Your Inner Simon

I was leading two writing workshops this week with a class of high-schoolers, and I couldn’t help noticing how much easier it is to get younger kids (i.e. elementary school) to write music. The teenagers in these workshops were bright, articulate, and knew the subject matter (environmental science) just fine; it’s only the fear stopping them from doing their best work.

Teachers call it the affective filter, the voice in your head that tells you to monitor what you say and do, and most of the time it’s a good thing. The affective filter is what tells you when you’re about to say or do something you’ll regret later; it’s the Jiminy Cricket to your Pinocchio.

But in the arts, it’s more like having an inner Simon Cowell. You know, the guy on the panel of judges from that singing show; the one who’s always terribly mean to the performer? I want to believe he’s a good guy in regular life, but he’s an absolute jerk to the performers on the show.

You may have a Simon in your life, someone who always tells you that your voice, your words, your body aren’t good enough and never will be. If so, please do something about that before it makes you crazy. But the crazy thing about the arts is, most of us don’t even need a Simon to make us hesitate. We do it to ourselves.

So, today’s challenge: tell that voice in your head, that inner Simon, to shut up while you work.