I call them the Hooglie-Booglies.
These are the voices that shout in your head when you have a creative urge or an actual project to begin. The hooglie-booglies are loud. They appear real. You might even become convinced they’re the truth.
However, it’s important to see them for what they are:
Procrastination and fear.
Here are the six most common symptoms that might keep you from taking action on your creative ideas and projects:
1 – “Who do you think you are?”
This is the voice of every cynic who has ever crossed your path.
It’s the mean girls glaring at you through eyes caked with eye-liner as you walk by their lockers.
It’s your older brother laughing at your new hobby.
It’s your former boss, a mean-spirited review, or just your own inner critic.
No matter what images from your past have collided to form this life-like voice in your head, it’s time to talk back.
How do you do that?
Answer the question!
Who do you think you are?
You might be surprised at how quickly that voice diminishes when you come up with an answer.
2 – I’ll wait til I quit my job. Then I’ll have lots more time to…”
Other versions of this voice include, “I’ll wait until I’m more courageous before I…”
“I’ll save up X amount of dollars and then I’ll…”
As my best friend used to say when we were kids: “Bull puckey!”
The problem with waiting for great big empty blocks of time is that most likely you haven’t learned to wisely use the small chunks of time you already have. So when (or, more appropriately, “IF”) those great big blocks ever come, then you’ll most likely have one great big panic attack.
The problem with waiting for a more courageous version of yourself is that courage comes from being courageous. If your game plan involves a larger, more heroic version of yourself to just happen, then it’s time to revise the plan.
The problem with waiting for more money is that this game that can’t be won. There’s never enough money to convince you that you’re finally safe, and it’s okay to begin that new direction or project.
If it’s something worth doing, then do it now. Learn to work within the life you have right now.
3 – “I’ll never be the best so why bother?”
One great reason to begin a creative project is that you’ll always come face to face with your neediness and your ego voices. If you can forge on and keep on creating, you realize how pointless these voices are. This is the beginning of wisdom. And it’s fun to become wise to your own ego.
Besides, there is no best. And if there is, it’s certainly no reason to not begin. There’s always someone who’s making more money, getting better publicity, getting better at her craft. The only person you need to measure up against is you.
An audience member asked Julia Cameron this question: “What do you do with the voice that says, “I’ll never be the best, so why bother?” Julia Cameron paused. Then she said into the microphone, “I get out of bed very quickly.”
4 – “Everyone will discover I’m a fraud.”
You have to be the one to decide that you’re not a fraud. And you have to be the one to decide that this voice is nothing more than an angry relic from the past that doesn’t want you to try something new or create something that might be beautiful. No one is out there waiting for you to fail!
And besides, who is “everyone,” anyway?
5 – “But wait! I’m not perfect yet!”
The gift of getting over this voice is that you might begin to relish how imperfectly you can do something. Giving yourself permission to do things badly is a great gift. Perfectionism is healed by taking action imperfectly, and surviving.
6 – “I need to process all of my feelings of unworthiness and doubt first.”
There will be times when you’ll sit down with every intention to do your work. It will be quiet. You might feel empty. Even lonely.
Furtively, doubt will creep in. Then, a few other shabbily dressed characters will follow. These are the ones that like to tag along with doubt wherever she goes. They’re an insidious bunch. They’ll wait conspicuously, clearing their throats and shuffling their feet. Eventually, they’ll convince you that you need to set everything aside and let them have their say.
Here’s the thing –
If you just keep doing your work – even if you do it badly – the next day, there will be fewer voices. This time, they won’t hang around as long. After several days of doing this, you won’t even think about them. They’ll give up on you once they realize you won’t pay attention. When you focus on them and give them attention, then they grow bigger – especially when they realize they can make you stop in your tracks. You’ve given them all the power.
Always remember this: Energy flows where attention goes. If you stop giving your attention to these voices (and all of these symptoms), your attention will move to your creativity. And that, I assure you, is much more exciting!
p.s. Quick Note: There are two spaces available for the Great Big Dreams retreat (March 14 – 16). Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re a last-minute kind of gal (or a P on the Myers-Briggs!) and you’d like more information!