Ask WHY to Create Opportunities for Compassion

Originally posted on Artist Soapbox on 28 May 2018

Greetings, Soapboxers!

Please raise your hand if someone has ever told you, “Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

Y’all. So many times. Over and over throughout my life. This phrase confounded me and angered me. I didn’t understand it. I passed it off as a cliché. An empty platitude from someone who jusssst didn’t getttt meeeee.

Last night marked the just-over-halfway point of the inaugural ASBX Creative Accountability Group, an endeavor that Tamara and I are facilitating for artists who want to move their creative work forward. This experience has been so inspiring, so humbling and, honestly, last night got real.

In that session, something new clicked for me around the way I approach my creativity and my ‘til-now unconscious choice to brandish the whip rather than the olive branch when I felt stuck or unproductive.

I asked the group to examine the roadblocks they experience through an exercise called “The 5 Whys.” This technique was originally formalized by Toyota, as a way to trace a problem through layers of abstraction to its real root cause. Typically, the root cause points to a process that is not working well. Hmmm, process you say? I wonder if artists can relate to that…

Here’s an example:

What is the pat answer you give for why you haven’t accomplished your creative goal? All together now: “I don’t have enough time.” Let’s inspect that a bit through 5 Whys, shall we? (Monocles optional).

“I don’t have enough time.”

Why?

“Because I am scheduled within an inch of my life.”

Why?

“Because people keep asking me to do things and I keep saying yes.”

Why?

“Because I have a really hard time saying no.”

Why?

“Because I’m afraid if I say no they’ll never ask me to do anything ever again.”

Why?

“Because I am insecure in my relationships.”

DUDE I KNOW RIGHT? It was so much easier when I thought I was simply managing a ridiculous calendar. Now I have to consider how I approach my relationships?  Well, shit. Let’s all crack open our chests and shine a flashlight in, shall we?

In terms of the Creative Accountability Group, this exercise has so much to offer us in terms of having compassion for ourselves and examining what is at the root of our creative resistance. Here’s another example from the group:

“I am not prioritizing writing.”

Why?

“Because I am not excited about it.”

Why?

“Because I’m afraid people will think it’s bad.”

Why?

“Because I got a bad review last time and it really hurt.”

Why (is this a problem)?

“Because now I feel like I can’t trust my own voice.”

In this example, I can see the pain at the center of the resistance. Putting our work into the world for public consumption is a vulnerable and brave act. It all but guarantees that some people will have criticisms and critiques. If that knocks the wind out of your sails for a bit, well, ok — you’re human. It’s understandable that you could feel stuck between the ego’s desire for a product and your heart’s need for the process of healing. Uncovering the resistance to the work via the 5 Whys allows us to name it, claim it, and deal with it….with compassion.

That’s when things shifted for me around the phrase “Don’t be so hard on yourself.” Now I see the value in extending compassion inward and acknowledging the hurt or pain that has us in its grip. What we need in those moments is comfort and encouragement, not chastisement. If we take the time to care for ourselves, we’ll feel the pull of creativity before too long. It’s always there. It wants to flow through us. We can help it by making space for our feelings and clearing out debris where we can.

Is this hitting home for you? Considering joining Tamara and me for our next Creative Accountability Group, beginning July 31st. This 5-week session is open to everyone! If you’ve got a project you’d like to move forward, but could use some help and an encouraging support network, drop us a line! We’d love to see you there.

Many thanks to our gracious hosts, the NC Center for Resiliency.

‘Til next time,

MT

Artist Soapbox: Farewell, Creativity Obstructions. Hello, Creativity Resources!

Originally published on Artist Soapbox on 12/29/2017.

**Last post of 2017!**

Happy New Year, Soapboxers!

How does that salutation sit with you? How does it feel to be looking ahead to a fresh calendar? Hopeful? Scary? Exciting? Full of dread? Are you taking stock of 2017 or lighting a match and throwing it over your shoulder as you Auld Lang Syne your way into 2018?

I’ll be honest, this month I didn’t show up for my creativity as much as I would have liked. Can I get a show of hands from all the folks who have been running around ragged this month? Holiday parties, traveling, work and/or family obligations… December is NON STOP. While I treasure time spent with friends and loved ones, I can feel my creativity squeaking out a quiet “Remember me?” in the background.

I hear you, creativity, and I haven’t forgotten you. You are important and you will not be ignored.

Is your creativity talking to you? What is it saying? What does it most need from you in 2018?

So far in this blog series, Tamara and I have discussed different obstructions that present themselves when you’re on your creative path.

  1. Imposter Syndrome: Who do I think I am? Why even try?
  2. Perfectionism: I’m so afraid that my creation will not be perfect that I never actually do it.
  3. Comparison: I’ll never be as good as that person. I should probably quit.
  4. Distraction: I’ve convinced myself that all these other things have priority over my creativity.

This framework has helped me when I’m struggling creatively. I can remember that these feelings are part of the process. They are normal but that doesn’t mean they’re true or that I need to indulge them.

Right now I am definitely guilty of #4. But you know what? I’ve made progress on the others. They don’t have the hold on me that they did even one year ago. Change is possible, friends! But here’s the fine print: it took work. It took facing down fears and doing it anyway. It took getting out of my own way. It took hours at the keyboard doing the actual work of writing a script. It took hours of self-resourcing to help me navigate re-writes and self-doubt and the excitement and stress of seeing the work come to life.

In 2018, I would like to share with you and learn from you the things we do for ourselves that resource us. That give us confidence. That align us with our hopes and dreams for ourselves. That give us a boost, whether that’s emotionally, physically or creatively. Because I gotta tell you — creativity can be scary. It can be vulnerable. Performing in front of people, sharing your words with others, displaying your paintings or drawings — these are courageous acts. I truly believe that we must unapologetically care for ourselves to be able to share these parts of ourselves with others and maintain our emotional, physical and creative health. Let’s talk about how to make this happen for ourselves and our creative community.

What do you think, Soapboxers? We’re all in this together. Thank you for supporting the Artist Soapbox endeavors this year. It has been a pleasure to share with you and especially to hear from you! Please leave a comment or write us at artistsoapbox@gmail.com .

‘Til next time!
-MT