Judgment is the enemy of creativity. How do we manage judgment to let creativity flourish?
“To keep a journal is to learn how to play. Deeply. Even when a page is recording hard, impossible things, if judgment is suspended, there’s always a surprise or shift. Connections made over time suddenly link, opening and transforming.” ~ Alexandra Johnson
“I’m afraid I’ll mess it up. I mean, these days, one false move, and it’s lights out,” Cara said while slicing her hand across her throat.
“Is your mind equating a lackluster marketing campaign with death?” I asked.
Cara straightened her collar. “Of course not! That’s ridiculous! I just cannot afford to get it wrong. A public failure would kill my reputation.”
The moment the word kill left her mouth, Cara knew my question was not off base. She looked at me and swallowed hard.
“Cara, I totally understand what’s going on here. As a recovering Perfectionist, believe me, I know the mind’s ability to concoct elaborate Dooms Day scenarios if we do not bat a 1,000 each and every time we leave the gate. Happily, there is a fun way to ease this pesky holding of oneself to an impossible standard.”
“Yeah?” she asked.
I reached into my bag and grabbed the gift. “To your health, your sanity, and your creativity,” I said. “Here is to finding safety in taking risks.”
Cara opened the package with tentative curiosity. “Oh, this is so lovely,” she said. “Thank you. But I’m not seeing how a journal is going to help me.”
I reached into my bag again and pulled out my journal. “Flip through these pages,” I said. “I’m going to tell you a story … from one Perfectionist to another.”
The Glare of Judgment
No one wants to be under the piercing glare of judgment. The mere thought of it can make us cringe, and our fear of it can keep us small, invisible, hiding from vulnerability. The desire to avoid harsh judgment pushes us to strive to live and work in a place where there are no errors, no failures of any size or scope, no attempts that fizzle or fall flat.
As a result, we can exist in a “push me-pull you” relationship with our own creativity. The ideas come, and for a moment or two, we’ll begin to flesh them out in our minds. We’ll start to explore their potential and maybe even take a step or two in action. Then the curtain of fear of judgment falls. And back we go into the edges of the theater’s stage. Into darkness, out of view. Out of action and out of the zone of possibility.
This existence of anxiety weighs us down and locks us into place. If we routinely stop listening to and/or acting upon our own ideas, we can stop generating them. Frozen in place, we’ll look to distraction, numbing out, or overdoing to release the pressure building within us.
Creativity is like a rushing current. It wants to move. Dammed up, it becomes a toxic pond with swirls of algae blooms on its stagnant surface.
A journal, seemingly powerless and small in its stature when stacked against our fear, can transport us to the shores of safety and calm. By turning to writing, sketching, painting, or collaging in our journals, we can turn the valve and release the river of our creativity.
Creativity & Journaling
A journal is where we work things out. Where we air our frustrations, worry, anger, pain. A place where we celebrate, exalt, express our joy. It is a protected zone where we can take risks, try on ideas, and search for connections and solutions.
We work through Resistance on journal pages. Find our way out of being stuck. Hack through mental weeds.
Once we finally begin to let go, we revel in the freedom a journal affords us. We can return to our natural state of being playful, willing to not know.
I would imagine you have a journal (or maybe half a dozen or more) that is lying dormant, unused on a shelf or in a drawer. Pristine with crisp, blank pages you have resisted marking upon.
Go find it. And grab a pen or pencil. Sit down and begin writing. Write about what is on your mind right now. Where you feel you are holding yourself back. What you ache for. What you long to do. Write about the ways fear has you by the tail. Don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t re-read it. Just write.
If you already have a journaling practice, venture into new territory. If you regularly write in your journal, turn to sketching, painting, or collaging.
Choose an object on your desk right now and sketch it. Let yourself sink into no mind while you observe each curve, shadow, and line. Release your obsession with what your drawing looks like and just make marks. No one has to see what you make.
Pierce the membrane of not wanting to get it wrong. Gift yourself the place to explore with ink or graphite. Move your hand.
Journaling Without Judgment
After twenty minutes or so, look up. Feel the sensations in your body. What do you notice?
Did you inhabit a world of calm, clarity, and curiosity? Did you air grievances?
Did you surprise yourself? Did you find sketching to be empowering and fun?
Did you get frustrated when your hand didn’t do what you wanted it to do? If so, can you see you survived getting it wrong?
Do you now have a whiff of what can be? See the outline of possibility?
We can suit up each day and take a sword, in the form of a pen or pencil, to our fear of judgment. We can work through the sludge that keeps us from action and begin to see that getting it wrong is merely feedback, not failure.
We can make our journaling practice a sacred place to experiment, try on. A place where our courage rises and ideas land. A place where we let our tender hearts know that there are no wrong efforts, no false moves.
We can uncork the pent-up genie (genius) of us onto page after page after page.