Meet Your Monkey: Facing Your Inner Critic

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You know that voice in your head that says, “Why would they want you?” or “You can’t do math or balance your checkbook?” or “You’ll never make it”? It’s a pesky voice that wants you to avoid new things, not to take risks or go out on a limb.

To Danny Gregory (and Tai Chi practice), that voice in his head is like a monkey, and he believes everyone has it, especially creative people. He also believes that you must gain power over it, so you can do what you were meant to do. And over the years as an Artist, Author, Creative Director, Blogger, Teacher, Speaker, he has developed tools to live with that voice and get beyond it.

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image from dannygregory.com

That’s what he shares in his new book, Shut Your Monkey: How to Control Your Inner Critic and Get More Done, which is also the subject of his upcoming HOW Design Live session in Atlanta, May 19-23, 2016 and our recent #HOWLive podcast interview.

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Danny sees himself as an accidental creative entrepreneur (which is why he will be perfect as one of the panelists at HOWLive’s “Ignite Your Passion Project” session.) In fact, sharing and helping others seems to be a big part of what has helped him get a grip on that inner critic – and he’s removed his own roadblocks by creating tools to help you eliminate the roadblocks you might have erected.

That’s what Art Before Breakfast is about. His message is right there in the title: there is time for creativity.

In our podcast, Danny told me the story of how he started writing and blogging and making things on the side—but didn’t think he could support himself on his own projects. And now he does.

Supporting yourself with your own projects—that’s what so many creatives I work with are aspiring to; Danny is an excellent model of what’s possible. Let yourself be inspired by Danny—just listen to his voice, it has a quality of calm and trust, in the world and in himself.

We talked a lot about the simple skills creatives need to learn if they can get the upper hand over that inner critic, especially related to business issues like marketing and bookkeeping and pricing. “The biggest obstacles we have are our own fears and limitations. There is very little difference between the technical aspects of design and the technical aspects of bookkeeping or balancing a checkbook. If you can learn to use (the software) Illustrator, you can certainly learn to put together an estimate.”

I brought up “the starving artist” and he said, “We’re afraid to talk about money, it’s embarrassing. It seems to undermine our creative integrity – to be thinking of financial considerations. That’s nonsensical. There’s no romance in not allowing yourself to be compensated for your creativity. Starving is a limitation, not a productive one. It will minimize the number of people who see what you do and cut back on your ability to make stuff and share it.”

So if you struggle with that inner critic, I highly recommend that you get his new book, Shut Your Monkey. It’s a quick read with lots of pictures of monkeys!

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