When I was working on my BFA degree from Carnegie Melon University, I was struck by the amount of arbitrary judgment in an institution where creativity was highly valued. I certainly know that opinions about anything creative -- particularly in the arts -- are subjective. However, professors sometimes carried it to extreme. I tell the story in my upcoming memoir, Painting Life: My Creative Journey Through Trauma (coming out in November) about my first design instructor who openly said, "Women should be home having babies and therefore they will receive no more then a C in this class." To my knowledge, he kept his word. Another professor downgraded students if they didn't paint like he did. Interestingly, this professor almost flunked one student who eventually became the most famous in our class.
Creativity is an expression of the heart, soul and spirit.
Who can judge what is in our hearts, or what reflects our true spirit? It's bad enough when judgmental thoughts come from another person, but when my own judgments creeps in, it stops me in my creative tracks.
We were not born with judgmental thoughts. They come to us from our external world.
Our thoughts reflect something from our history -- usually ideas from our parents, friends, religion, professors, newspapers, etc. When I remind myself about all of the judgmental thoughts that were in my history (my mother being the judgmental master) I find it amazing how old opinions can still penetrate my thinking. Recently I had a funny realization. For years I've worn my hair short because my mother said. "Older women should never wear their hair long because it makes them look older." That was my mother's judgment, which probably came from her mother. Once I realized what I was doing I begin letting my hair grow. I have no idea how it looks to others, but I felt liberated,
Artist and author Natalie Goldberg once said, "I was full of opinions about what went with what, and this imprisoned to me."
How do we know if we are being influenced by inner judgmental voice? There are words we can watch for, words that I refer to as "trigger words, for they precede and trigger judgmental thoughts." Words such as never, should, always, can't, must and so on, are trigger words reminding us that an opinion from our history is present. For example, "You should never wear blue and green together." That was the voice of an elementary school teacher.
When we are on alert for both internal and external trigger words, we can then eradicate them from our creative language. In turn, the freer and more inspired we will be.
No matter what I create, whether it's about how I present myself, my home, the food I cook, the choices I make in life -- plus my artwork and writing -- I watch for trigger words. For I know they will keep me from following through with the ideas that are in my heart and spirit.
Do you know when you are creating from the heart? I would love to hear your stories.
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