Among the problems that wait in the practice room or writing desk are all of the artist’s demons, the naysayers, real and imagined, who hover over the workspace.
These demons sneer and shake their heads at us. They tell us to be someone other than who we are. They slime us with their negativity.
To exorcise these demons from our creative life, we must identify them and the thoughts they have implanted in our minds.
To this end, I invite my writing students to conduct an inventory of their demons. (This process can be adapted to serve creators in any number of forms).
The first step invites the writers to identify their doubts about themselves.
1. Complete this statement:
The part of myself that I don’t want to see on the page is . . .
The second invites the writers to think about possible sources of their self-judgment.
2. Complete both of these statements.
a) The reader whose judgment I fear the most is . . .
b) The part of me that this reader most dislikes is . . .
Note that these judges may be both real and imagined. They are often projections (it may be that Uncle Bob could care less about your short stories) who nonetheless loom over our work.
The truest answers may surprise us. They may also upset us. We might find that naming our demons threatens some long-programmed aspect of our mindset. To denounce those demons will upset the warped moral center of our creativity.
But naming and denouncing these demons is the key to our liberation. Having exposed the sources of our doubt, we can then ask ourselves if we intend to allow these naysayers (real, imagined, or some combination thereof) to have control of our process. Or do we intend to reclaim our process from them? If so, time to identify those creative nemeses and tell them to fuck off.
Thank you for reading.