My current “listen while I walk” book is Brené Brown’s book on shame, I Thought it Was Just Me (But it Isn’t). I’m nodding my head so much in agreement I look like a bobblehead walking down the street.
Doesn’t this look exactly like the naive rural girl right from the Main Street of Shame?
What had me nodding like a drummer in an 80s hair band is the way Brown links shame to excuses, blame to anger—and then breaks the links so you can breathe again and feel whole.
When I started to write my new book, The Inner Hero’s Art Journal: Conversations with Your Inner Critic, I thought it would be a big, inventive idea to ask some well-known people to contribute to it. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if art people could be introduced to some well-known people who have big inner critics and hear their
story? Wouldn’t it be even cooler if those well-known people tried some art projects in dealing with their inner critics? And then shared those stories? I was so excited. I did not for one nano-second think that maybe those well-known people would shrug it off.
In fact, when a friend said, “Sure, what’s the worst that could happen?” I said, “They’ll say ‘no’ and I’ll survive.” But that was not the worst that could happen. The worst that could happen is that not a single one of the four well-known people responded to my several emails, Twitter and Facebook contact, and a written-on-paper letter.
My first reaction was, “Well, Well-Known Person (WKP) #1 just had a serious health scare in her family; WKP #2 just bought a new house in California to create an environmental safe haven. WKP #3 is writing a book, and WKP #4 is on a book tour for her new book.”
My next reaction was, “Well, c’mon, most of these people have staff or at least an
The big, negative mind of the Inner Critic. (Pitt Pen on paper, © Quinn McDonald)
assistant, they can’t even take time to say ‘no’ or ‘thanks’?”
And my next reaction, was, yes, shame. Who was I to think that those people would think my idea was cool? My ideas wasn’t cool, it was dumb. And who am I to think that any WKP would care about appearing in a book that won’t sell as well as theirs, and give up their time when they won’t get paid.
There I saw it—just like Brené Brown said: excuses, anger, blame and shame. Just like in the book. If I hadn’t been so involved with my shame, I would have laughed. But I was consumed by the pain of shame.
And then–and I’m telling you this because it’s so vividly real—one of my ceative ideas from the book came to mind. I grabbed a Pitt Pen and a piece of watercolor paper and did the exercise. (No, you won’t find it here, it’s still in development for the book).
This whole shame thing is part of a conversation I’m having with the Inner Critic. The one that goes, “I’m not good enough for WKP to care about me, who am I to write a book?” I did the exercise, and I realized that while I would love to have those four WKP in the book, the books worth, ideas, and usefulness don’t depend on it. That’s my job. I was worrying about someone else’s job. Someone I couldn’t control. My job was to create exercises that worked. That resonated with readers. And I smiled, because I have a group of people whose Inner Critics I know because they’ve told me about them. They are also contributors.
And just like that, the shame steamed off. Of course I would have liked the four people I asked to respond. But they didn’t. And I don’t know why, and can’t guess. And I’m actually OK with that. I don’t have to approve their reasons, I have to move on. I have a really good book to write.
—Quinn McDonald is writing a book on he Inner Critic. She writes what she knows.