Check out this scenario: While noodling on your guitar one afternoon you come up with a new riff. Your first reaction is “Wow, this might be a cool idea for a new song!”
But then, as if it were a reflex, your inner voice begins hurling an incessant barrage of criticism and doubt:
- Is this idea really any good?
- It sounds a bit like [insert song here]…is it too derivative?
- Crap! I can’t be derivative…..Must! Be! ORIGINAL!
- Anyway, it’s just a little riff — how will I ever write all the other parts for the rest of the song?
- Oh man, and now I’ll have to program some drums — EWWW! It always takes me forever to get the drums right.
- And you know, it’s nowhere near as good as [insert favorite epic masterpiece of musical brilliance]. I’ll never write a song even close to as good as THAT.
- Even if I do get this song finished, will anyone even like it enough to listen more than once?
- How am I going to react to the inevitable criticisms?
- I don’t know…people probably won’t like it. I know it shouldn’t matter, but…
- Heck, even if people say they like it, they’re probably just being polite….
After a few minutes of this self-inflicted abuse, you feel so overwhelmed by obstacles and doubt that you decide your riff isn’t good enough to warrant investing all that effort. You abandon the idea of crafting it into a new song, and go back to aimlessly noodling the same old licks while surfing the net hoping for “inspiration.” But any enjoyment you might have had is spoiled by a nagging feeling that you really SHOULD be doing something more productive…
Does this sound familiar to you? What the heck is this and why does it happen?
Your creativity, your inner muse, has been bitch-slapped into submission by your critical inner voice, robbing you of the opportunity to create something of real value — a new song. Widdly, bedroom “Youtube shredders” are as common as mullets at a Nascar event; but guitarists who write songs, complete projects, and consistently get their creative work out the door are far fewer. You know this. But why is it so hard to squelch your inner critic and just DO something?
The curse of perfectionism
It could be that — even if you are far from “perfect” — you are a perfectionist. You desperately want to feel creative and inspired, but your creativity is as good as paralyzed by the pressure and demands you put on yourself.
I’m intimately familiar with the tyranny of perfectionism. In fact, when it comes to producing creative output, the multi-headed hydra of perfectionism, self-doubt, and knee-jerk self-criticism is my worst enemy.
Fortunately, now that I recognize the enemy for what it is, I’m on a mission to kick its whiny butt. But that means effecting a dramatic change in habitual thought patterns that have had decades to entrench themselves — you could even say I’ve practiced them to perfection! I don’t expect changing to be easy, but “more of the same” just ain’t gonna cut it this time. (It rarely does.)
In the coming weeks I’ll be writing here about what I learn and the methods I use to make negativity and perfectionism my bitches, in the hope that others can benefit (and because the accountability of announcing goals publicly is an industrial-strength motivator). But don’t worry — I’ll be focusing on tools and knowledge you can try for yourself rather than subjecting you to reams of self-absorbed “navel contemplation.”
And I promise, there won’t ever, EVER be any New-Age BS about learning to nurture your inner child.
Popularity: 6% [?]
If you like what you find here, you may like to subscribe to my RSS feed. Rock on!