Creative Work and the Little Voice Inside

I am recording this podcast episode as an answer to Ruby's question, who posted this question on a website that I follow, called Careershifters. I love the work they do. And I am also a practitioner of their Careershifters framework. I thought her question is relevant for many of us, I know it was relevant for me. Ruby talks about her current work situation, she shares that she always wanted to have a career in design. Originally she wanted a career in design but somehow she made the choice for her studies, to have a more stable career and have skills usable in different contexts, so she decided to study office management, and since then she has been working as an office manager. Currently she doesn't like the work she does not because of actually the type of the work - she likes solving people's problems - but it's about the work environment, and it's about the type of problems she solves.. they are not actually what she likes. And there are things she cannot control but she is responsible of. And at the same time she does so much more than she's paid for, which feels unfair. She still carries with her this dream of doing something creative. She actually writes. She has written stories, some of them are published and some get really good feedback from the readers and they're asking for more. But whenever she starts doing something about her dream of earning money from her writing or changing her career, a little voice tells her that she's not talented or clever enough to succeed, or all ideas of hers are silly or unworkable. But at the same time, she says "Somewhere deep inside, I know I am capable of much more. But I've started to believe that I don't deserve anything better. How do I turn my negative self talk into a positive plan, that leads me to the dream career I'm longing for?".

Here I want to talk about two things that I think are useful. First is something specific about writing. And the other thing is about the little voice inside ourselves, that tells are not talented enough or clever enough. And actually two are very related. And I think both are very relevant to all of us, but for some of us, they will be even more relevant when we identify with this creative type of person. Let's start from being a creative being a writer and earning money from writing.

The question I am asking myself or the question that came to me immediately is that why do we write? And nobody, I don't think none of the most famous writers, Tolstoys, Dostoyevskis, Virginia Woolfs, Hemingways, Toni Morrisons, I don't think any of them wrote for earning money. At least, none of them started writing to earn money. Writing has been their work because this is how they express themselves, this is who they are. It is part of their being, they need to write, and by keeping their writing, sharing what they wrote, they started making money on it, because there were people following them, their ideas, their thoughts, their creations were useful in the way that it inspired people, it helped people to understand the world better, themselves better, to make more sense of everything that is going on. Their writing became the service to the world, and they were paid for their service. But first of all, they were paid by doing what they love and being who they are.

Writing or any creative endeavour, or anything that comes naturally from inside of you and is a way of expressing yourself requires space, practice, area for breathing. It needs its space for existence. It's like you are not the one writing, you are the one serving to your writing, it needs to get out of you. If you cannot be who you are, if you cannot write, if you don't do what is inside of you calling you to do, then you cannot be yourself fully. Therefore, it is as if your blood is travelling through your veins, the writing has to happen in your life.

You listening might not be a writer, but there might be another type of work that expresses who you are, that is your natural expression. For some of us it might be painting, for some of us it might be dancing. For some of us it might be speaking, for some of us it might be gardening, for some of us it might be nurturing family, taking care of people, for some of us it might be cooking. There is something or some things that are part of your natural expression. These things need service from you rather than you needing money or service from them, but at the same time, you are connected so when you do what is natural to you, it feels that you are fully alive. That's a specific kind of career, this idea to earn money from your writing...It might happen, maybe not the way that you expected to be but it's important that you prioritise this and you create a space, and you have a practice going on that assures that you give enough time and space and energy for this thing, this activity that is part of who you are.

I remember what Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in her book Big Magic about her creativity, and her writing practice. She said she never expected her writing to make her own money, she was going to finance her writing so for a long time she did waitressing while she kept on writing. What I say, of course, doesn't mean that you should give up the dream to earn money from your writing because your dream is important, but I'm saying is that, don't expect, immediately the writing to earn money for you, and don't tie your writing to money. Keep on investigating and finding ways to merge, money, and writing, but keep your writing practice and make it a priority, because when you do what you love, when you do this extension of being yourself, you actually are more alive. You are more perceptive of what's happening in this world. You have a more positive mindset that makes you see opportunities and the positivity, and you can make new connections about who you are, what you are able to do, which will improve your chances of earning money from your writing.

Writing is Ruby's work. It's not a job, but it's a work, because that's what she puts her heart into, that's a part of who she is. And work is something you put your energy into, so that it creates a bigger energy that is impacting you and also everyone around you. It expands, it multiplies, there is already an income of this work, which is the energy, and maybe on top, there will be money. If you continue to produce, continue to create; if you continue to share and continue to hold this dream, this vision, this idea, the possibility of doing it as a professional work and earning money from it. 

We talk specifically about writing right now, but please, think of your own work, your own natural way of being a natural expression.

How can you create space for this?

How can you make this a practice and keep on doing it and sharing your work with the world and still hold the possibility in your mind and heart, to earn money from it, so that you will see opportunities in your world?

How we see the world is so much dependent on what we believe in. We don't see what is out there, we see what we are attuned to see. We have a distorted perception. Because it makes sense, we have a huge system that takes care of survival, of the digestive functions, of the thinking. Think of this wonderful human body, and so many things going on around us, if we could see all the details, process all the details, then it might be very difficult for our system to process everything to take care of itself. We might not be able to quickly change to the survival mechanism when a danger presented itself. Because of the idea of "optimised processing", we see what really interests us in the world. Naturally we will see potential dangers and opportunities that we know will benefit us. This is usually something that will feed us or something that will give us better chances in finding a partner or increasing our status in our community. So when we are in a state that feels "We are not good enough, the world is a difficult place", we are more attuned to recognise the dangers out there because that's what we are paying attention to. But if we are feeling we can do what we love doing, and we are looking forward to opportunities to make more of it, and also earn money doing it, then we have more possibilities to actually see these opportunities are there, because our system is positively biassed to notice these opportunities. That's why it's so important to start right now from already, allowing yourself to be who you are, to do what you want, and invest your energy, your mind space and heartspace towards creating a lively vision: a vision that describes in detail how it looks like when everything goes the way that you want. What is it that you see? What is it that you feel? And who you are when everything is in the way you want it to be?

You are the one who needs to keep this intention alive. The reality, the current reality might be different. But you holding this vision alive available to you allows you to keep on seeing the opportunities to make this vision come true. You can also influence your mindset daily by embodying this person who you want to be. Imagining your vision having come true, see yourself in that moment when everything is the way you want. How do you talk? How do you walk? How do you look like?

See your full body, see your face. See the space you take in the world. See, the feeling, feel the feeling you have. And in this moment, be that person. You are embodying your vision. When you do that, and you can bring this vision, this embodied version of yourself every day to your life. That will also help you to see the opportunities, and other people to recognise you as your maximised version, as your best version of yourself that you want to show up in the world as.

To summarise this first part, I want you to start now. Regardless of earning money from it or not, to define your practice. Define the space that you will give yourself for your natural expression, your way of working even though you don't earn money from it. And I want you to imagine the vision of having achieved the state you want to achieve, and who you are in the state and bring the states to your everyday. 

The second thing I want to talk to you in this podcast is about the voice in our heads. That's especially important for anyone who does creative work, but I believe all of us are creative and we do creative work somehow, one way or the other. Ruby asked in this question "How can I turn my negative self talk into a positive plan?" I don't want to disappoint you, but I'm not sure that you can turn the self talk into a plan. I'm not even sure you can change that self talk. Because the self talk is not something that is in the now, even though it speaks with you in this moment, it actually repeats a certain learned, memorised pattern. And that probably comes from, really, way back, probably in your childhood. We don't need to go into details, why this voice is there. A short answer: The voice developed for you to survive the conditions you were at when you were a little child, to make sure that you stay safe. Because it's such an old voice, it just repeats a certain pattern, and it appears anytime there is danger.

In the previous episode, I already talked about the danger. The danger, danger, danger, sirens play when you do anything that is out of the ordinary, that is new and not tested yet, even though it's super positive and wonderful and full of opportunities, because it has not yet been tested, that is danger. Career change is always an untested territory so danger! Creative work always is about finding something new, saying something new, writing something new. So, danger! And when there is danger, the voice will be there. No way to escape from it, and no use in trying to change it.

A couple of options to work with this voice, to be with this voice is, first of all, communicating with them. You might see this voice as a little memory from your past, from your childhood, and think of it like an unhappy child, a child that has a certain uneasiness. How would you help this child? You would assure them that they are safe. You would listen to them and say, "Oh, my sweetie. Okay, I hear you I see you". They might be saying, "There are monsters under my bed". You are not going to believe, but you're also not going to shut them up, you will listen to them and assure them. You are becoming the loving parent. So that's one thing you can do. Instead of being afraid of this voice, hearing this voice as the little child, that is may be angry, that is maybe afraid and trying to cover up with violence, that is maybe shouting at you for taking something away from her because, you know what is safe for her, and she's just little.

The second way you can work with this voice is just let it be. You don't have a dialogue with this voice. You hear the voice, and while you're hearing, you also hear the silence, you look for all the other space that you have in your mind, you look for your knowing, which Ruby said she knows deep inside she's capable of much more. So when the voice is there, you also go and touch your knowing. You go and touch your thinking in this moment, right now. You touch your feeling, your touch, your being which is alive, your breathing, your sensing... In addition to this voice, there is a bigger space inside of you. When you recognise this full big space, then the voice relative to the space becomes very small, and the space can give you the calmness. Meditation is really a good idea. Meditation helps you to keep expanding your mind and heart to hold space for everything, including that voice, because it's normal that we hear what is the most loudest, and what we already know; for what we don't know, or what we forgot or what is with a lower voice; we need to expand our curiosity, and be able to hold space for a couple of things at the same time; such as our sadness and joy, such as our knowing and not knowing, such as our judgement and curiosity, and not knowing. We practice this full opening and being with in the meditation. You can do this practice out of the meditation but meditation is really helpful to increase your possibilities of opening for more, and holding the space for all, so that you are not moved by the little things here and there, but you can work with the fullness, your wholeness, and the full being.

Another way to work with this voice comes from the authors that I read. One is Steven Pressfield. He has written two books about it. One is the War of Art and the other one is Do The Work. On both of these books, he is talking about this monster that is inside of us, which is how you define it as the voice. He defines it as the monster. Well, he doesn't say monster his word for it is resistance. Anytime you want to do something creative, something new, something that is natural to us that calls us rather than what our reason and ego tells us to do the resistance will be there, or the voice will be there, and he suggests you really go on war, with this voice. Take your knife or machete and just slash it. What he suggests is that, well, just do the work. Know that the voice will be there and the reason the voice will be there is that you are doing something really important so this means you need to do the work even more, let the voice be the sign that this is an important work for you to do. Keep on your practice to what you need to do, regardless of the voice, or because of the voice. The other way of dealing with this comes from Anne Lamott. In her book, really wonderful book Bird by Bird she talks about this voice because it's a voice, all the writers know about or I think, any person who has big dreams, already know about his voice, so yay, you're on a great path there. She suggests to see it like radio, that the voice is playing on the radio, and imagine yourself turning the radio sound down. You can physically do it, you can turn the sound down and start working. It's about you choosing a practice you want to do, and intentionally focus on lowering the voice, hearing less and less. You can also imagine this voice of you as a character. And you can place this character in a cabinet, throw it... you can really play with it.

I said I will talk about two things but I want to add a third one to it. This will be my specific suggestion to Ruby as she's a writer but I would like you to take it your way. I will explain what I mean by that. A lot of fear or this voice comes up because there is uncertainty. We don't know how the future will hold. We know very well the past because that's what we have experienced, and even though we are unhappy with our work, or with the life that we have lived to now, it still was fine because we survived. There's a security in it. Anything that is different than what we have experienced feels danger for our system. And that means we have to deal with the voices, we have to deal with the fear. This is part of our journey. The question I have is how can we make this uncertainty into a curiosity, a joyful spontaneous journey, rather than something to be afraid of. Rather than a horror movie story, because also in the horror movie stories we don't know what's going to happen next, but we know it's going to be a horror movie. So instead of putting the sentiment "the horror movie", that it will be scary can we put a new category to our movie, to our story? Can we already decide that it's going to be a story of joy and discovery? Or whatever you decide... Ruby you decide what is the story. You're a writer. How would you normally write a story? Some writers I know, start with the ending. So that might be interesting for you. You already have a dream, write this dream. And you already have a scene, which is now. How will the story unfold in between? What is going to be revealed in the story? What will our hero experience, which is you? Actually write the story, or see the days to unfold as bits as inspiration for enriching your story and see how that affects your mood and the voice in you.

You, who are not writers can change my suggestion into the way that you work. And now if you are a cook for example, your art is cooking, you can then change it into.. okay you have this ingredient, and this is what you want to have in the end, how are you developing your meal? What flavours are going to be discovered in between? What tools you're going to use? You have all the tools in you to make your journey creative and joyful and your life this wonderful rich experience. It's a little bit, tweaking here and there. Get creative and use your way of perceiving, your way of living to flavour your experience but still always intentionally holding the positive picture in your mind so that you can see the opportunities and live these opportunities.

And whatever you experience, remember that you are the hero of this journey and also you are the writer of the story. It's not that you are going to write all the characters, and everything that happens to you because you will experience things that you have no control of, but the meaning of it you can make, the genre of your movie is of your choice. And you can decide where the story will go from here at any moment. Because you are the hero, everything that you experience, that you feel is your richness and who you are is revealed through every experience when you fully participate in your life, you choose to be in every moment of your life, and contribute as who you are uniquely.

I am curious what you will choose to do based on what I shared with you today. I hope that was useful thanks to Careershifters for offering this platform for people to share their career questions, and letting others to share their experience and thoughts and knowledge, and thanks to Ruby for sharing her question so that we can reflect on it together and learn from each other.

If you have a question, please let me know my email ( and all the contact details are in the show notes. If not, that's okay. I am always happy to be back with you. And I'm going to talk to you in the next episode, take care!

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