Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bring on the Critic

It's just after 11:00 on Friday. We've got a gig tomorrow night and we just finished a four-hour rehearsal. It'd probably be a good idea for everyone to get home and get some sleep, but no one's ready for sleep. Will unveils four very nice cigars and gestures towards the couch in the living room.

I smile and I say, "I'm in."

After a moment's hesitation, Scott decides that he's in too. Jeremy pops a slice of pizza in the microwave and we all settle in for a 90-minute session of verbal jamming.

We talk about songs, musicians, bands, instruments, technique and all things music. Our discussion drifts from the facts and experiences to philosophy.

No matter how good you are, you're always working on some technical aspect of your playing. Musicians often talk about techniques and skills they're developing. However, beneath all the technique and skill lies something more fundamental, something that defines who you are as a musician.

You take two guys with the same skill set; one is an amazing, confident performer, the other a timid player who makes lots of mistakes. What's the difference?

We get to the topic of inner critic, one with which each of us has had much experience. Although everyone knows what you mean by inner critic, the more we talk, the clearer it becomes that each of us experiences her uniquely. Scott's inner critic is quite healthy, thriving really. Will's inner critic might appear non-existent to the casual observer. Mine tends to look more like an inner-fan than -critic. Jeremy's inner critic is... well, I'm not sure I could describe him yet.

No matter how differently we define him, we each experience limitations imposed by him. We talk about ways to silence her. We talk about ways to ignore her. We talk about ways to change her. As we do, we learn more about one another and we help each other.

Somewhere along the way, it occurs to me that perhaps there's nothing wrong with having an inner critic. Normally we see our inner critic in her judge's robes, raising her gavel, ready to pronounce sentence. However, in order to determine her judgments, she must have some degree of knowledge about that which she judges, some expertise. When you screw up a note on a blistering solo run, your inner critic pounces on it in a flash. To do so, she has to know that the note was indeed a wrong. That requires expertise.

My mind bounces to another phenomenon, something I've been working to develop. There are times when you play where you completely abandon your critic. You're completely in the moment, one with the music as it were. Everything flows. Playing is effortless. You can play anything that comes to mind.

You suddenly become aware of what you're doing. You think, "Wow, I'm flying!"

And then, you think, "Wait a minute. Humans can't fly!"

That experience of flow can last a few seconds. It can last for hours. It's wonderful.

Still, there's something even better and it's this phenomenon that I'm trying to better grasp. One of the things about being in flow, at least conceptually, is that you don't think about what you do, you just do. If you play a guitar solo, you don't think about the notes, the structures, the chords, the band, the audience, or time. You just play.

However, there are times when I play and I not only become aware of all those things, I become hyper-aware. No matter how fast the beat, I have all the time in world to play emotionally or intuitively and to simultaneously analyze and understand what I play, why it works or doesn't, and what I might do differently.

My assessment and analysis doesn't disrupt my flow; it helps it. It's as though my inner critic traded in her judge's robes for a coach's uniform or cheerleader's outfit. I don't get there often, but when I do, it's the greatest thing ever.

So, I'm thinking that there's more to this inner critic stuff than the creativity-derailing, happiness-robbing, worth-depleting judge that we each know so well. Maybe the answer lies not in silencing or ignoring him, but instead, in loving him and helping him to better express his views in a constructive and encouraging manner.

Oh, by-the-way, my inner critic just asked me, "Where'd you come with that? What are you, nuts?"

Happy Sunday,

1 comment:

  1. I got my first electronic cigarette kit at VaporFi, and I enjoy it a lot.


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