Have you had this kind of battle in your head?
My Muse dons her cowboy garb to battle the Lizard Brain. Reptile image from Mortal Kombat game via Wikia
You know the Muse. She's the one who sends messages from your subconscious about what's best for your creative development. She wants you to be Great. Mine often dresses like a Faery Queen and flies about, but she's also been known to don a cowboy hat and spurs.
The Lizard Brain. He's a different species all together. He crawls in his belly in the muddy mire of mediocrity and tries to drag your creative soul down there with him. His message is Fear.
When we feel Resistance to creating our art, it can be confusing to figure out just whose voice is calling.
Don't shoot the Muse
Take my recent experience with a piece of work called, ironically, Don't Shoot the Muse.
I began it during a Home Art Retreat Weekend but it grew too big to finish in such a short timeframe. I've desultorily started and stopped the piece a few times since. But it's always felt like a chore.
Now, I've recently met a series of heavy deadlines. And I'm in the process of clearing out my studio ready for downsizing and nomadic wandering. So why did I suddenly get it into my head to finish the Muse before the end of June?
Dunno but I did. So I dutifully picked up my paintbrush the day after finishing the previous project (not unrelated to cowboy hats and pistols) because that's what you're supposedly to do, right? Get straight back on the horse.
The first couple of days weren't too bad. But each day got harder. I kept rearranging my schedule to put off going to the studio. When I did get myself there, it was like pulling teeth.
I'd hit Resistance with a capital R.
Touching the Sky. 90 x 60 cm, Mixed media on MDF, © Cherry Jeffs 2008
The Muse is ready to spread her wings and fly but the Lizard Brain
- here portrayed as a skeleton - tries to drag her back into the mud.
I just needed to figure out what exactly was causing the fear
"Aha," I thought. "It's the Lizard Brain creating Resistance because the piece is challenging and has the potential to move me forward on my creative trajectory."
I was not about to be fooled into ignoring the Muse's Call to Greatness. I just needed to figure out what exactly about the piece was causing the fear - and hence the Resistance - and find a way round / through and finish the job.
I tried my usually-effective strategies for unblocking myself. With each one I dragged myself forward a few more inches. But each day I felt more reptilian. Nothing like a Faery Queen in fact. Or a cowgirl. It wouldn't have surprised me if I'd woken up covered with scales.
Finally I began to wonder if the voice I was hearing wasn't the Lizard Brain's at all.
Could it be the Muse telling me that this piece is not the way to go?
Listening to the whisper of the Muse
I listened harder. I strained to hear my Muse. She whispered,
"You know you're only trying to complete this piece because you think you should."
Bingo! My behaviour fits right in with number five of the 7 Triggers of Creative Blocks that I talk about in my book:
"Lack of passion towards our art because deep down it’s not the work we want to make, but external pressures or misguided logic make us feel obliged to do it."
I realised the Call to Greatness was best answered by ditching the work and getting on with something that makes my heart sing.
I'm out of the mire.
Who's voice are you listening to? Are you doing the work you really love? Or something you think you should?
We'll deal with the Lizard Brain and much more in the Blast Your Creative Blocks course coming later in the year. Don't miss out on Subscriber early-bird discounts. Sign up for my quarterly newsletter and be the first to know.