We all have good friends and bad friends. The ones we really need to watch out for, are the ‘not so bad, not so good friends.’ The trick to avoiding these ‘creative saboteurs’ as Julia Cameron best describes in her book Walking in this World is to educate yourselves on the warning signs of these monsters.
“ [… ] they like to employ an air of sad superiority, as if they have seen you and your like come and go countless times before. Their tone is that of a worried camp councilor listening to an ill-advised twelve-year-old planning a picnic amid grizzlies. [… ] they will typically tell you, “Oh no! South!” the minute that you say, “I’ve decided to go North!” – Julia Cameron Walking in this World: The Practical Art of Creativity
I’ve seen this time and time again. Most of our friends do this unconsciously, whether out of jealousy or the fact that they liked us in our old bodies, when we were not as confident, and needed their babying. It doesn’t matter if I am writing at my worst, or at my best. Some of my friends can’t help but feed me with a sense of doubt and uncertainty. They make us question if we should even be writing at all! We need to practice a little bit of containment at these times. We need to vent about our progress at times, but we can’t vent to those who don’t truly know us, or understand us as artists.
“As artists, we need people who can see us for who we are – as big as we are and as small as we are, as competent and powerful as we are, and as terrified and as tiny as we sometimes feel” – Julia Cameron Walking in this World
When I read the creative recovery tools in The Artist’s Way, I’m immediately reminded of my good friend Alyssa. She’s the kind of person I could stand in front of, and she can provide a mirror of my image. She shows me exactly who I am, at my worst or at my best. She is a fountain of wisdom. Recently, I spoke with her about how drained and depressed I felt after hanging around with one of those “creative saboteurs”. I was unaware of their affect, until she told me that this friend in particular was undermining my efforts to be happy. *GASP* I thought – she’s right!
Alyssa gave me an analogy about two friends. One is standing on top of a chair (in their happy place). The other is standing down beside them. No matter how hard the friend on the chair tried, he/she couldn’t pull up their friend on to the chair, in their happy place. But in one easy tug, the friend on the ground knocked the friend on the chair down to their level. These are the friends we need to be cautious of. They suffer from being toxic.
My advice is not that you avoid these friends (although, sometimes you surely just have to get away from them). My advice is to recognize these types of people. More often than not they are fellow writers who are not successful. They may be jealous of your talents, or your optimism. They gain a sense of momentary pride when they chew up a script idea you’ve poured your heart out into.
They are the name-droppers, and the “I’ve done this and that… but what have YOU done?” friends. As Cameron suggests, you must practice containment. For these people will cling to your every word. Don’t give them something to burn. Above all, avoid their invitation into the Pit of Despair. Once you’re in…