I was raised by a mother who was obsessed by what other people thought. Whenever she disapproved of something I did, she’d say ‘what will your grandmother think?’ What will the neighbors think? What will strangers think?
WHO THE FUCK CARES??!!
Easy to say now after a lifetime of therapy, but when what people think becomes the dominant message in your upbringing it’s hard to shed. What people think is a theme in most lives even if you weren’t raised by my mother. It keeps us from expressing ourselves truthfully. It prevents us from exploring our “authentic” self. I believe it’s the primary reason most people don’t engage with their creative side. If you write a novel, people will ask you if it’s published. If it’s published, it could be badly reviewed. It may not sell well. Your mother might be embarrassed because she’ll know it’s her. Your friends will recognize themselves and, like Truman Capote, you’ll be ostracized.
After decades of writing and having a relatively successful career, I’m still hampered by the fear of what others think. I struggle every day in my writing – or lack thereof – and in my painting, with the terror of being judged. It gives me no satisfaction knowing most people share my fear. It makes me want to take each of you by the shoulders and shake you! Don’t be like me! Be fearless. If you want to create something you must exorcise those demons. You’re not responsible for what people think. Your only responsibility is to yourself.
Your creative process is singular. It’s what makes you unique and unlike anybody else. It’s one endeavor in which you don’t have to give a fuck what anybody thinks. It’s purely an act of desire. Of inspiration. You’re not being employed to do it. You’re not beholden to anybody but yourself.
When I turn off the voices in my head, I know work is good because it makes me happy. And I’m the only audience that matters. Everyone else can write their own play or novel or nightclub act if they don't like mine! In fact, I wish they would. I wish every one us felt the power of our own voice.