Fighting the Little Haters

An amazing and inspiring blog is Jay Smooth’s Ill Doctrine. I love his videos for their laid back authenticity and generosity toward different opinions and human failings. His recent post on the difficulty getting past one’s own criticism really hit home with me.

 Many times, I’ve got my own little demon sitting on my shoulder, saying “You aren't original. Your art work is amateurish. Give up now and get a real job.” Jay asked his listeners to post how the deal with the little haters, here my reply.


Deny them: The amazing watercolorist Peggy Macnamara said, “Don’t even entertain thoughts, that you are not good enough. Just don’t let them it.”  I think this is a good start, but criticisms are sneaky buggers. They whisper negativity while I’m distracted with a deadline. So, pause and become aware of the criticism. Think of this inner speak as if it was a really annoying person… and say “HEY! Can’t you see I’m trying to work? Quit being a jerk.”

Deceive them: Pretend your work isn’t crucial (even if it is). This may sound weird but it works. Start small with an inconsequential task and then the next few and let things snowball. One of my heros, John Cody paints huge full sheet watercolors with breathtaking detail. He works one square inch at a time! In a class he told me that if he looked at all the work ahead he wouldn’t be able to paint.

Distract them: Jump the groove, shake things up. Change your location. Take a short break. Come back. Accomplish small task and use the good energy to keep rolling. While you write or paint, put on music or a movie. But be careful with multi-tasking it can be a two edged sword; my focus is split I don’t have a lot of attention left for little haters but at the same time the quality of my work can suffer. 

Drug them: KIDDING! Don't do drugs. History is full of artists and writers using alcohol and drugs to drown out personal criticism. A similar opiate is approval seeking. Praise from friends might shut the little haters up, but they will be back with their friends when you are alone. So instead of drinking booze or praise, I recommend awareness and mediation. Sit down, quiet your mind and then start to work focusing only on the task at hand.  Really look and listen at what you are doing without judging it from another perspective. Be in your work. It’s like denial but instead of acknowledging and fighting, you relax and ignore…

Our inner demons will always be there. The best we can do is keep up the good works.