Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
Those are some of the words from the beautifully optimistic children’s book The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
I’m John Fanning and this is the Create with John Fanning podcast.
How’s it goin out there? Hope yis are all well.
This is Episode 13 of my series of episodes on Imagination and creativity, based around my book Create.
Last time I talked about myths and lies, and today I want to talk about courage, trolls and human walls.
One way of looking at it would be to say: We have to start thinking from our heart mind not our crotch mind. Thoughts of other bodies, entering them, touching them etc. is the mind of our crotch. Thoughts of compassion, kindness and oneness come from our heart mind. And we have to the courage to create from our heart mind, from compassion and kindness for others, not condemnation and troll-like behavior.
Courage itself literally means “heart”, from the old French word for heart “cuer”. So, it means to have heart. To have the heart to do something. To create, you have to be courageous, true to yourself. The existential psychologist Rolo May wrote a whole book about this very idea, The Courage to Create. As many mystics and indigenous people would say, the heart is what we’re forgetting. We’re forgetting that the heart has a mind of its own, apart from the mind in our heads or crotches. Institutes like HeartMath actually study it.
Courage not to be blinded by the billboards to what is really important. The billboards only appeal to our base, instinctual drives, the crotch mind.
Survival is a creative act. People survive wars, famines. Diasporas are so creative because of their courage to survive. Instead of being passive, giving up, they keep going, find the heart to create a better life.
Courage is a virtue, to be bold. We all have something profound and wonderful to give to the world. Be audacious about it. See it, whatever you’re creating, as something that’s going to be great. It’s not a question of whether it deserves to get out there, but that it needs to get out there. That’s courage. Others will say you’re being delusional, and that’s fine, because that’s what you have to do to become what I called in episode 8, Black Sheep. You allow and en-courage yourself to be joyful about what you’re creating.
I particularly like a line that Tina Fey used in her acceptance speech for the Best Actress Emmy in 2008. In her list of thanks she said:
I’d like to thank my parents for giving me confidence that is disproportionate to my looks and abilities. That is what all parents should do.
That’s where courage can come from, from being en – courage.
Which brings us to how we pay courage forward. Who cares what others expect of you? When you’re criticized by trolls – those nasty hidden social media ones or the ones in plain view – you have to accept it and allow it to make you stronger, because it’s not about what happens to us that’s important, it’s about how we adapt to it, our attitude to criticism and setbacks. We have to have what American psychologist Carl Rogers called an “internal locus of evaluation”, where we rely on our own internal value system. As soon as we start to look externally, irrespective of whether it’s positive or negative criticism, we lose sight of our own internal judgement, our inner nature and purpose.
Remember, you create, but you also create your own life. You can also re-create a life. Life is possibility. If you make something “bad”, learn from it. See it as a blessing, the possibility to create again, something better. And your resource? Courage.
There’s another part to attacks to your creative heart: as the cliché goes, “Those that can do. Those that can’t criticize.”
Critics and trolls are everywhere. Most of the time they’re unhappy creatives, creative negators. They actually enjoy taking apart creators. You only have to go onto Amazon and look at any book with an average of 4.5. For the most part, the book is very good. But look at the 1 star reviews. There’ll be at least five to ten in every two hundred. And what do they say? The exact opposite of all the other reviews.
Unfortunately for the writer this is simply people who don’t like their kind of book. The reader probably bought it because it had a literary cover when it was a fantasy novel or vice versa. And when it wasn’t what was on the box, the reader got angry and one-starred the book, not based on the content, but because it wasn’t what they read.
Accidental critics and trolls, people who have no interest in what you are creating, are out there, in every field. Never mind the ones that are just angry, irrespective if they were misled to read your book. So, how do you deal with them?
Ignore them. As a blogger told me once, “Let your people/ readers/ audience take care of them. The nastier they are, the more your people will defend you. No matter what you do, don’t defend yourself. That’s what trolls love.”
Trolls don’t always hide in dark places. They can be people close to you, family, friends, colleagues. Remember when I talked about “villains”? A lot of these people may not even know how harmful they’re being when they say things that hurt you. It’s natural. How can they understand unless they too have created something and had it taken apart?
I call these people human walls. You’ve picked up your pen, your business plan, and instead of blue screens distracting you, a human wall appears as you walk into your office, studio, garage. What are human walls? They can be friends, family, acquaintances, other creators, people you work with. They’re emotional distractions.
One of my friends calls them “crazy-makers”. An artist friend of mine calls them “freak-shows”. He says they’re always putting on a great, charismatic show, but that’s all it is, a show. And in the end they waste his painting time by going on about their most recent drama, a boyfriend, sibling rivalry, their poor dog, and nearly always when he’s about to sit down with the paint brush to start work.
Another friend, a winemaker, calls them “energy vampires”. They’re always criticizing his wine, but at the same time they never give him any positive feedback. They look for what’s wrong with the way the grape was harvested, blended, presented in the bottle, represented on the label. They continue to buy his wine by the box, so they must like it, but they are forever telling him how he needs to change this and that, even though they have no idea what they’re talking about and when all he wants to do is go work on a blend, or spray or bottle or just eat his lunch.
Human walls are not always in your face freak-shows though. They can be very subtle in their crazy-making.
An established English art critic once went into the studio at La Muse. There was a Canadian and an American artist in there painting. They each had paintings on the walls, on tables, on easels. She said nothing, simply walked around pausing at each canvas, making faces. When she left, both artists stopped painting. They were both very upset, thrown off.
At the end of three weeks on retreat the critic had never said one word about any of their paintings. Both artists said it was worse than her saying their work was absolute sh*t. “That woman”, as the American artist called her from then on, is a human wall. From that day, we ask everyone not to go into the studio unless they are using it or invited.
Make sure you tell people they are not allowed into the place you create, especially when you’re creating. This includes family and those we love. The “creative space” is just that, for creating.
As French people say to cyclists going up a steep incline, or to someone having a hard time getting their work done: “Courage!” Have courage. Have heart and ignore the trolls and human walls.
So thanks for listening. I started with a quote from an American and as usual I’m going to end with an Irish proverb. This one literally means:
There’s no truth to story without an author, which basically means how can you trust a story or myth if the person telling it is not there.
Ní fiú scéal gan údar.
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Slán libh agus go n-éirí an bóthar libh.