The supportive audience

Yesterday two of my blog sisters took the time to encourage me on this new creative path I'm exploring.  It's amazing what an encouraging word can do: it gives me just the pick-me-up I need to keep going when things are getting tough. 

But at the same time there are those other voices that kick in -- the one that says I shouldn't be so dependent on praise (don't you just hate those shoulds?), and the one that is so desperate for approval that it wants to stop right there and keep doing the same thing for more praise, rather than to keep pushing the envelope, and the one that sneers at that eagerness to please...

Overthinking -- and too much navel-gazing -- can be the death of the creative process.  How do we listen through the cacophony of conflicting voices for the one true voice that leads us forward?

I think we need to join our own appreciative audience, and be willing to applaud and encourage our own efforts to step out of our comfort zones.  So it was amusing this morning to read -- in a chapter about the terror of the blank page in Trust the Process -- these words about the importance of a supportive audience:

"The supportive audience that practices Carl Rogers's discipline of unconditional positive regard is critically important.  If I am to be completely present in my expression I cannot be thinking about whether or not it will please or offend people in the audience.  These thoughts distract me and take me away from complete concentration on what I am doing.  Some might say that this method of performing "presence" is egocentric.  I disagree because the artists and the audience are dedicating themselves to the particular expressions that emerge through the performance.  The artist is a medium for their emergence.  The witnessing function of the audience both energizes the performance and creates the safety needed to establish an authentic sense of presence."

I suspect this is exactly why it is so difficult for so many of us to face the blank page or the empty canvas: we are so intensely self-critical that it doesn't feel safe to step out onto that bare stage and express whatever is emerging in that moment.  Fearful of what dark secrets might be revealed, we hide behind the safety of what we know, holding our successes up to mask whatever truths and failures and insecurities might lie beneath...


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