My Own Worst Critic, Part I.

by Chris Kamalski

I’m my own worst critic.  I haven’t finished my thoughts in summation of my Submerging Experience this past week for the three main reasons:

  1. I have chosen busyness over space and margin for creativity to be birthed recently.
  2. My experience was so draining and re-forming (Deep new directions are beginning to dislodge in my soul) that I simply don’t have the words to adequately sum up what I’ve been wrestling with this past week (and in reality, these past few months).
  3. I’m not entirely proud of what I have written so far, and thus have been hiding it in an effort to perfect my ‘creation’ (A blog post!) until it is ready (Translated: I may never get around to showing you it!)

We’ve been reading The Artist’s Way as a small group of normal people (Bryan and Daleen Ward, Curtis Love, Melanie Lorenz, Adrienne Mickler, and Elizabeth Van-Niekerk Venter, and myself) meeting together to encourage each other’s reclamation of the creative process.  The book has been a mixed bag for me; yet the group experience has been phenomenal in calling out my creative side through photography and beginning to write.  In our group alone, we have a budding novelist, purse maker, poet, author, several photographers/editors, and a portrait artist.  And we are normal!

And I realized two profound things tonight as we met:

  1. We cope in order to shut ourselves down from possible negative feedback from others (be it towards our art or our own person), therefore killing our own creative process.
  2. Even the greatest creatives struggle with their own self-critic.

Take the following short ideas as examples of these two points:

Many artists begin a piece of work, get well along in it, and then find, as they near completion, that the work seems mysteriously drained of merit.  It’s no longer worth the trouble.  To therapists, this surge of sudden disinterest (‘It doesn’t matter’) is a routine coping device employed to deny pain and ward off vulnerability. (Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way, p. 68)

I was then flipping through Barbara Kingsolver’s modern classic novel The Poisonwood Bible ,which we are reading through the later half of the Submerging Learning Posture we are currently in, and was stunned to see what she wrote in the last paragraph of her Acknowledgments page.  She concludes:

I spent nearly thirty years waiting for the wisdom and maturity to write this book. That I’ve now written it is proof of neither of those things, but of the endless encouragement, unconditional faith, insomnolent conversation and piles of arcane reference books delivered always just in the nick of time by my extraordinary husband.  Thanks, Steven, for teaching me that it’s no use waiting for things that only appear at a distance, and for believing a spirit of adventure will usually suffice. (Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible,  p. x).

My conclusion?  I am often my own worst critic–and welcome to a large family of self-condemning creatives who have walked before me in seeking to cut off their own legs before they are even attempting to stand.  Gifting is often muddled too deeply by personal flogging.

In light of this, I present my unfinished (possibly forever!) thoughts on my Submerging Experience this past week in Soshanguve in Part II of this post.  I desperately want to clean them up and skim the pretentious fat from the bones.  But, I deliberately won’t do that in light of the thoughts above.

With tentative hesitation, my thoughts are now posted…