The Confusing Lines We Draw

A good, meditative exercise is to load a watercolor brush with a primary color and then draw the thinnest, straightest line possible vertically on the page. After a few of those lines, start to add another primary color–yellow to blue, yellow to red, blue to red to get another color.The lines drift across the page, some really nice, some not.

After some straight ones, start to vary the thickness of the line by pushing the brush down, releasing more paint.  You don’t need a high-quality brush, you are not aiming for perfect, you are creating a space to listen.

We talk a lot in our heads. Stopping the talk to listen is the heart of creativity.

Anyone can do the painting, but the silence is a bit trickier. Because the Inner Critic shows up with one of the standard lines she uses.

Today while talking to a client, she told me about an experience that made me nod in recognition and laugh with her. The Inner Critic isn’t logical or reasonable, just always loud and threatening.

My client said the first thing the inner critic said was “these lines are crap.” And she believed it. Well, of course it was crap. Lines on a page. What else could it be? The client had a bit of a struggle, because she had enjoyed the exercise, liked the grounding and liked the simple pattern and colors.

“Well,” she thought, “then I’ll turn it into a journal page background.”

“NOOOOO!” screamed the Inner Critic. “Don’t ruin it! It’s ART!”

From crap to art, just like that. And she suddenly saw the purpose of the Inner Critic–that no matter what you do, no matter what you choose, to the Inner Critic, it’s wrong. You are wrong. Your Inner Critic will chase you in a circle, just to watch you get dizzy and fall over.

The Inner critic says both “it’s crap” and “don’t write over it, it’s art.” There is no appeasing the inner critic. It’s wise to listen, and also wise to choose a path that moves away from the voice of the Inner Critic. Choose a direction you can believe in, and get busy working on that direction. The Inner Critic is not you and is not your compass. You own that. Follow your own wisdom.

Quinn McDonald is writing a book on conversations with the Inner Critic. She’s having a lot of them.