When I was a kid, we had a computer at home long before most people did because my father was a scientist. (Actually, I first experienced a computer that took up an entire small room in my dad’s lab. My sister and I learned to play blackjack on it as tiny girls when my mother dropped us off to hang out with Dad while she ran errands. But I digress.)
By the time we had a computer at home, I was a teenager and focused on other things, like my social life. But my little brother taught himself programming, and developed a few rudimentary games. One of them sticks in my memory, because I found it amusing. He created a program that allowed you to simulate a person you hated by choosing basic characteristics like sex and hair color. Once you’d constructed your nemesis, you could make him or her explode. That was the entire game.
Thinking about that game of my brother’s always makes me smile. It’s such a perfect illustration of an elementary school boy’s desire for emotional gratification. I remember the glee with which he demonstrated it to me, creating his schoolyard enemy and then eradicating him.
I thought about my brother’s game again today while contemplating the negative inner voices that keep so many of us from being the fully creative individuals we’re meant to be. Wouldn’t it be great if we could blow those eternal critics to smithereens once and for all? Detonate the Inner Perfectionist who tells us our creations aren’t good enough? Blast away the Mean-spirited Fault-Finder who tells us we aren’t good enough? Destroy all the voices insisting we’re not really writers and, by the way, our work stinks?
I decided to create my own version of the exploding enemy game, one that writers can visualize any time those nasty voices start their negative humming in our heads. The explosion you create in this visualization is gentler than in my brother’s game, but feel free to modify it in any way that works for you:
Close your eyes.
Relax with your hands in your lap, palms facing up.
Take three deep breaths. As you exhale, relax the muscles in your face, your neck, your shoulders. Feel the tension dripping away, all the way down your body and through the floor.
Now breathe normally and listen to the inner voice that’s telling you something negative. Really hear what he or she is saying. If there’s more than one voice or one message, just focus on the loudest one—you can go back and do the visualization again for each voice, if necessary.
As you listen to the voice and its message, imagine it as a character. Visualize how this inner critic looks and watch him as he yells, sneers or whispers his negative message. Take your time with this. The voice may come to life as a person, a monster, an object or anything else you can picture. Imagine the details of your critic’s face, body, clothes and gestures.
Once you have a clear image of your inner critic as a solid character spewing his negative message at you, imagine he’s suddenly being pulled a couple of feet up into the air by his shoulders. He’s still berating you, but his legs are moving helplessly, and it makes him look slightly comical.
Against his will, your inner critic is gradually pulled further and further up. It’s as if he’s attached to invisible marionette strings and the puppeteer is drawing him away from you.
As he floats upward, your inner critic’s voice becomes fainter and fainter…
You watch while he becomes increasingly smaller. Once he’s transformed into a tiny, ineffectual cartoon high in the air, he breaks up into a million pieces and dissolves into the sky.
Now that he’s gone, you look down again. You realize you’re standing in a beautiful meadow. You can feel the warmth of the sun on your face, and the grass is soft underneath your bare feet. You breathe in the scent of flowers and inhale the calming tranquility of the peaceful meadow.
Now open your eyes and begin writing.
Repeat this visualization every time an inner critic appears and tries to slow down or prevent the creativity you truly deserve to express.
Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com