Destroying Your Inner Critic by Serving a Creativity Soufflé

If cooking is your thing, think about the last delicacy you chose, shopped for, prepared and served. Each step differed, yet was an important component of the process.

Choosing a recipe involves deciding whether the ingredients and preparation method will lead to an enjoyable dining experience.

Shopping for recipe ingredients involves envisioning the final product and the enjoyment of those I’m serving it to. Preparing food is work, but anything we choose to do typically involves labor.

Now, imagine that instead of presenting the dish to customers, friends or loved ones, you leave it sitting on the kitchen counter. Eventually, it will cool off. Cheese will congeal. If it’s a soufflé, it (does anyone actually make soufflés anymore?) If it’s our house, the cats will decide the humans lost interest and will make a mess.

Whatever the case, if you work that hard to select, shop for and prepare a dish, it’s a loss to all involved to stop short of sharing it. Two things are at play here: 1) you won’t get the closure of seeing all your hard work pay off in others’ enjoyment and 2) your customers/friends/loved ones won’t get to enjoy a gustatory sensation.

Why creativity matters

Several friends posted I’m Broke and Mostly Friendless, and I’ve Wasted My Whole Life recently. The people who posted it are among the people I trust the most to sense insight when they find it, and the comments to THEIR posts hinted at the idea that the piece filled a need, so I read it. And I, too, shared it.

I suspect each of us who posted “broke and friendless” got something different out of it. Maybe that’s the hallmark of a good piece of writing. Maybe, with this essay, the lesson a reader takes from it has a whole lot to do with where they are at personally in their lives.

At first, the line, “Shame is the opposite of art. When you live inside of your shame, everything you see is inadequate and embarrassing,” spoke loudest to me. I did just read a Brene Brown book (I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”), after all, and shame has been one of my biggest personal foes throughout my lifetime. 

More than the examination of shame and its role, though, the piece immediately led me to think about what it takes for us to have the courage to share the things we have created, whether they be blog posts, newspaper articles, speeches, songs or pieces of art. Why do we hesitate, assuming it’s somehow presumptuous of us to share or that what we have created may not be “enough”?

Here are the ingredients I hope you’ll consider putting into your “creativity soufflé.”

Change how you see your creation

Sankin Speech Improvement’s Public Speaking | How Can You Reduce the Stress? has a section I shared with my Toastmasters mentee to help her prepare mentally for one of her first speeches. The section is titled “change your internal conversation.” This principle applies to so many things, but especially to that voice in your head that asks “is this really worthy of sharing?” “am I being too self promotional?” “who do you think you are anyway?” prior to putting whatever you have done out into the world. Here’s what it says:

Instead of saying “I am so nervous that I think I will be sick”, say “I think I can really help these people with the information that I am going to share”.  The goal of your presentation is to have a positive impact on your listeners such that they leave your presentation with new information that they can implement in their lives.

Honor your own hard work

For several years, one of my tasks at the Lead Change Group was compiling the monthly Leadership Development Carnival. This task was such a pleasure because I had the opportunity to read so much excellent writing on the topic of leadership. I often walked away frustrated, though, because there were so few comments, even to the posts that had the strongest potential to help people turn the tables when their leadership struggles threatened to get the best of them.

Comments aren’t the only indicator of blog success, of course. I can tell from my own Google Analytics (and from people who tell me they’ve read my blog) that many more people click on a post than comment. But there is something validating to the fact that someone took the time to comment on something you’ve written. At the beginning of my time compiling the carnival, I would try to comment on each post, but eventually I stopped (I wasn’t getting paid to spend all that time commenting, and authors rarely acknowledged the comments (pro tip: acknowledging your comments builds engagement)). Yet I still wondered who was reading these great posts and why they didn’t engage more people in dialogue. It seemed like a loss all around.

To get comments, you have to do a certain amount of sharing of content (unless you’re that rare superstar that people flock to no matter whether you put yourself out there or not). They won’t know it’s there if you don’t give them the option to read it (and maybe a smidgen of encouragement to do so).

Accepting compliments and responding to naysayers comes with taking any risk

The receipt of compliments sounds simple enough. Who wouldn’t want to hear positive responses? For many of us, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Shonda Rhimes wrote an entire chapter in Year of Yes about how hard it was to learn to accept compliments graciously. She especially emphasized the need to do so without minimizing the complimenter’s intentions. If someone makes the effort to say they like your dress, for example, “thank you” is the best response. Not “this old thing? I got it on consignment.”

Why rain on people’s good intentions? Many of us grew up being conditioned to be deferential and to not be full of ourselves. There’s a difference between simply acknowledging someone’s generosity of spirit and being arrogant. But you can’t enter the compliment quandary if you don’t share what you’ve done. Do it. Then practice by repeating after me: “thank you.” Period. End of sentence.

Thank you.

Naysayers are a different challenge, and I can’t say my skin has been particularly thick about this over the decade I’ve been blogging. In my new job, I also have the task of responding to reader feedback. Shockingly, it isn’t all of the “that was the best thing I ever read” nature. But they’re reading, and they’re willing to talk to me about it. That’s more of an opening than a closing, for sure. There’s a saying in the fitness community when someone hems and haws about whether the mile (or whatever) they ran was enough that goes along the lines of, “you did better than someone on the couch.” I’m usually a little annoyed by that, honestly, but the part of it that rings true is the fact that the person who ran the mile did burn the calories, condition their muscles and generate the endorphins even if it wasn’t star-athlete quality. Trying matters. The opinion of the people on the couch, for this purpose, don’t matter.

In closing

This “Broke and Friendless” post resonated deeply with me. My thoughts in this post have only scratched the surface. However, the topics addressed in “Broke and Friendless” are so varied from each other (even though they relate, of course): shame, doing satisfying work, making something of your life, that trying to squeeze it all into one response would defeat the purpose.

I feel strongly that there are many of you with whom I interact, either in person, on social media, or some other way in blogworld, who need to be reminded and/or encouraged to serve the creativity soufflé before it falls.

Please. I’ve already taken my seat at your table and I know you’ve worked so hard.Confident Self Promotion

All About Audiobooks

Note: This post contains affiliate links to some of the products mentioned. If you purchase a book through that link, I will receive compensation.

The first time I really remember adding audiobooks to my listening habits was years ago (I think it was 2005) when I was returning from dropping Tenley off at gymnastics camp in Athens, GA. Back then, it was not uncommon for me to listen to audiobooks on cassette. Over the eleven years since then, I’ve migrated from listening on CD, to listening to them on my old iPod, to finally listening to them through the Audible App on my phone. There’s usually still a cassette involved, as I use an adapter to send the sound through my car’s audio. (Right now I have a rental which routes it through a USB and I feel all techie when that happens!). The first book I prominently remember reading via audio was Life of Pi. I’ve lost count of how many there have been since then. Hundreds?

Audiobooks Are Big Business

Just how “big” are they?

According to the Pew Research Center, 14% of Americans have read an audiobook in the past year.

The Wall Street Journal says audiobooks are the “fastest-growing format in the book business today,” citing the Audio Publishers Association as stating “sales in the U.S. and Canada jumped 21% in 2015 from the previous year.” I can say I’m certainly doing my part to make that true.

For more on the history of audiobooks, this On Point show is really interesting.

That Voice In My EarAudiobook Readers

This post is partially inspired by a conversation I was having with other reading fanatics. Some of us had read Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale in a traditional format, and I had read it via audiobook. I had shared how much I loved narrator Amy Landon’s voice, how I liked it so much I could listen to her read the phone book. That led to a discussion of other narrators we love (or don’t love….).

Another of my favorites is Cassandra Campbell. She has narrated many notable audiobooks, including being part of the ensemble narrating The Help, but it was her narration of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks that really blew me away. Just the way she said “culture” (which is said OFTEN in that book) was worthy of “I could listen to her read the phone book” status.

I also typically enjoy it when authors read their own memoirs. Memorable books in this category include Between Breaths by Elizabeth Vargas, The Diva Rules by Michelle Visage (visit my blogs about this book here and here), Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, Troublemaker by Leah Remini, and Born With Teeth by Kate Mulgrew.

I also credit Jenna Bush Hager’s reading of Ana’s Story: A Journey of Hope with giving me a deeper picture of her as an individual, and by extension, her family. She has some VERY particular pronunciations of things (like saying “buddon” instead of “button” but for that one book it worked).

Narrating an audiobook is a skill (and art), for sure, as demonstrated here by Amy Landon:

What Is It About Voices?

Since I don’t plan (right now) to post about it separately, allow me to take a slight detour on the topic of voices in general.

I wonder what it is about voices that lead us to conclude they are “pleasant” or “unpleasant.” As audiobook readers who frequently pay discretionary income for books (there are some sources of free audiobooks out there I must mention), we certainly have a right to voice our preferences.

For my mother-in-law, who was blind, and listened to many of her books as voiced through the impersonal generic narration of the books on tape she received from a talking books service for the visually impaired, I’m pretty sure she would have agreed that variety is GOOD (as technology improved, she was able to listen to audiobooks with a variety of narrators. I really regret that she didn’t live long enough to take advantage of easily clicking on a book she really loved, with narration she also really loved. She was so close with the ownership of an iPhone. SO. CLOSE.)

It’s quite impossible for me to write about voices, though, without thinking about NPR’s underwriting-credit announcer challenges. I have to admit I can’t remember what Frank Tavares, who did it for years, sounded like, but I vividly remember the uproar when Sabrina Farhi took over and illuminated vocal fry’s moment in the spotlight. I’ve always felt a little sorry for her, even though I, too, was not a huge fan. I never criticized her via social media, but I certainly sent her successor, Jessica Hansen, a congratulatory note praising her work. Jessica Hansen has another voice I love.

Is it Reading or Listening?

I’ve often heard the debate: is consumption of an audiobook reading or listening?

That’s easy: IT IS READING.

Although I feel strongly that it is reading, I can understand why book lovers ask if consuming an audiobook is “really reading.” Forbes takes a stab at answering the question here, asserting that “reading and listening are strikingly similar cognitive processes.” (It’s a fascinating article; I encourage you to click through and read it.)

While I am somewhat alarmed at my diminishing focus on reading paper books, I cling to the idea that listening is still reading. Audiobooks have kept me in love with reading and expanded my exposure to ideas, people, and concepts while pushing my imagination to new horizons.

To that, I say, turn the page; click the button for the next chapter. Whatever you do, JUST KEEP READING.

Audiobook Readers