On Thursday last, my SCBWI local network met for our annual “Creative Orgy,” an evening of eclectic exercises and activities designed to get the creative juices flowing, even in the depths of January cold. As co-rep of the Oak Park/near west Network, I help plan these events. The last activity we did was to make a puppet of our “Inner Critic,” that voice that had been whispering in our ear all evening–indeed, all day almost every day, in my experience. That voice that questions my worthiness, ability, intelligence, authority to write about what I intend to write (even this blog) or to paint and draw the subjects I choose. This is the voice that suggests I abandon projects as the initial excitement wears down and the going gets tough. This is the voice that says my drawings, sketches, watercolors are no good, unimportant, basically worthless.
Since this Inner Critic seems so real to me, I decided to give her substance and shape. My co-rep and I had gathered a bunch of supplies: crayons, markers, colored pencils; tape, glue, glue guns, staplers; and a whole bunch of collage materials including random papers and lots of string and yarn, among other things. We used paint-stirring sticks, paper plates, and coffee filters to form the puppets of our Inner Critics, and then we began to individualize and animate them.
See how she towers over me? She has one bloodshot eye and broken glasses, so her vision is not all that clear. Her hair is wild and full of debris, including a decaying leaf. She has what might have been a prim bow at her chin and one accusatory hand with a pointing finger. Her toothy mouth was cut from a postcard of a Day of the Dead scull. Her teeth are bared and clenched, forbidding communication or expression. As I worked on this puppet I talked to her and asked her questions.
She appears to be pretty gruesome, but she’s not really as powerful as she thinks. I actually really like her. If I listen to her for a little bit, then thank her for sharing, I can put her on a shelf or in a corner and ignore her contribution. She can save her “I told you so’s” for another time.
I got the idea to make a puppet of one’s inner critic from Laura Montenegro. In a class about creating a picture book dummy she showed us her Inner Critic, a puppet she had made. The minute she picked it up it came to life and began to talk. And then, after Laura had let it have it’s say, she put it in a corner.
That is what our puppets are for–they can spout their nay-saying for a little bit, and then we can thank them and put them in a corner and carry on with our work.