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Your Inner Critic Is a Big Jerk: And Other Truths About Being Creative

Your Inner Critic Is a Big Jerk: And Other Truths About Being Creative

Автором Danielle Krysa и Martha Rich

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Your Inner Critic Is a Big Jerk: And Other Truths About Being Creative

Автором Danielle Krysa и Martha Rich

3.5/5 (15 оценки)
201 pages
2 hours
Oct 11, 2016


This book is duct tape for the mouth of every artist's inner critic. Silencing that stifling voice once and for all, this salve for creatives introduces ten truths they must face in order to defeat self-doubt. Each encouraging chapter deconstructs a pivotal moment on the path to success—fear of the blank page, the dangers of jealousy, sharing work with others—and explains how to navigate roadblock. Packed with helpful anecdotes, thoughts from successful creatives, and practical exercises gleaned from Danielle Krysa's years of working with professional and aspiring artists—plus riotously apt illustrations from art world darling Martha Rich—this ebook arms readers with the most essential tool for their toolbox: the confidence they need to get down to business and make good work.
Oct 11, 2016

Об авторе

Danielle Krysa is the writer/curator behind the contemporary art website the Jealous Curator, and the author of Creative Block and Collage. She lives in British Columbia.

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  • That’s a fact. Every single one of us is born with an imagination, and a primal urge to make things—things like fire, and cities, and cakes, and books, and shoes, and vegetable gardens, and breakfast.

  • Hand-letter a quote from the newspaper every day. Do a photo-a-day project. Take the headline from the top of your local paper, and write one paragraph. Do this at the same time every day.

  • You have to choose to make creativity a priority in your life. Here are a few suggestions to help you stay on the path, even when life gets in the way.

  • Unless you pay attention to this, it may feel like your inner critic is there 24/7, but I can almost guarantee that that’s not the case. It preys on insecurity.

  • Any time you push yourself to do something new, something out of your comfort zone, you run the risk of feeling like a fraud or an imposter.

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Your Inner Critic Is a Big Jerk - Danielle Krysa


This is an incredibly white, empty page. And you’re the one who’s supposed to fill it? You can’t write a whole book. Um, hello, you’re not even a writer!

Seriously. Such a jerk.

When I was given the green light to write this book, I was beyond thrilled. I had so many ideas that I could not wait to share. I thought I’d jump right into this exciting new adventure with no fear, but I have to admit that I procrastinated in as many ways as I possibly could. Kickoff meeting with one of my most favorite artists in the world, Martha Rich: Check. Rereading my initial pitch fifty times: Check. Purchase of hot-pink notebook to capture all of my brilliant ideas: Check. Yet, days rolled into weeks. Deadlines loomed. And the thrilling—terrifying—task remained undone.

I thought I’d have no self-doubt while writing this book. I was excited. I was ready! Things changed when I came face-to-face with the blank white rectangle and blinking cursor of Microsoft Word. There was a small—all right, fairly large—panic attack, and a very long lecture from my inner critic.

I’ve had issues with my inner critic for decades. I’m pretty sure it stems from a terrible critique that I had in my last year of art school (more on that later) twenty-plus years ago. Thankfully, that experience is probably what led to the launching of my art blog, The Jealous Curator, in 2009. I love my site, and it has changed my life in many ways. I went from feeling completely alone in my creative jealousy to being surrounded by thousands of supportive, like-minded readers. By sharing the work of contemporary artists that initially had made me jealous, I slowly began to realize that there is absolutely no need to be jealous. There is a place for anyone who wants to be creative. Somewhere along the way, that toxic, soul-crushing jealousy turned into inspirational, get-your-ass-back-into-the-studio motivation. What a relief.

I was slowly starting to figure it all out; then, what brought things into focus for me was Creative Block, the first book I wrote.

Well, you didn’t really write it. You interviewed a bunch of artists from around the world. They wrote it, you just asked the questions. How hard can that be?

Sorry, that was my inner critic again. Anyway, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, in Creative Block I asked full-time, successful artists about blocks, self-doubt, and the dreaded inner critic. I had no idea how they would answer my questions. I assumed that most of them would respond with, Inner critic? Ah, no, I don’t have that. Inner critics are for amateurs. But their collective answers stunned me. People who I’d assumed had this whole creative thing figured out actually felt just like me—and like you, and every other creative person in the world.

We all get blocked. We are all plagued by an inner critic. And no one is immune to the creativity-halting effects of negative criticism.

It’s true. And as I traveled around promoting Creative Block, hearing the stories of hundreds of people, I found myself knee-deep in a pile of truths about what it means to be a creative person. Ten truths, in fact—one for each chapter of this book.

These truths run the gamut—from dealing with soul- crushing negative criticism, to quieting bitter inner critics. We’ll face the fact that a blank page can be absolutely terrifying and learn how to navigate around it. We’ll talk about turning green-eyed jealousy into a green light for your creativity, about failing until we’re geniuses, and about the importance of finding a group of trusted people with whom to share our work, and our journey.

I wrote this book because I want every creative person to know that we are all part of a huge, amazing, talented group of people. We know that being a creative person can feel quite isolating, but none of us is actually alone. Everyone has experienced some, if not all of these truths along the way, even the professionals, but people rarely talk about it—hence, feeling alone. Read this book from start to finish, or jump around from chapter to chapter. Find the stories that strike a chord with you and your creative pursuits. I made sure to leave a little extra room in the margins of this book for jotting down thoughts or realizations that may pop into your head as you read. I’m a big fan of taking notes, says the girl with the hot-pink notebook.

I hope that these ten truths bring you the clarifying, freeing aha moments that I’ve experienced, thanks to the openness and honesty of so many of you.

See you on the other side.


Art Facts: First, art is fun. Then, art is creative. Finally, art is beautiful. ART!!!! —Esmé, age six

Very wise words from a very smart little girl. Whether you paint, or sing, or write, or dance, I’m sure you remember feeling that kind of joy, even if it is a bit foggy now. That’s why we need clever kids like Esmé to remind us that everyone—and I mean everyone—is creative.

That’s a fact. Every single one of us is born with an imagination, and a primal urge to make things—things like fire, and cities, and cakes, and books, and shoes, and vegetable gardens, and breakfast. There are a ridiculous number of ways to be creative. Look at you, for example. Whether you’re currently living a creative life or not, you want to. There’s no way you’d pick up a book about inner critics and other truths about being creative if you weren’t creative.

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said, Me? No, I’m not creative. I would be a gazillionaire. The thing is, that’s not really them talking, it’s their jerkface inner critic. Okay, so maybe you haven’t made anything in a very long time, but that doesn’t mean you’re not creative. What it means is that, somewhere along the way, you became really good at saying, Me? No, I’m not creative. (Cha-ching—there’s another dollar in my pocket.) If you feel that way, let’s change your mind.


I’m going to ask you to take a deep breath, relax your shoulders, and think back to when you were little—to a time when you drew, and wrote, and sang, and put on plays for the sole purpose of having fun.

Ah, those were the days. We were completely free to be creative. We stuck macaroni onto feathers with glitter glue simply because we knew it would be amazing. We created homemade books because there was a story that had to be told. There was no pressure to be published, and no need to worry about what galleries might be looking for this year. It was before any of us cared about getting into art school, or having our work written about.

That said, not everyone has warm, sunny memories of childhood creativity—and I have a theory about that. I don’t want to get ahead of myself (see Chapter 7: No One Can Wrestle the Pencil Out of Your Hand), but perhaps one of the reasons people tell themselves, Me? No, I’m not creative, is that someone else said it first. Perhaps a cranky first-grade teacher held up that macaroni-feather masterpiece in front of the entire class and deemed it a glittery mess. This makes me so angry. And, FYI, stories like that are ridiculously common.

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. —Pablo Picasso

Are you an artist?

I ask this question a lot. Generally, this question is met with a pause and a slightly blank look. In that moment I can almost hear the inner dialogue: Um. Artist? Well, no. I make stuff. Sometimes. But an ‘Artist’ with a capital A? I want to say yes, but that would be terrifying. What actually comes out of the person’s mouth is usually, Oh. Uh, not really. I should mention that this answer, and those blank looks, are always from adults. When I ask kids the same question, I get a very different response. It goes a little something like this:

Me: Are you an artist?

Kid: Yes.

No hesitation. No thinking it over first. They have never sold a painting, or published a story, but they have absolutely no problem answering me with a loud, resounding yes. And here’s an even more interesting tidbit—even professional artists don’t always answer that question with confidence. In my first book, Creative Block, I asked all fifty of the very accomplished visual artists that I interviewed how they felt about the title of Artist. Here are a couple of their answers:

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  • (5/5)
    This book was so inspiring!!! The whole time I was reading it I kept thinking about different people I wanted to give it to, so they could be inspired too! However I will be keeping this copy because I see myself picking it back up in the future! ? Also the book is filled with Martha Rich's paintings and I love her artwork!!!!!
  • (3/5)
    This was okay but it didn't really hold my interest.
  • (5/5)
    Artists can get stuck in all sorts of headgames, most of which they heap upon themselves. Danielle Krysa's book is an irreverent look at the "truths of being creative" and gives an oft-needed push out the rut in which artists often land.Written in a down-to-earth, "get real" style, the advice is such that all artists can heed. Sections such as "Don't let the paper push you around," and "Embrace Creative Potholes" can inspire artists to get going with their art. And serious advice such as "Don't share big ideas with small thinkers" and "Criticism of your work is NOT criticism of you" are wonderful concepts to remember.I enjoyed reading this book, which tackles serious subjects that can derail artists in a lighthearted way. Artists of all levels would appreciate this book from beginning to end. It is a refreshing way to tackle those pesky pitfalls for artists of all types, and I would recommend the book to artists in all genres of creativity.
  • (3/5)
    Fun little book that I actually found inspirational. It felt like a hug and a push to do creative work--the stuff I've put on the backburner since having kids. No more excuses! This book covers self and outside bullying, jealousy, motivation, and so much more. I'm ready to put creative time on my calendar and get to work.
  • (4/5)
    Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk is a blunt yet pleasant self-help book for anyone in the creative arts. Krysa writes as someone who has personally experienced artistic blocks--in fact, giving up on art entirely due to a professor's harsh criticism--and the whole book has a vibe of a friend taking your hand to talk sense into you. The book itself is well-made and would work well on a coffee table. It's hardcover, with a front cover that is enough by itself to make a person smile. The design inside is, again, friendly. Pages are not filled with text and there are frequent, colorful illustrations. It's a fast read because there do tend to just be a couple paragraphs to a page--the blank space is soothing, but the author also encourages people to use the space to make notes. There are a few areas where there are activities or questions, but it's not hardcore in that way.As an author with a loud inner critic, I found the book encouraging without being obnoxious as some books like this are. I'd consider getting this for author friends who were struggling through Imposter Syndrome and other similar afflictions.
  • (4/5)
    I really enjoyed this little book, a whole lot more than I thought I would. It is like sitting down with a supportive friend. I don't think any of the advice was really novel, per se, but it was great to hear from others who have overcome (or manage) their jerky inner critics. Although I could not relate to the part about jealousy (I'm inspired and intrigued by those better than me), it made me learn even more how to be helpful to others struggling to create; and that kindness comes back 20-fold. The tips to be more productive were the most helpful for me. My only small complaint is that the book seems mostly geared towards collage artists such as the author. The thought of going out and cutting out little images from magazines makes me kinda nuts and it would be the anti-thesis of sparking me, but I think it would be really good for those into collage or similar kinds of mixed media. Overall, I really liked this book and think it's just incredibly necessary. It is so, so, easy to fall into the Jerky Inner Critic Pit of Despair and simply ... not create. Any help in that regard is just wonderful.
  • (3/5)
    Disclaimer: I received this item for free in exchange for my honest review.Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk is a fine little read. It’s cute and quirky with some good advice and delightful drawings. It doesn’t feature much advice that a creative person hasn’t heard quite a bit, but it serves as a friendly little reminder that lots of people struggle with the same issues. And sometimes that’s what you need.I wouldn’t have bought Your Inner Critic for myself, since I have many similar books already, but it made for a nice gift. If you or someone you know has hit a rough patch in their creative endeavors, go ahead and pick this one up. There’s nothing mind-blowing in its pages, but there is some solid advice arranged in a pretty little package.(This post has been cross-posted to my blog.)
  • (2/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    I expected more after loving the title. A beginning artist might find some helpful tips. Other than that . . .1. While the author tries to include all creative people, it's geared toward artists.2. The overuse and misuse of the comma irritated the OCD editor in me.3. Mark Twain suggested substituting the word "damn" whenever you're inclined to write "very." He said your editor will strike it out and your writing will be just as it should be. Krysa might like to try this with a few different words, but with "very" in particular. If the word you choose isn't strong enough unless you tack "very" or something similar in front of it, you need a different word. Even when my children were young, they learned to count how many times they'd used a word in a story or essay and edit it.4. Krysa's whole premise is that she is an artist because she learned to ignore her inner critic. Why did someone else illustrate this book?5. The book looks organized at first glance, but repeats information and jumps around. Feels like some of the writing was rushed just to get something on paper.6. More originality and fewer cliches would have been nice.7. Sticking with a central metaphor would have been nice also.8. Some of the inspirational quotes are good, but easy enough to find with a quick Internet search. Instead of grouping a bunch together in chapter eight, it would have worked to lead each chapter with a relevant quote. Sometimes she did that, sometimes not. Consistency is a helpful organizational tool.9. When referring back to a chapter, the chapter number is all we need. (Not sure why she kept announcing the titles of chapters.)10. This book would have worked better streamlined as an online essay with a tighter focus.Now, given all that, I'm glad Krysa says she's learned to ignore not only her inner critic, but some outside ones. I'm not out to hurt her feelings. However, if she writes another book, I hope she will be open to the advice above. And to show I'm not a nitpicking grump of an old writer, I will end with a point she made that I like. When asking adults if they are artists, she is often met with a blank look or resistance. When asking children, however:Me (Krysa): "Are you an artist?"Kid: "Yes."Some things are simple. Let's learn to accept our creativity.

    1 person found this helpful