As artists, whether it be writer, actor, painter, poet, we often refer to our ‘inner child’ as the source of our creative abilities.
The part of ourselves that ‘arts’. That compels us to tell stories. As children we create with unharnessed vigor. We don’t really care that the painting of our parents looks suspiciously like a family of penises, we don’t mind that our story about our cat isn’t going to be read by thousands, we just want to create, to tell stories and make stuff.
We want to add our own unique magic into this world. And this fantastic, free, vulnerable part of ourselves is still with us today. It doesn’t matter that we might now have rent to pay or have children of our own, our inner child remains with us and they are the source of creation and magic.
Over the last month and a bit I’ve been working at slowly untangling and acknowledging some of the (quite frankly, extensive) damage I’ve done to myself, my inner child, the artist. I have always had a very critical internal voice, soaked in parental tones and shame. But I have never realised just how much it was hurting me as a human being. How deeply scarring it has been to be treat myself in such a way, to be talking to my inner child in this way. I have been manipulating my inner child, torturing her with words; I’m going to unpack all of this by acknowledging and respecting the different things that my inner child needs. We can go from there.
My inner child needs to work in spaces that please her aesthetically.
My desk at home needs to be stacked with candles, crystals, piles of books, pens and paint pallets. First, I create beautiful spaces and then I can create stories. I can’t write on a desk without my ‘special things’. Like a child who will not sleep without her blanket. Cue parental voice. I am inclined to label myself as immature, high maintenance and foolish. But I’m learning to ask, why? Why is it foolish? This practise doesn’t hurt me, it aids me. There is nothing morally bad about collecting things that sparkle and placing them on my desk. I do not need to label my inner child as high maintenance. She’s a beauty hunter. This is a magical thing. Let her be.
Ideally, to produce my best art, my inner child needs to write at a cafe.
With a cup of black coffee and the sun on my face. I write for longer and I write better when I’m at a cafe. I have been very cruel to myself about this requirement.
My inner child has told me: "I create best when I’m out of the house, when I have a coffee in my hand, when I’m surrounded by people, yet somehow also completely alone."
And I’ve responded to her: "Fine. I’ll allow it. But it’s bloody irresponsible of you to spend so much money when we’re not making any money at all. And do you want to know why we aren’t making any money? Because of you, because of your stupid desires to write stories."
Inner child: Sits at cafe, dripping in guilt and shame, trying to create behind a film of tears and embarrassment.
It’s so hard to read this.
To my inner child. To my inner author. To me. I’m so sorry. I understand that this is where you work best. It’s okay that writing means that I have to invest financially. It is worth it. You are worth it. The stories that I write are worth it.
My inner child needs to be allowed to talk to herself.
This is something I did profusely as a child, and I still have a deep-seated embarrassment over the fact. I would chat to myself, telling myself stories, almost unconsciously, like someone else was telling them to me. I’ve never openly spoken about how much I used to talk to myself. It feels a little taboo to write it down. I would do it on dog walks, in my own room, and I would spend hours and hours hitting a tennis ball against the wall creating tales.
It wasn’t a dialogue between me and me. I was telling stories to the world. I exhaled thousands of tales into the open air around me. Pleasing no one but myself and any higher power who might be listening. I need to allow myself to do that now. There is nothing wrong with telling stories to no one. Conversely, there’s lots right with airing out stories on a solitary walk. It feels like a conversation with the power within me. I give my inner child the chance to actually speak, to audibly touch the world.
My inner child needs to be taken seriously.
There is never an idea too big. Don't squash your big dreams. Our parental voice wants to prevent disappointment. To protect our inner child from hurt. We want to stand on our stool and say, “Good lord no. That idea is too big. What if you fail?!”
I think in reality when we try to prevent disappointment, we prevent magic.
Ask yourself what is the biggest, wildest thing you want to do? Say it out loud.
"I want to be a respected novelist." (This is not shameful, you could say ‘famous’ too if you want.) Listen to that answer with a huge amount of respect and seriousness. We can’t comprehend what our creative artist is capable of. Let your inner child prove to you just how powerful and creative they are. She’s incredibly capable. Take her seriously.
My inner child needs me to be kind.
My most important point.
About four years ago, I finished university and I sat my inner author down and I said:
“Hey. I recognize that we don’t want a ‘normal’ life. I want to make writing novels our number one priority.”
My inner child’s reply was amazement, excitement and a deep knowledge that the life that I just described, is the life she is made for. But as time went on the conversation became warped.
Me: “Writing books is our number one priority! Creativity is our greatest joy! Let’s do the work!"
Inner child: “This is my dream come true. This is my true purpose. Let’s create.”
My reply, every - single - day for the coming years: “I can’t believe how selfish and lazy you are. I can’t believe that you think you deserve to be a writer, when everyone else is out there in a job they vaguely hate. Why don’t you have a real job? How are you going to get money? You have too much free time. Why are you watching tv, you are lazy, write your book. You are a stupid child. We will never qualify as an actual adult. I am ashamed of you.”
It’s such brutal language to write down onto a page. I even took out some of the swear words because it was that hard to read. But this is the language I speak to myself with. Can you imagine talking to a child like that? What harm it would do? What I was doing was giving my inner child permission to create and live our dream and then I spent years telling her that this was stupid and foolish. It’s like giving a child a toy and then mocking them when they play with it. I was saying "yes, create!" But feel shit about it. I can see my inner child being like, "What do you want? What do you want from me? You’re confusing me!"
It hurt me. I am still hurting really badly. It has been hard financially to spend so much of my time writing. It has been hard watching my friends in marketing firms stay at the office until midnight, when I had ‘empty’ days that I had gifted to myself to write. Right now, (an indication that I am recovering, not recovered) I am imagining industry people reading this blog and thinking, "Poor thing. She needs a day job. She’s destined for heartbreak. Always sad seeing authors give up everything for nothing."
I constantly ask myself should I be doing this? What the fuck am I even doing? I have felt less than. Less than everyone. In the face of these real hardships, I pushed my inner child even further into the ground. What I should have done, what I will do, is double my efforts in being kind to my inner child. I should've taken myself on more artists dates, whispered mantras of success and love as I go to sleep and comforted myself every time the thought of ‘never being published’ raised its familiar head. I needed to be kind to her and listen to her and treat her with the utmost respect. Instead, I have spent hundreds and hundreds of days berating her. And she’s only a child.
Choosing to live a creative life is challenging. But it is also good. The decision I made to pursue novel writing is a really good decision. This is something I am only just learning. But it is true. When we choose to create, we are being true to ourselves, becoming a more sparkling, better version of ourselves, stretching ourselves emotionally and spiritually and making magic in a world that lacks magic.
So I am so very sorry for calling you stupid. You are not arrogant. You are not disgusting. You are brave, and brilliant and very, very strong. I love the stories we have already told and I cannot wait to see what we do next.
I invite you to write a little love letter to your inner child, fill it with kind words, and apologies.
A promise of a trip to the movies perhaps. A pledge to create, play together. You could even let them write back. Buy your inner child flowers, a new book, a journal. It doesn’t matter whether you have chosen to embark upon a life entirely run by your creative soul, or you want to devote yourself to several mornings a week with your craft, just be gentle with your inner child. Be kind. The challenges that come with making this leap, they aren’t your fault. Your inner artist should never, ever be shamed for the brave choice you have made. I, for one, am in awe of you. I think you, your inner child, and the work you create together are destined for something, very very good.
To kill your dreams because they are irresponsible is to be irresponsible to yourself.