karen from mentor referred to an occupation or a place.

My reply?


So if you are ever in need of a kind word and a hug, virtual or otherwise, or just need to unburden yourself to someone who won't judge you for being human, believe me whatever you're dealing with I've been there/done that, bought the tee shirt and then made it into a sock puppet…. If you need a shoulder, give me a shout ..…your secrets will be safe with me…….and this internet thingy? It's always on….


Rachel said...

I get really bad horrible awful stage fright, and people always tell me "just don't worry about it, don't be so hard on yourself." But it doesn't have anything to do with that. I can go out there, know the piece by heart, be totally confident, and still start shaking and want to throw up the second I get on stage. In fact, my confidence in my ability has nothing to do with my stage fright. Strange but true.

I also absolutely hate it when people compliment me on something I know I did badly on. Especially when I say "no, I did really badly" and they say NO, IT WAS GREAT! NO ONE NOTICED! Of course they did!

Obviously this doesn't apply to writers... you get to tweak stuff... but I thought I'd comment anyway. (shrug?)

Karen from Mentor said...

So, basically you're wishing you had a chance to rewrite your performances?

Invent one of those time travel things...then you could place yourself in an endless time loop like in Groundhog Day until you got it right (or think you did)....but if I'm gonna be stuck in the time loop with you? Bring me some know that whole needing to eat every three hours thing...
thanks for sharing...

Anonymous said...

What a lovely, inspiring post, Karen. I have mirror B. I'm still working on A.

Karen from Mentor said...

Thanks Linda.
I'm older than you, so you've got time...

[smiles at you]

And the B mirror? Great Mirror...keep polishing I said, it's nothing to sneeze at....and having all those folks walking along behind you to offer you a tissue if you do? Priceless.

Frank Marcopolos said...

I used to have stage fright. But I've gotten over it, and now I LOVE performing. Strange but true!

Karen from Mentor said...

I've heard you perform, and your voice doesn't shake even a little bit....admittedly I couldn't see if the same was true for your knees.

Cat Connor said...

Now this post is something to think about! I think I have an A mirror. I've always believed in me - I had to no other bugger would! :-)

But now I find other people (outside of best friend since childhood category)do too.

The trick now is to transfer belief into sales... LOL

Karen from Mentor said...

Sales are good Cat. go cat go....

Can you make the best friend famous too? Or maybe rich? Or maybe just hold her hand through whatever crisis comes...all good ways to travel the path.

Anonymous said...

Karen, thanks for offering your shoulder by commenting on my blog. You always pick me up and dust me off.

Karen from Mentor said...

such a sweet thing to say, Linda,

judy said...

Frist, this is a wonderful post. I read it twice! Second, I want A and B mirrors. And also the mirror that makes me look tan so I won't startle myself all the time! Third, I've never heard the expression "been there, done that, bought the tee-shirt and then made the sock puppet." Love that!

Karen from Mentor said...

Wow, Judy you read it twice? impressed I am and tickled pink...I think you already have both mirrors...and definitely have me cheering you on...

I liked the "not being startled mirror"...that would be useful for my first thing in the morning hair for me...but my sticky up bed hair actually delights me..[every morning..I'm easily amused] maybe I'll keep my regular mirror...

The sock puppet was an analogy I came up with the other night in an email exchange and I liked it so much as a descriptive phrase I put it in the post....kinda like when I say something brilliant (hey, why does my arm hurt...oh cause I'm patting myself too hard on the back) and then polish it up and use it in my random thoughts sidebar....

Frank Marcopolos said...

@Karen, haha. No knee shaking, I promise. Plus, I also do public speaking regularly for my day job, too.

Anonymous said...

You can easily throw in floral artist as well :P I'm officially my own worst enemy in this department of self-criticism. But I'm working it to my advantage, and I'm happy to be able to say: I'm only human, I sometimes make mistakes, and (in that case) I can fix them! ;)

PS: but if in need, I'll take you up on that hug offer :)

Karen from Mentor said...

Any time honey.
Karen :)