The Noise Inside

Yesterday’s responses to the blog about music in an art class were incredible. I blog about creativity because it’s not always easy to do the hard work that creativity demands. And it’s not always easy to ask for what you need to be creative or to keep working if you don’t get it.

Standing up for yourself, from Annie's Ink.

Standing up for yourself, from Annie’s Ink.

Those of us who step up into our creativity every day get told “No” a lot. Sometimes we have to accept No, and sometimes we have to use No as a starting point and keep working through it. It’s hard to know when to accept and when to push on.

Your suggestions, support, ideas, and solutions floored me. They were wry, helpful, insightful, and smart. Some were even funny. I read a lot of blogs, and I rarely see the community and the deep wisdom that shows up in the comments on my blog. But most of all, I felt heard. I felt part of a bigger group that lives in different places and has had different lives and still shares experiences and emotions.

What caused me so much of a problem in the class was the feeling of being “other” and “different.” It’s a big issue in my life. As Pema Chodron reminds us, in her book, When Things Fall Apart:

. . .nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. if we run a hundred miles an hour to the other end of the continent in order to get away from the obstacle, we find the very same problem waiting for us when we arrive. it just keeps returning with new names, forms, manifestations until we learn whatever it has to teach us about where we are separating ourselves from reality, how we are pulling back instead of opening up, closing down instead of allowing ourselves to experience fully whatever we encounter, without hesitating or retreating into ourselves.

Writers and artists are always going to be the “others” and “different.” It’s part of our job. We won’t fit in smoothly. Creativity demands we see things from many perspectives, make meaning in new ways, and show those ways to a world that doesn’t want to change. Seth Godin, in his book Tribes,  calls creative leaders “The Heretics in the Boardroom.”

From Lady Employed, in a post about standing up for yourself.

From Lady Employed, in a post about standing up for yourself, which includes this gem: “but I have a rule that when I am wondering whether nothing is something, it’s usually something.

Yes, I was raised not to make a fuss, to always think of myself as the least important person in the room, to never call attention to myself. And yes, that is hard to overcome.  For years,  I have been a warrior for social justice. And sometimes, I get to think of myself as someone who needs a slice of that justice. And asking for it in a calm way is my right.

One of the commentors, Katherine Colgan, said something that rang true to the bone. And then I remembered–it is what I discussed with a coaching client to resolve her problem just last week. What I can do for others, I struggle doing for myself. Here’s what Katherine said:

I would have talked to the instructor privately at the next break, explained my difficulty working with sound, that I was finding it difficult to concentrate, that I was losing the benefit of the class and feeling really bad about that, and that I was hoping she could help me. If she seemed nonplussed, I would offer whatever solutions I thought were appropriate and ask what she thought would be best and fairest to everyone.

See? No victimhood, no demands, just a steady working toward a solution. Thanks to everyone of you who left a comment. You make me smarter and stronger and I depend on your wisdom.

The best ending to the discussion is that I heard from the instructor. She offered an apology, which I thought was brave and kind. She also wished I’d talked to her directly. And next time (because I know Pema is right, and I will run into this again) I will put on my big girl panties and express what I need, instead of letting the Inner Critic tell me I need to suck it up. Again.

Thanks for all of you for showing up, for speaking out, for offering support. It’s an amazing experience to be in such excellent company.

-Quinn McDonald is filling up a gratitude journal with what she learned in the last 24 hours.



10 thoughts on “The Noise Inside

  1. Quinn, I was one of the responders yesterday. It took me over 50 yrs to find my own voice and I will not accept my own silence anymore. girl children are taught from babyhood to surpress their own self in order to be thought of as “nice”. Well, our own TRUTH is more essential than “nice”! Your situation wasn’t a tragedy, BUT. many women live tragic lives and never complain. Women must learn and teach our daughters that only if they speak up in small things, will they gain the courage to speak up in essential things. Bless you for sharing your life, you are a brave and brilliant woman, I appreciate this blog a lot. Grace, LD

  2. You know Quinn, it’s not the reading of your thought-provoking posts that takes the time . . . it’s all the comments and the thinking and the conversations afterward that occupy me! Love it, and feel right at home.

    And as one warrior to another, like many I’m not nearly as good at speaking up for my Self as I am at advocating for others. Even as a child I never though of social compliance as a laudable trait; I knew some things were unfair and need agitators to help achieve change.

  3. Quinn,
    I applaud your honesty, your vulnerability, and your willingness to share from your personal experience, especially when it difficult and challenging to your sense of self.

    Sometimes it’s hard to tell what move to make, especially when it’s in the moment and in your face.

    My heart and appreciation are with you.

    Be refreshed,
    Dawn Herring

  4. Dear Quinn, You are right about this community of followers. As a commenter, I was overwhelmed by the the compassion and outrage this group has shown over your “noise” situation. You should be feeling a thousand hugs for every line written in your defense. THAT should give you strength for the next time!

  5. I too was raised with ths thinking. At 65 I stil l can’t seem to find my own voice in the crowd. Maybe it’s not abad, but I gt so annoyedtmyself frbeing such awhimp. I really enjoy your blogs. Thank you. Marilyn

    • It’s less about being a wimp than deciding what needs to be said. As you know, I have trouble balancing speaking up and thinking I’m whining, but it’s worth learning. And I have a LOT of practice!

  6. Wow. This post is getting bookmarked, because this: “I was raised not to make a fuss, to always think of myself as the least important person in the room” is something that I have just become aware is in the story of my life. I mean, like in the last few weeks have become aware of how strong and pervasive it is.

    To the point where I was mystified yesterday by my own response when I posted an article that I was reading on Facebook, and two friends, husband and wife, straightaway attacked the article and its writer. And once I realized that they were inadvertently triggering my sense of being the least important person in the room, my reaction made a lot more sense.

    Thanks for this. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone.

    • You are certainly not alone. And the training will be with you always. It started as soon as the doctor said, “It’s a girl!” and it continues every time we stay silent out of fear. It’s hard to overcome, as I’ve shown over the last few days, but once you become aware, it’s good to keep working on it. The other choice is to become a martyr.

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