Judgement of your art is abuse and making up stories

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

It’s very easy to be judgement about your own art, especially when you’re a beginner. Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way explains how judgement about your art is abuse: “Judging your early artistic efforts is artist abuse. This happens in any number of ways: beginning work is measured against the masterworks of other artists; beginning work is exposed to premature criticism, shown to overly critical friends. In short, the fledgling artist behaves with well practiced masochism.”

Allowing negative self-judgement to stop you making more art, you allow the ego to strengthen the identity of you being a person who is not good at art. The brain wants to be efficient and will rethink the same thought patterns in order to conserve energy. As it takes more energy to think new ideas and beliefs, the brain doesn’t distinguish between positive/helpful thoughts and negative/self-sabotaging thoughts. So if you’ve had repeated thoughts on a subject then it’s logically productive for the brain to continue to repeat the same thoughts in order to be efficient, even if they stop you from doing something valuable.

Brené Brown in Rising Strong explains “In the absence of data, we will always make up stories. It’s how we’re wired. In fact, the need to make up a story, especially when we are hurt, is part of our most primitive wiring. Meaning making is in our biology, and our default is often to come up with a story that makes sense, feels familiar, and offers us insight into how best to self-protect.” Brown talks of Robert Burton, a neurologist and novelist, who explains that “our brains reward us with dopamine when we recognise and complete patterns. Stories are patterns. The brain recognises the familiar beginning-middle-end structure of a story and rewards us for clearing up the ambiguity. Unfortunately, we don’t need to be accurate, just certain… we can earn a dopamine ‘reward’ every time it helps us understand something in our world – even if that explanation is incomplete or wrong.”

The way to overcome this judgement is to make art regardless, with the goal of quantity (as opposed to quality) as your focus. The more you make, the easier practice becomes and the quieter your judgemental voice will become. Decide to create a new art-maker identity for yourself – an “artist in progress” – and allow this new identity to grow stronger. With the more quantity made, that practice will cause your skills and confidence to naturally improve over time.

“… we must care for and nurture the stories we tell ourselves about our creativity and ability. Just because we didn’t measure up to some standard of achievement doesn’t mean that we don’t possess gifts and talents that only we can bring to the world.” – Brené Brown, Rising Strong