Tag Archives: trust

TANGO! Dance around the bullies and be your creative self!

22 Feb

This is an odd way to relate to this month’s power word, TANGO, but it’s something I feel pretty strongly about.

Recently, someone close to me experienced bullying at his middle school. Remember middle school? I do. I hated it. Well, that’s probably being a little harsh, since there were many things I enjoyed. But most of my friends weren’t in my “block,” and I had scoliosis, which means I had to wear a brace for a year and a half of the junior high hell (the brace wasn’t visible, but I felt like it was).

To show him he wasn’t alone, I asked the Twitterverse to share stories of bullying experiences in middle school. And WOW was I surprised when my Twitter feed blew up and I received over a hundred responses to my request. From editors to authors to even a rocket scientist, many had felt the sting of being the “odd one out.” And a common theme—many times the bully was getting bullied herself.

Then a friend sent me an email about how her previously trusted group of peers had been talking about her behind her back and treating her poorly (since she’s one of the sweetest people I know and considering her situation, I’m thinking it could be a jealousy thing). She decided to break with the group, but it wasn’t easy. They had been together for years. It made her question her own self worth, and that, to me, is unacceptable.two young girls laughing behind another girls back

When bullying rears its ugly head beyond the primary school years, how do you handle it?Maybe it happens when an artist perceives himself as blocked, as if blocking others leads to revelation or success for himself. As in middle school, sometimes it’s the bully who is getting bullied. As adults, though, it surprises me still that this happens. Why hinder when we should be supporting each other? I can’t think of anything more detrimental to the creative self than being dragged down by naysayers.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve learned to keep circles of trust around myself. No one gets into the circle unless invited—no one tangoes with me (no one puts Baby in a corner?) unless I really, REALLY trust them.  They’re the only ones who can actually affect my perception of myself. I don’t have energy for the rest.

So tango around those who aim to hurt you. Create your circles and block the bullies. The dance will be much more enjoyable for it!

Week Six Task: Practicing Containment

21 Sep

“Rather than practice discernment and discretion in whom we choose to show a project to, we throw open the doors and welcome comments from all corners. If we look closely at why we have abandoned certain projects and dreams, we can often find the offender — the ruthless commentator that caused us to lose heart.” ~ Julia Cameron, Walking in This World.

This chapter really got me thinking.  A lot of what I really connected with was the idea of too much inflow.  I am certainly in this situation now.  In fact, I always find myself in said situation over and over, because it is my nature.  I want to experience everything, and am (usually) energized by being involved in many different things.  However, there is truth in the idea that you can have too much of a good thing.  That’s why I’ve had to learn to say “no.”  It wasn’t an easy skill to learn, but it’s something I’ve become much more adept at, and need to wield that particular sword a bit better at the moment.

The other big theme in this chapter is what Julia calls containment: keeping your ideas and works to yourself until they are truly ready to be seen by others, and even then, being very selective about whom you choose to share them with.   Because once you share them, you will get feedback in one form or another.  You may not be ready for it, or perhaps you are but it is delivered in a way that disempowers you rather than affirms you.

A few examples come to mind:

A relative of mine used to write for a living.  I admired her and, early on in my writing as an adult, I shared a humorous personal essay with her.  In general, she had always been very supportive, but this was the first of my writing she had seen, and she was not enthusiastic.  It is important to note that she didn’t say Why in the world are you writing?  You have no talent.  She just said the piece was a bit rough.  But that was enough to throw me for a loop.  I had asked for her feedback, but what I really wanted was her approval.  When it didn’t come, I was crushed.   It’s not that she was not a good person from whom to ask feedback, it was that I asked for it too soon.  Either the piece was not ready, or I wasn’t, or both.  I’ve tried to write similar pieces since then, but always get “stuck.” I have a thicker skin now and instead of shutting out her feedback, I would seek more details, ask questions. Unfortunately, she is gone now and I’ll never have that chance. 

Another example is a writer I’ve met recently who is called upon to give feedback to other writers.  This person has some good technical feedback, and also some feedback which is just her perspective.  The problem is, the value of the message is lost because it is delivered in a way that comes across as demeaning to the receiver, rather than constructive criticism between two professionals.  In this situation, the receiver generally responds by either resisting the feedback entirely or questioning their ability to write at all.   Surely this is not the intention.  Unfortunately, even when others mean well, they don’t always do well.  We must practice containment until we can figure out how to deal with that.

My last example is a wonderful, open-hearted writer who is doing really interesting non-fiction work.  She let her guard down and talked to someone who essentially turned out to be a competitor.  At the time it seemed casual.  Not a big deal.  Now, that compeititor has indicated an intent to publish on the very same topic! 

Now, back to the task.  It’s simple: practice containment.  We each have the right to protect our artist selves.   Remind yourself it is okay to circle your wagons and keep out what needs to be kept out and in what needs to be kept in.  I’ll be working on this too.

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