Robin Clark | Bay Area Coach & Photographer for Women » Coach & Photographer for Women

Transforming Self-Criticism & Lethargy into Creative Flow

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Inspiration rises up in us all the time. Strong waves come up we can easily hear. Other flames are quieter, more serpentine. And other musings have been running in us throughout our lives like deep rivers, giving form to our innate selves.

But what happens when we don’t act on, and get into a habit of “shelving”, our inspired ideas?

It may be a bold statement at first glance, but I think the voice of the critic and the voice of the muse are the same voice. The Kali and Venus of inspiration, if you will. I got this idea from Shiloh Sophia doing her Blooming Artist series a couple of years ago and from what I’ve seen in myself and others it’s really the truth.

It goes like this:

You get an inspired idea and you act on it. The momentum you feel is exciting and elevating. The more you go with it, the stronger your connection to your inspiration, aka. the muse, grows and more ideas come. Seeing what good results you’re getting and how much better you feel, you become more open to taking risks. You begin to feel more confident. New things start happening because of your openness and you become even more enthusiastic about your life because of the elevated feeling of flow you’re experiencing. This is the delicious electric feeling of flow we all love.

Or…

You get an inspired idea and you don’t act on it. You’re afraid. You feel challenged or threatened by it and you resist taking action. You might even deny to yourself that you’re scared and instead believe you’re being logical or responsible. Regardless, your unwillingness acts like a damn blocking the flow of inspiration and the amount of energy it takes for you to resist, consciously or unconsciously, shows up as you feeling increasingly tired, insecure, and doubtful.

This is the same as when you let the vegetables in your garden, who once nourished you, go past ripe and become compost. There’s a sweet moment when the idea your muse is bringing you is ready and you have to grab it right then and SAY YES. Otherwise… this inspirational food that wanted to nourish you turns and rots. And what instead starts to grow in you is self-criticism and lethargy which can look like doubt, nervousness, insecure self-talk, avoidance, fatigue, craving sugar and caffeine, or convincing yourself why you can’t/shouldn’t/won’t/don’t-know-how.

The degree of self-criticism, lethargy, and insecurity you experience is, to a very large degree, in direct proportion to how receptive you are to letting your muse guide your actions.

Life is an adventure. We’re here to continually expand ourselves and the range of life we inhabit. Life is full of risks – which only means we’re being continually inspired to expand what we consider to be our comfort zone. If you have a belief that resisting taking risks or avoiding LIVING life will keep you safe, think again. The truth is…

The more you express yourself,
the more at home you will feel in yourself.

When I taught painting classes I’d sometimes see students go into shutdown and stare at their painting as if they were being threatened for their lives. When I’d ask what was happening, they’d first tell me something like “Nothing’s happening. I’m not creative. I can’t paint.” When I’d ask what was the last inspiration that had come to them they’d say “I had an idea to add a yellow stripe but I can’t. It will ruin the painting.” So their muse was calling them to take a risk but their fear of failure and need to do it right caused them to block the flow, immediately leading to feeling stuck and insecure. When I’d point this out, it usually took them a lot of will and courage to see through the fear-based control they were exerting and instead take a risk to paint the yellow stripe. But once they did, the inspired flow kicked right back in and in 5 or 10 minutes when I’d look over at them, they were happily painting.

More extreme was when I’d see students laying on the ground checking-out. It was the same scenario, only amplified. They’d complain “I’m so tired. I can’t do this. I need to go home and sleep. I really hate painting today.” After some investigation usually what came out was they were terrified of making a mistake and were sure that every brush stroke they made was confirming how much they sucked at painting. They were so caught up in resistance and self-judgment they were literally drowning in it, lying on the floor feeling unable to get up and re-engage with the flow.

This it’s exactly what every one of us does when we resist taking action on the inspired ideas that come to us.

You can see it in the moment-to-moment flux of your thoughts and energy through the day. You feel drawn to work out, sing, dance, put on a particular piece of music, start a project, reach out to someone, write a blog post, share something online, communicate something to your coworker, etc. When you do it you feel great! When you don’t your energy dips and if you don’t catch yourself, you probably start believing something’s wrong with you.

The spell and program of this habit is deep but you actually have the key to unlocking it in your hand and it’s this:

The next time you notice self-judgment, doubt, or lethargy show up, ask yourself: WHAT INSPIRED IDEA(S) ARE COMING TO ME THAT I’M RESISTING? It might take you a minute to hear it but once you do, TAKE ACTION.

Oh, you don’t have time? You don’t know how? You’re afraid of how that will look? Guess what – the inspiration that’s coming to you is aiming to get you to break through these sorts of fears so you can be more free. So don’t sell yourself short by coming up with cop outs. Decide expansion, feeling energized, and enjoying a full-range of life is more important that the strong-hold of familiarity you’re already accustomed to. If an inspired idea comes to you, and especially if it keeps coming to you, take action.

If you’ve read this blog at all, you know I love experiments. I think taking one aspect of our lives, such as self-judgment which is a completely unproductive way to spend even one moment of sweet our lives let alone the giant swaths we habitually give it, and changing how we focus and respond to it for a period of time can produce amazingly empowering results.

So just imagine what might be possible for you if you made it your business to listen to your inspirations and take action. And not just once, but on a daily basis, say – for a month. I’m willing to bet that in a really short period of time you would feel lighter, more confident, energized, and in the flow. And your life would begin to look quite different because of the energized frequency you’re generating.

I’m going to leave you with one last consideration to roll around in your mind, and it’s this:

Procrastinating is avoiding feeling.

Ohhhhhhh, that cuts deep down to the heart of the matter. What else is left after that than to SAY YES?

misty -

what if the only inspiring thoughts and ideas coming to you are super cliche and superficial? i cant just go along with dumb ideas that don’t contribute to deepening the art, but those are the only thoughts that occur to me and if i go with those than im cliche and superficial

susan -

by even naming your ideas and thoughts as super cliche and superficial, you are judging yourself and defeating the purpose of the exercise which is to stop the self doubt and judgemental inner voice…just sayin’ because I do that all the time and then someone else looks at what I am judging and thinks it is awesome which has trained me to depend on the acceptance of others to be accepting of myself which is a catch 22 or intellectual mobius strip.

Lisa -

This is a wonderful reminder of how easy it is to get back on the flow train! @Misty, in my experience, my intuitive inclinations tend to be cliche and superficial at first, maybe so they are easy to follow? And then, when my muse is sure I’m listening I get some hum dingers that seem like they came out of the bowels of genius itself. <3

Melissa -

Wow! I didn’t realize how much I was doing this to myself but you described exactly what I’ve been doing all this time. I’ve been thinking it’s stress from work draining me from having energy to do any projects but it’s really me being consumed by my self critisism that’s truly holding me back. I’m all excited and scared now because when I get home I know I have a big confrontation waiting for me there and I know what I must do to move past it. Thank you

Robin Clark -

You’re welcome! And you’re so right – it’s easy to think the drain is coming from something external (work). It’s harder to see how it’s actually coming how we’re being cruel to ourselves and restricting our movement/expression. GO FOR THE GOLD when you get home! It may be uncomfortable but whatever’s on the other side of the gridlock you’ve been in is going to be ah-mazing!!!

Robin Clark -

I second this! My creative ideas/inspirations are often sorta blah and/or unappealing at first when I’ve been out of the flow. I think this is my muse’s way of testing me to see how willing I am to be receptive, to really dance with her. But when I RISE UP from the fear and insecurity that’s stopping me from being willing to TRY, better and better ideas start to come… and then things get really good.

Laura -

Sigh.
What about when you have done this to yourself for so long, so often, that you no longer know what inspires or pulls you forward?
I am just existing and slowly dying in a j.o.b. that i need, but know i don’t want.

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Robin Clark -

Hi Laura! Your comment is something I hear so much from people (and totally relate to) that I answered it in this week’s blog post. If you’ve not seen it yet, here it is. Thanks so much for sharing your experience!

http://robinclark.org/2013/06/facing-fears-that-stop-your-creativity-cultivating-creative-expression-anyhow/

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