We’ve all heard it, and you might’ve said it yourself: “I can’t draw!” You can, you just have to kick that inner critic. Here’s a great way how.
I’m afraid there’s an elephant in the room. I’ve been putting up these tips and techniques about using simple sketching to help you think better for quite a few weeks now, but all along I’ve ignored a very important factor in helping you sketch. You know what that is?
It’s your inner critic.
Yeah. That thing inside you that holds you back. That voice that silently says things like:
- “You’re going to suck at this”
- “You should be doing more productive things with your time”
- “People are going to think you’re stupid”
- “Just give up”
You get the idea. Not fun to be around, hey? But we have to tame our inner critics if we’re ever to get ahead. Here’s a true story about making mistakes in front of bosses:
A true story about making mistakes in front of bosses
Once I was in a meeting with a couple of very senior executives and my immediate boss. While they were talking, I was trying to capture a summary of what they were saying on a whiteboard. I was really nervous and hesitant in front of these guys.
At one point, I drew a few boxes and arrows that I thought described their view of the technical system they were talking about. One executive looked at what I drew. He immediately blurted out words to the effect of “No, that’s wrong, that’s not what I meant.” But then he paused, still looking at the boxes.
Then it happened. He asked me why I drew the boxes the way I had (it had to do with what part of the system conceptually ‘contained’ another part), so I explained. It turned out that I (and others in the room) had been carrying an assumption about the system, and once that assumption was called out, it unlocked a whole new — and much better — conversation about how the system should work.
See? Even though the sketch itself was ‘wrong’, it was a catalyst to a better conversation.
Never ever be afraid of other people seeing your sketches. Your sketches will be viewed through a different lens than your lens, and the catalytic potential they have is huge.
But back to that inner critic.
Sketch your inner critic
There’s lots of advice around about kicking the inner critic, but to me it’s all mind games that don’t really work (at least not for me). But if you actually sketch your inner critic, a little bit of magic happens. You make it real, on paper, in front of you. And when it’s out of your head and in front of you, you will have true command over it.
It goes like this:
- Think about your inner critic. What does he or she actually look like? (Let’s not dull the identity of your inner critic by calling it ‘it’). Sound like? What nasty habits does s/he have? Think about the times s/he has held you back from something, anything.
- Now sketch that critic in all his/her miserable glory. No-one else is going to see this sketch, so go nuts. Horns? Bad teeth? Droopy eyes? Big mouth? Really pour what you think of him/her into that sketch.
- Write a name there, too.
- Take a good look at that inner critic that you have now made real on a piece of paper. Say to that critic out loud that s/he is not welcome, and you’re not going to listen to him/her anymore.
- Now screw up that piece of paper, and put it in the bin.
Go ahead and try it. It takes 5 minutes, and it might be the best 5 minutes you have today. So put the inner critic back in its playpen. Aint nobody got time for that.
And if you’re brave, why not share a photo of your inner critic sketch? It could be just to a trusted friend, or it could be all over the social medias (or even just email it to me, I promise it’ll go no further!). I’ll go first; here’s mine:
The act of sharing it is a bold move, and will put steel in your spine, not only for trying sketching, but trying anything intimidating in life.
Until next time, banish that inner critic, and more power to your pen!
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