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Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk

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Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk

Danielle Krysa AKA the Jealous Curator

Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk

Danielle Krysa AKA the Jealous Curator

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Lesson Info

1. Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk

Lesson Info

Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk

(audience applauding) Hello, welcome to CreativeLive. I'm really excited about our guest, Danielle Krysa. Danielle Krysa is an artist, graphic designer, writer, curator. She's the blogger behind the popular contemporary arts site The Jealous Curator. Has anyone heard of The Jealous Curator? (laughing) Woo-woo! I have. She's also the author of Creative Block, Collage, and her latest book, which is called Your Inner Critic Is A Big Jerk, all from Chronicle Books. And tonight she's gonna talk to us about her newest book. I'll pass it over to you. Thank you. Thank you guys so much for being part of this. I am so, so excited to be here, and to be here to share my story with you, and all the journey that I've gone through. (audience laughing) So I've been preparing for this, and can't wait to tell you guys everything that I've been through. I'm an artist, a writer, a curator, and I have an inner critic who is a really big jerk. (laughs) So that was just a little glimpse of the things...

that my inner critic likes to throw out in situations like this. As I was getting ready to put all of this together, those were the exact things that I heard, along with all sorts of other things. And unfortunately, that little voice stopped me from doing a lot of things for a really long time, and I just decided no more. And I'm sure he'll always be along for the ride, but now I get up onstage, I write books, and I go into my art studio every, single day, and I wear this, whether he tells me to or not. So I didn't actually meet my inner critic until I was about 21. Before that, my head was just filled with happy, artsy little thoughts. And my mom tells the story of a little 18-month-old Danielle, who apparently, according to my mom, could mix colors perfectly, and I would just sit in my high chair making masterpiece after masterpiece. Prodigy? Perhaps. (audience laughing) This is titled Big Bird, Tiny Tree, 1977. (laughs) I was the art kid growing up. I sewed my own toys. I made paintings for all my friends, even if they would've preferred store-bought gifts, and in high school I designed our yearbook. So it never really occurred to me that I couldn't or more importantly, shouldn't make art. So, off I went to art school. It did not go well. The art kid did not fit in at art school. That was a bit of a shocker. Was that when I met my inner critic? No, actually, I still thought that I was pretty clever, so I just kept on going. However, about six weeks before I graduated with a BFA as a painting major, I was in my painting class, and I hung my five paintings for my grad show. How many people here have been through a critique? Yes, lots of people, so you know what an art critique is like. (laughs) Groans from the crowd. So I hung my paintings. Now, this particular prof had never, ever been a fan of mine, and in a way it was okay because I had learned to defend myself. I gained a thicker skin, which in a way, is part of art school, so that was fine. So I put my work up, sat back, and was ready to be bashed. But he loved it, a lot. He even said it was a new niche. He'd never seen anything like it before, and he went on, and on, and on, and I just couldn't even believe it. I was so thrilled that, so thrilled in fact, that when he said, at the end of that class, the following week, there would be a visiting artist from New York coming to our class, which was a huge deal, and that he would like three people to show their work, well, no one wanted to volunteer. Everyone was terrified, but I shot my little hand up in the air because I just had the best critique of my life. So I said, "Yes, I would happily show my work." So one week later, I hung the same five paintings I had hung a week before, and waited for my 10-minute critique. Well, 30 excruciating minutes later, I had been completely torn apart by my classmates and this professor, who a week before had told me that he loved it. And normally I could defend myself, but I was so blindsided by this sort of change of tune that I just said nothing. And I could feel myself start to blotch, and I could feel that I was gonna cry, and that would've just been even worse, so I just, I did this. (audience laughing) Which didn't really help my cause, either. And about 23 minutes into the 30 minutes, my painting prof said to me, a painting major, "You should never paint again." So in case you're wondering, yes, that was the moment I met my inner critic. (laughs) I second-guessed everything after that. Every brush stroke, every idea, all I could hear was, "You should never paint again." So I graduated, and high-tailed it out of the art world as fast as I possibly could. I went to design school, fit in beautifully, went on to be a designer and a a creative director, and had a very successful career. It was also an excellent place to hide out from making art really ever again. Strangely, my inner critic never showed up in the design studio. I'm not really sure why. Maybe because it was client work; it wasn't for me. But when I would go home and try and make art, all I could hear was, "You should never paint again." And I didn't for a really long time, for about 15 years. I basically wallowed around in that negativity, and I was blocked, and scared, and making excuses like they were going out of style. Things like this. (laughs) (audience laughing) These probably look really familiar. I can already see people looking around. "Well, the light in here is terrible, "so clearly I can't make anything today." "This paper isn't quite right, "and I think that the art store might be closed, "so I can't make anything today." "That idea isn't quite perfect yet. "I'll just keep thinking. "So clearly, I can't make anything today." "And look at that, it's already 4 p.m., can't start now. "Can't make anything today." So these were things that I always thought, and I wondered if I was the only genius that had come up with blaming sunlight, and so I reached out to my Facebook and Instagram crowd, who hopefully are out there watching right now, and asked them, "Okay guys, give me your best excuses," thinking I'd get a handful. (laughs) Well, I got more than a handful, and they all fit into this camp. So it basically broke down into four categories. Environment, so the light is terrible. My desk is too small. My house is too messy. Blame, that was things like supplies, or there's construction out there, and it's too loud, or, my cat is lying on my stuff. That came up a shocking number of times. (audience laughing) There's a lot of cats lying on a lot of paper out there. I don't have cats, so I don't know about that, but my wiener dogs get in the way sometimes. And then time, and that was either not enough of it, it's 4 p.m. or excuses like that, or that it is a waste of time, that creativity is frivolous. That drives me crazy. I mean, tell Picasso or Shakespeare, or any creative professional for that matter, that creativity is frivolous. But what we have to ask ourselves is, "Where did that come from?" Because there is no kid in the history of the world who ever said, "Hm, I feel like this glitter "and macaroni craft is a waste of my morning." We just made stuff when we were little 'cause it was fun. It wasn't frivolous, it was just what we loved to do. So where did that come from? I think somewhere along the line, that voice kicked in, and for every person, it's a mystery to solve. I just told you my mystery when I pieced together that it was that professor, but I never, it took me years and years to realize that. It wasn't until I was working on Creative Block that I kind of went, "Oh, I think it was that." Because so much time had passed that I hadn't really realized. So for everyone, that little mystery is a bit different. Sorry, I've been talking so much lately. So we're gonna do a little, three-step investigation. So the first thing to do is identify that voice. Who does your inner critic sound like? Is it a teacher from your past? I've had so many people tell me that, you know, "I had a first grade teacher who said I couldn't draw, "so I haven't drawn since." Martha Rich, who did all of the illustrations for the book, excuse me, she was told in first-year art school that she couldn't draw, so she has a sociology degree. (laughs) She never took another class, until she was in her 30s and going through a divorce and took a evening class. So is it from that? Is it a parent who didn't encourage a creative path, who told you that creativity was frivolous and that law school or med school was a much better thing to do? So that's the first thing you need to do, is find out where that voice is coming from. It doesn't belong in your head unless it can learn to play nice. The next thing to do is to pinpoint the attack. So, I talk to kids quite a bit, and I'll say, you know, teenagers often think that their inner critic is there 24/7. Some adults think that too, but if you really pay attention to when it's attacking, so maybe when you're writing you hear it, but if you're cooking a gourmet meal, you hear nothing. Or if you're singing, you hear it, but when you're doing collage, you hear nothing. So really pay attention to when that voice shows up because otherwise it does feel like it's there all the time. Sometimes the things that we're really good at we just discount; they don't really count. I was really good at collage but painting was my, you know, this terrible thing, and I always joked that you can't spell painting without pain, and to me, I think I thought that was real art because I was suffering, right? And collage didn't count 'cause it was easy to me, and it was 'cause my inner critic never showed up. So when you're doing anything, it might be in the garden, it might be in the kitchen, it might be in the art studio, wherever it is, pay attention to when it shows up and when it is quiet. And then finally, unmask the guilt. Inner critics can show up like family guilt, mom guilt, school guilt, work guilt, and it, it's the one that tells you that creativity is frivolous, you know, especially for parents, like "Well, you can't possibly, "you've gotta give time to everybody else, "you can't possibly fit creativity in." And I just think, just imagine if Leonardo da Vinci thought that painting the Mona Lisa was a waste of time, or if J.K. Rowling allowed mom guilt to stop her from writing the Harry Potter books. You know, so they moved forward, and we should all move forward too. So it's this junk that gets thrown out by your inner critic that's really just a bunch of fear-based words coming from an insecure bully. That's all inner critics are. So we all need to wear our little, matching shirts, and march in a circle, and we all need to say no to bullying. Just like bullies on the playground, inner critics have their go-to jabs. And sitting here, you can all probably think exactly of what your inner critic says to you. Mine usually is something along the lines of, "Don't show anyone your work "because they're gonna find out that you're an amateur." There's usually some swear words in there too. (audience laughing) But we'll leave it at that. So again, I wanted to know what my online community thought, so I said, "Okay guys, go-to jabs, what do you hear?" Thinking again that I'd get maybe 20. Well, I got, in about an hour and a half, just over 550. Do you know who had the most unoriginal, uncreative ideas? Inner critics. (laughs) Of those 550 comments, it was basically the same four things over and over. They don't even have an original insult. It's all exactly the same. So this was sort of the main four. I even made a spreadsheet. This is how scientific I got. (audience laughing) And I don't do Excel, but I did it. So it was this. "You have nothing meaningful to say. "You're just adding to the effin' noise." "You're going to fail anyway, you loser. "Don't waste time trying." "There are so many people that are so much better than you." "You're tired, just start tomorrow. "Wow, you are so effin' lazy." (laughs) So that is basically what came up over and over and over. So we're gonna do a little exercise. And everybody at home can do this exercise too. So if one of these is exactly what your inner critic sounds like, that's cool. If your inner critic says something else, I want you, you've got a Sharpie and a piece of paper there. I want you just to take a moment and quickly write down what that thing is that your inner critic says. Feel free to embellish, add swears, do what you need to do so that it's real. Inner critics are really good writers. Everybody writes for so long when they. The inner critic always has more than one or two words to say. Okay, I'll give you 10 more seconds. And everybody at home, write this down too. Okay ready? So, I want everybody to stand up with your papers, okay. Now, I want you to turn to the person beside you or behind you, or find a friend. (audience laughing) Now, in the loudest, most aggressive voice you can muster, I want you, decide who's gonna go first, and then I want you to yell your inner critic's words to that other person. (audience laughing) No apologizing, no hugging, just yell it mean, ready? One, two, three, go! (indistinguishable talking) Okay, have a seat. (audience laughing) Now, I saw some of you apologize and hug and things like that. So, would you ever, in your life, say something like that to another person? [Audience Members] No. No, so why on Earth do we think it's okay to say to ourselves? It's not. It's bullying. It's emotional abuse, and it is not okay. It wasn't until I wrote my first book that I really started to realize that, oh, mm-hmm. Sorry, before I was so rudely interrupted by my inner critic who doesn't think I actually wrote Creative Block, I just interviewed a bunch of artists. I actually reached out to 50 artists for that book, and one of them, Amanda Happe is an artist and designer from Toronto, and I'd asked her how she deals with negative criticism, and she said this, "No one can wrestle the pencil out of your hand. "You get to keep going in absolute defiance." I cried on my couch. More than 15 years after that critique, for the first time, I finally realized it wasn't my professor that stopped me. I was the one that put my paintbrush down. I should've picked it up the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that. That was also the day I realized I was not gonna let my inner critic be in charge anymore. So the only way he was allowed to hang around is if he could learn to play nice. And I didn't actually think that playing nice was possible, but thanks to Creative Block and talking to all of these artists, and during the Creative Block tour I did things like this and met so many people like you guys, who after I stopped talking, told me their stories. And I realized that there was a way to get rid of the inner critic. So these are five little tips and tricks that I've put together that helped me make my inner critic less of a jerk. So the first one is copy the experts. So it kind of seems, if you don't know, that professional artists and musicians and writers must have it made. Surely, they would never, ever second-guess themselves, right, but they do, they all do. They all have inner critics. But they also have three really important things that we can all totally steal. Dedication, this is a really big one. They make every, single day. Whether their work ends up on the gallery wall, or on the stage, or in a book, or in the garbage can, they make every day. Time, they give space and time to themselves to be creative. They do not put their work at the bottom of their priority list. Their work is their priority. If you have time to watch Netflix, comment on Instagram, then you have time to be creative. I have to take that advice too. (laughs) And trust, a lot of, well almost everyone I've talked to, any creative professional has slowly learned over time to trust that little voice. They don't always get along, but they both have the same objective, which is great work. So if they hear that voice pipe up, they know that they're headed down the wrong path, and so they'll often trust it and sort of reroute what they're doing. The next tip, I love this so much. You all have to do this. Give it a new name. So confession, I actually don't really like the term, "inner critic," even though it's on the cover of that book. It sort of feels almost impossible to me that you could turn something that's 50% critic into anything remotely warm and fuzzy, so I have been reaching out to all sorts of people saying, "Well, what do you call yours?" Most of them, we'd have to bleep out, so I won't go into that, but I was at a high school arts festival, and I asked the same question, and one boy put up his hand and said, "Well, I call mine Arlow." (audience laughing) And I just burst out laughing. I was like, "That is amazing!" I said, "I want an inner critic named Arlow." And you know, I figure we wouldn't get along all the time, but you know, I'm sure we'd have a better shot at being friends than me and my inner critic. And so I suggest to all of you that you come up with a name, something totally nonthreatening like Tim or like Elaine, you know, (audience laughing) and so if your inner critic is flaring up, you can just tell Tim to take a seat 'cause you don't want to hear from him today. So say thank you. This sounds easy, but it's actually really, really hard, and this is just, I think, a human thing. So back to the no bullying. Never, ever, ever, speak badly of yourself or your work. If someone compliments you, you say, "Thank you," instead of giving them an itemized list of flaws. For example, if someone says, "Oh, I love that drawing," and you say, "Well, I don't love that top part, "and I didn't really have the pencil that I wanted to use," Tim and/or Elaine and/or Arlow will be in absolute heaven. So if you simply say, "Thank you," and control yourself and don't tell them all the bad stuff, your inner critic's gonna have to take a bit of a seat. And every time you do that, your inner critic loses a tiny bit of power, which is exactly what we want. I'm so sorry, I'm not usually this sexy and husky. (audience laughing) You guys get all the benefits of that. This is huge. This is a problem. How many people here have a problem with being precious about their work? It has to be perfect before you can go on. You know, I am terrified of blank canvasses. My studio used to be just filled with them, all the potential that I could possibly ruin. (laughs) So I never touched them. So I thought, "I know, I'll buy a sketch book instead." So I bought a beautiful, red linen-bound sketchbook that is still on my shelf completely empty. And then I actually discovered Martha Rich. And she, back in the day, used to paint on old cookbook pages. So I went and got a 25-cent cookbook, The Women's Encyclopedia of Cookery, from my thrift shop, and just painted the pages with house paint, and away I went, and if something didn't work out, I'd rip it up, throw it on the ground, keep going, and it just took that preciousness away. So there's lots of things that you can do. I love collage. Collage is a really good one for that, or anything you do really is. Make sure you don't have that one perfect page. This goes for writers, this goes for everybody. Start with a little stack, things you just don't care about, ideas you can jot down, sketches you can do. If it's not great, toss it on the ground. Don't use expensive paper at this stage. Just, you know, I often will rip it so that the edges aren't even perfect, so I can't fuss about that. You have to let that preciousness go so that you can just be free to create. I like to do things too like Instagram-a-day, but give yourself a theme. And actually, in the book, there's a chapter that has a list of 30 things, so you don't even have an excuse to go, "I can't think of anything today." It's written there for you. (audience laughing) So you know, one day will blue. The next day might be hot. The next day might be stripes, and it just makes you very present on your walk to work that you normally wouldn't pay attention 'cause you're like, "Oh shoot, today's cold, okay, I gotta find something." And it just makes you very present. It doesn't matter, it's just an Instagram, but suddenly, you're sort of living a much more creative life. So if I can pass on anything, please, please, please, please, don't be precious. Paint over top of that perfect canvas when you get home so it's got a mess on it, and start from there. And finally, translate and rewrite. So bedside manner is really not a strong suit of the inner critic. It might be telling you the truth, but because the message is being delivered by an asshole, it is really hard to listen. Do you have to bleep that out, or is that okay, okay. So if you can just put your gloves down for just a minute because it is, you know, you get a criticism thrown at you, you put your defenses up. Put your defenses down for a moment. Listen to what it's actually telling you, and then translate it and rewrite it. So, this is the most common statement, when I put it out to the interweb. "You're going to fail, don't waste time trying." So let's change it to this. "Oh, I'm gonna fail, like a genius!" (audience laughing) Because failing is a huge part of being creative and human! You have to fail and experiment and play and fall down and get back up because that is actually how geniuses become geniuses. They also give themselves time to play and experiment and fail and get back up. You're not gonna fail twice and then create the perfect masterpiece. It's a whole lifetime of failing and succeeding and learning and trying again. So the next time the voice pipes up, like what we did today, no matter what you're doing, just grab a Post-It, a little scrap of paper. I want you to write down what you heard. Firstly because it's ridiculous. You know, when you guys yelled it out loud, you kind of can't even believe you're saying it, but it's like a nightmare. You know when it's in your head it's way scarier than the next morning when you're like, "Yeah, then there was this shark, "and it came through my window," and you kind of realize it's just kind of dumb. So write it down, you'll realize it's a little bit dumb and cruel. Flip it over and write the positive opposite, and then tack that up on your fridge or your mirror or your studio wall. Someone suggested this to me about two years ago, and so I've been doing that, and that way, when I go into my studio, I'm surrounded by all of these positive statements, instead of going in there thinking, "Oh, I'm not gonna be able to do anything today." I've also, because I like collage, I've collaged a few of them. You could hand-letter them, whatever you like, so that you're always surrounded by that instead. And again, it just takes power away from Tim and Elaine. So once you take all of these tips and tricks and put them into action, you are gonna have an entirely new relationship with that little voice, little being the key word. Now granted, he will probably always be along for the ride, but it doesn't get to make your decisions anymore. Step up on the stage, and wear whatever you want because you look fabulous. The end, now go make stuff. (audience laughing) (audience applauding) Thank you. You're welcome. That was awesome. Thank you. We have Q and A now, so there's some handheld mics, so just raise your hand, and Mel will come bring you a mic, and ask questions until we run out of time, and I'll let you know when that happens. Okay. Can I ask a question? Okay. Yes, you can. I just wanted to ask, what kind of voice do you hear? Is it really aggressive and naggy, or is it like a old-timey, like, "Oh, you can do better than that?" I don't know. (audience laughing) Well for me, I always say "he," right, and I think it's because of my origin story, so to me my inner critic is a man. It's not old-timey. I wish it was, that'd be way cooler. (audience laughing) That's notes. Yes, notes, I'll adapt that. No, I just sort of hear, it depends what I'm doing, too. With collage, because I've gotten a lot better at it, now it's almost more suggestions from him. You know, like, "This is looking a bit cluttered," and it's not like, "You suck!" If I try and paint, that's what I hear. There's yeah, really mean things when I paint. (laughs) I'm working on that. Just a follow-up, what's the kind of, type of conversation that you have with Arlow or Elaine or Tim when you hear that voice? Is it like, "Oh, there you are again," or, "Hello," or is it like, I mean, I try not to do this, but, "Be quiet," or, kind of, how do you reduce him or her? I just now, because I've been in this now for so long and thinking about it so much, I just try and exhale, shake it off and move forward because what that voice wants me to do is stop. And that's what I did for years, like, even on days when I had studio time, I would get frustrated, and I would just quit and be like, "Well, you know, I'll go do gardening, "or I'll go you know, make coffee or whatever." Now I just, I don't say anything really. I just (exhales) anyway, and I just keep making and making and making. And sometimes I get nowhere in that session, and I have made nothing good. But that's okay 'cause I'll go again tomorrow, and hopefully, he won't be in there. (laughs) You talk a little about discipline in the presentation. I haven't gotten to read the book yet, but do you find kind of a routine or schedule that you've kind of finely tuned over the years and that's been really helpful for you? Yeah, schedule is really important. There's a professor who's also an artist named Mark Bradley-Shoup, and he always tells his students, his fourth-year students, right before they graduate, "You have to make your creativity a priority." So if your day job is a priority, you know, if your kids are a priority, all these things that are priorities, if you want to live a creative life, your creativity has to be a priority too. So you schedule a certain amount of hours. So if you say, "I'm gonna spend 20 hours "this week being creative," he says this to the students, like if somebody invites you to you know, for pizza and a party, you say no because you've scheduled five hours that day, and you have to do it. It's just, he's like, "You wouldn't just blow off "your day job to go to this party, "so why are you blowing off your creative time?" So I'm a mom, and up until this past June, I was a full-time designer, and Jealous Curator is full-time, so people kept saying, "When do you make your work?" And I was like, "Never." And so I thought, "Well hold on, "I better practice what I preach," so I actually block chunks of the weekend, and I need a lot of time, I really like to be in there for, you know, a good six hours and so that's our takeout night. And my husband and my son go and get takeout, and I just keep on going. And I don't bring in my phone. I don't let myself go check email. I don't, nothing, I've decided that this is a time. If no ideas are coming that day, I just spend that time doing prep stuff. I'll just cut out images, you know, 'cause I know one day I'll probably want a cactus cut-out, so you know, (audience laughing) I cut that out and throw it in my little bowl. And the weird thing about doing those mundane prep things is while you're just sort of doing that, it's like, "Oh, oh, a donut and a cactus," you know, and like, suddenly collages come out of it. So even if you're not in the mood in those six hours that you've scheduled, or hour that you scheduled or whatever chunk of time you've got, go in and do something. And it just makes it part of your daily life. It's like exercise, you know, every time you do it, the next day, if you've just gone for a run, you're likely to eat better, probably go for another run. It's the same with creativity. If you can get it into your everyday, even an hour chunk, half-hour chunk, whatever you can fit in, but you have to be committed to that time, and not blow it off. So I have a question. If this epiphany came in relationship to your age, and I guess I'm asking that because I feel like I starved out my inner jerk like a tapeworm. (laughing) Like, it was like, you know, I just out-timed the inner jerk, and there is somewhat a relationship probably between my age and my willingness to like, win the battle, and I'm here 'cause I also have, I am also an artist breeder, apparently. I have kids, and they do have this inner jerk, so now I'm back to the face-off again. So I guess there's a lot of takeaways. Did you have a relationship, one, with your inner jerk, and you think it might be related to your age, and time in life, or do you also face it, now that you said you were a mom, do you also face it with a child, and their inner jerk, do you see it? Yeah, yeah, he's 10 now, and he's starting to. Oh, it breaks my heart when you know, he's a writer. He loves writing, and he'll you know, say that he's not very good, but he's so good, and he actually just brought this little thing home (laughs) for the beginning of the school year, where the teacher wanted to get to know him. And so the bottom question said, "Your parents think blank." And he was like, "Oh God." He said, he wrote, "My parents think "I'm good at everything, but I'm really only so-so." Aw! Oh, poor little Charlie. You're back at the face-off with your inner jerk. Yeah, well, and I am too. Every time I try something new. Kate Woodrow is here. She was my editor on this book, and she knows. I mean, I freaked out when I started writing this book. When we talked about doing it, I was like, "Yeah, a book, that sounds fun!" And then it was time to start writing it, and I cracked open my laptop, and there was Microsoft Word, and a big, white rectangle, and the little cursor, you know, and I was just like, (gasping) and I was in a restaurant. I would write in this little lakeside restaurant that I live near. Full-on crying in the restaurant. My heart was beating in my throat, and I was like, "Oh, what have I done, what have I done?" I'm like, "I'll just call Kate, "and I'll just tell her I'm not gonna do it, it's fine." So I spent the first 20 minutes of my working session trying to figure out how to get out of this because my inner critic was screaming, "You can't write a book, you idiot!" And again, I took a deep breath, and I was like, "Kate thinks I can, and I trust her," and I just started writing. And I wrote a book, you know. So every time my inner critic says I can't do something, I used to quit. Now, I take a deep breath, and I do it, and I prove it wrong. And then the next scary thing will come, like, "You should do CreativeLive." What? (gasping) (audience laughing) And you get really nervous and scared, and it's like, "Well you know what, "I don't care that there's a little red light right there, "I am gonna stand up here anyway, and you know, "this'll be done in a little bit, and I'll eat a cupcake, "and I'll be like, 'I did it.'" And you know, so every time like, that's how I face it. I just steam ahead because that's what all the professionals who I admire so much, that's what they do. Even at my age, it's just like I'm copying them, you know, yeah. And hopefully my son will, I mean, I tell him about this all the time, hopefully he's listening, but you know, he's 10. He was probably not listening at all. (laughs) (audience laughing) You said that you were creative all your life, and when you stopped painting, did your friends and family realize that there was like, a distinct shift, in that you were no longer so confident in your work? No, I think 'cause I just didn't do it, and I brought out those truckload of excuses. And my mom is a painter, she's a very accomplished painter, and she said, "Why aren't you making anything?" "I am, Mother. "I'm a designer, and I'm creative all day." (audience laughing) You know, and she was like, "Yeah, but don't you miss you know, "your painting or whatever?" And I just lied to myself and hid out in the design world, so they dropped it eventually, but I knew. I mean, I would, I had this, I lived in Toronto. I had this little closet that I turned into a studio, like, you could barely fit a table in, and then I would have to get in like that. And I'd go in there and paint when I got home, and I cried a lot. It was really, really frustrating and sad, but yeah, design was a great place to hide out. So when does your inner critic become more of your intuition, like this imaginary friend you're supposed to listen to and believe, as opposed to the one you're supposed to? Well, it's probably in there already, when it comes to things you're confident about. You know, you do have intuition about fashion or whatever, you know, whatever you feel confident about. It's just your intuition to go, "Oh, these boots aren't quite right," and you don't think, "Oh God, these boots aren't quite right!" You know, and that's fine. But then when it comes to whatever you really care about, writing or music or art, that's when it gets really loud. And so again, I think it's the pushing through. It's the pushing through, and it's just, it's like anything, it's just repetition and it's practice, and the more you can just push through and prove it wrong, I mean, I takes time, that's the thing. And if you quit, the time's gone, right? And that's what it wants you to do. So if you can just, I know it's so hard, but one of the things, and I am so not trying to push my other book here, (laughs) but in Creative Block, I asked the 50 artists to each give an unblocking project, and this wasn't to make the book better. This was 'cause I wanted to know what to do when I got blocked, and each of them gave an unblocking project. Well, I was running around the country, telling everyone else to do these unblocking projects, and hadn't done any of them myself, so I did them, all of them. They work like a charm because all of them are about not being precious. All of them are about doing something every day, even if it's for 15 minutes, and that's what gives you, that's what turns that voice into intuition. Just like the things that you're confident about, as you get more confident with your whatever you care about, it's just gonna turn into it too. Just don't let it win. We have time for one more. First I want to say thank you for being so open about this because I realize my inner critic is always saying, "It's just you, everybody else knows what they're doing, "and it's just you that doesn't know," so thank you for that. And it's also interesting to have the idea of naming the inner critic, and I don't know why, the first word that popped in my head was satchel. (laughing) So I guess that's my, maybe it's my baggage, I carry it. Yeah, oh, I love that! Well, tell Satchel I said, "Move along." (laughs) And it's funny that you say about the feeling alone thing because that's how I felt for close to 20 years, and it wasn't until I started writing my blog every day that people started to, and I only started the blog for myself. It was purely therapy for myself. And then people started commenting and saying, "Me too, me too," and then this conversation developed, and then I met Kate, and she said, "Oh, have you ever thought about writing a book?" And I said, "Yes, because this thing keeps coming up "over and over and over," oh, not that one, Creative Block was, you know, exactly that, and I thought I was alone. I'm not alone. And let's talk to these professional artists because then we'll all really realize we're not alone, if these people we figure have it made feel exactly the same as us, it shows you that everybody feels like this. Excellent, thank you so much for coming. Thank you for having me. And thank you guys for being here. And that's a wrap, yeah. (audience applauding) Yea, I did it!

Class Description

Danielle Krysa is the author of Your Inner Critic Is A Big Jerk, Creative Block, and Collage, all published by Chronicle Books. She is also the creator of the contemporary art blog The Jealous Curator. In this lecture Danielle tells the story of the day she met her inner critic, the 15 year art-hiatis that followed, and the aha moments that eventually taught her how to work with that big jerk. She realized, after writing her first book Creative Block, that everyone hears that annoying voice from time to time (or all the time), but it’s how you two communicate that makes all the difference. Sometimes a little couples therapy is required, because let’s face it, whether you like it or not, that little voice is there till death do you part.

Some of what she'll talk about includes:

  • Forming new habits that will make your inner critic work for you
  • A stop to self-bullying, and the start of getting on with your goals
  • Tips & tricks to push forward when that voice shouts, ‘ QUIT!’

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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a Creativelive Student

How timely was this class. I identified an inner critic that I had not fully realized. I know what to do with this part of me and excited to change the small little voice. Danielle shares her journey and how so many others have similar experiences. Good to know we are not alone and how to move beyond our doubts. Take this 45 minute mini class and see if you might find a nugget or two like I did. Enjoy!


Amazing Danielle!! Breaking those mental barriers and giving into your creative self is inspiring.

Shy Artist

Thank you for this free video, I enjoyed it. I have decided to call my inner critic "Jack", that way I can say "Hit the Road Jack, and don't ya come back". I admire your tenacity and I appreciate hearing what you had to say and the questions from audience and your answers. Bravo!!!