One of the podcasts I listened to on my recent drive to Georgia was the TED Radio Hour episode called The Source of Creativity. In it, host Guy Raz shares excerpts and interviews from four different TED talks about creativity: one from Sting about overcoming writer’s block, one about what happens inside the brain during creative output, one about creativity in schools, and one from Elizabeth Gilbert about tapping into creativity.
What struck me about all four talks was the common element: we get in our own way when it comes to creativity. Ego, fear, and self-sabotage are the greatest obstacles for many creatives. Every speaker talked about having to shut down the critic or ignore it (and likewise the fear) in order to release creativity. The segment about the brain on creativity backed this up: during times of high creative output, the part of the brain associated with conscious self-monitoring shuts down.
In other words, when an artist is in the zone, successfully creating, the brain has zipped the inner critic’s lips.
What the episode didn’t offer was a sure-fire way to make the brain silence the inner critic, to put the ego in the corner, to banish the fear. For Sting the answer was going back to the childhood town he had so desperately wanted to escape. For the segment about creativity in schools, the answer is encouraging creativity instead of suppressing it. For Elizabeth Gilbert, the answer is diligence in practice, sitting down with your creative work even if you’re not feeling it, so that you’re ready when inspiration strikes.
I’m not sure what the answer for me will be. It’s not easy to suppress the inner critic, especially if you’re polite and allow it to talk to you. I have found, though, that committing to blog every day has given me less time to listen to it. I’m on a deadline every day to write, and that puts me in a different mindset. Pressing Publish has become more important to me than wringing my hands about the doubts my inner critic whispers in my ear.