One of the greatest obstacles to creative expression is denial. Lying to myself about who I am, what I am doing, and what I am capable of becoming. The truly heinous thing about lying to myself is that it is an almost automatic response to life. Over the years that I have been sober, decades actually, I have worked very hard to combat this tendency. I have watched my behavior like a hawk, swooping down on the smallest untruth, correcting it and moving on. There will be periods when I have no problem with life as it is, but then, as recently, I have to learn the lesson all over again.
For me, it came to a head when I stepped on the scale this morning. I was 2 lbs over my absolute "don't go beyond this" weight. For a moment, I was affronted. How dare the scale claim that I had reached this point! Hadn't I been being scrupulous about my eating habits? It must have been a fluke, a result of a recent infection, the end game of having started to exercise more. Actually, it is probably because I ate a big bowl of ice cream before bed last night and I haven't yet eliminated today.
But I started to think about other symptoms of my not telling myself the truth. I had spent money on Christmas gifts and writing contests despite the fact that my husband had asked me not to spend money this week. I had told myself, it would be alright. He would make it work. Worse yet, in a form of unknowing self-sabotage, almost as a way to punish myself for using the funds in the first place, I sent my manuscript off with a huge flaw, one that I did not notice until I had pressed 'submit.' What a waste of $20. This attitude about money, like my attitude about food, confuses me. And yet it is so obvious. I want what I want when I want it. And I will blot out all vestiges of reality in order to get that result.
So what does this have to do with creative expression? with writing? One of the earliest obstacles I encountered as a writer was my inability to see my writing for what it was. Instead, I played this 'push-me, pull-you' game of 1. assuming that my writing was brilliant, flawless and 2. judging it as mediocre, bad. I would fall in love with the words that appeared on the page as if by magic, and then rub dirt in their face, and mine, cursing their banality. Nothing got done.
I needed to stop lying to myself about what my writing was, and was not. I needed to go to the experts who could take an objective look and point out both the assets and flaws of my writing. I needed to develop a willingness to stop judging my books and poems and to start looking at them as works in progress who needed a little trimming here, a little embellishment there. I needed to let go of the idea that once I had put it on paper it was either perfect or nothing at all. I needed to lift the wool from my eyes and get to work, for without work there is no desired outcome. There is only the repetition of bad results.
This is true of everything in life, not just creative work. If I don't do my lunges and squats, my knees will never get stronger, and I will have a hard time hiking down into the Grand Canyon next August. If I don't track what I eat, my weight will continue to climb, and I won't fit into my red pants at Christmastime. If I don't share my poetry with my poetry group, my poems will remain shadows of what they could become. If I don't type my pages, the book I am working on will not be finished by its March deadline.
Life is about action. Sure, it is about stillness too, but that is another topic. Life is about moving in the face of laziness and wishful thinking. We have not yet developed, as sentient beings, to the point where we can think a thought and it appears on paper. We still have to pick up a pen, or dictate into a machine, or type on a keyboard. And yet, we have these amazing minds that create miracles! I firmly believe in the power of the subconscious mind to manifest new realities. But those realities don't come about through wishful thinking. They come from hard work and sticking to the task at hand.
If you want something, yes, visualize it. And then work for it. Don't lie to yourself about what you are doing, or blame others for the fact that you are not achieving your goals. Take the stick that you have been beating yourself with and break it into a thousand pencils, and get creating.
The best way to pull yourself out of denial and deceit, is to speak with another person. If I am struggling with my weight, I go to my Weight Watchers group leader. I listen to what she suggests, and I try it. If I am caught in the heap of thinking my writing is either too or no good, and I convince myself their is no point in working at all, I find a mentor who can guide me. I have to get the mess out of my head and onto the table in front of me (sorry, bad image) so we can sort through it.
Does this mean I am weak? Ineffectual? A cop out? A lost cause? Untalented? Not at all. It means I am humble. Humility, you will notice, is not a four-letter word. Humility is the key to becoming an honest human being who is willing to see things as they are and go from there. That's what I think, anyway.