Creativity Café: Kick out those ‘Debbie Downers’ and create

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BY DEB LUND, Aug. 22, 2013

Instead of remodeling a garage into a family room, we changed an upper floor balcony into my writing room. It’s a little sanctuary with three windows and a skylight, tucked into trees; a corner desk away from the busyness. Books, candles, mementos from magical moments and sweet talismans to the muses of my tales are all selected for the inspiration they give me. I knew I’d be writing all the time once I moved in.

My writing room includes an angel and inspiration board. (Deb Lund photos)

My writing room includes an angel and inspiration board. (Deb Lund photos)


I moved in, but so did a pack of unreasonable tenants.

Its eviction time again. I hate this part. I have to be strong, to not listen to their excuses. It takes a long time to clear out bad renters, and they leave far too much of their baggage and belongings behind. I’m sure you’ve met them.


Guilt’s conversations with me are always about the past. Something I did. Something I didn’t do. Anything Guilt has to say is a waste of time and energy. My energy. Guilt is a renter who takes up far too much room.


Worry is Guilt’s twin. Worry hangs out in the future instead of the past, and it takes up space in rooms I haven’t even seen. Rooms that might eventually hold my best work yet. Worry is wasted imagination. I think that might be a paraphrase of a Mark Twain saying.


Grudges camp out wherever they wish. They’re especially tough to throw out because they agree with me. They bolster me. They say I’m right. That I’ve been wronged. That I deserve the power of withholding forgiveness. They crown me with righteousness for their own sake. I’m on to them, though. It’s not easy to give up that rush of adrenaline for being right, but if I don’t out Grudges, they get bigger and bigger, until anything good or creative gets crowded out.


Shoulds are offspring of the other tenants. They are not cute. They need to go, too. They take up too much time and demand too much attention. I said yes to them moving in, but I thought they’d grow up and move out a whole lot sooner. It’s time to say no to the Shoulds.


This is the big one, isn’t it? Critics’ voices are all unique, and they add to the cacophony of all the other bad renters.

I’m not smart enough, talented enough, good enough. I will never be enough, and I will never have what it takes to make my dreams come true. I’m a fraud, and as soon as the world figures it out, the jig is up.

Critics claim they’re there to protect me. To save me from frustration and failure. If it were only easier to identify their voices… Critics have amazing morphing skills and can be incredible ventriloquists. They are good for the environment, however. They convince me my words aren’t worth the paper they would appear on.

If I can get rid of these destructive tenants, who would move in?

Joy might be interested. Peace and Love might even show up.

Creativity has already been pounding on my door trying to reintroduce itself, but I’ve been telling it to wait.

I use phrases like:

As soon as…


First I need…

My wordwall above my desk keeps the bad tenants at bay.

My wordwall above my desk helps keep the bad tenants at bay.

Wait! Don’t leave! I’ll print up those eviction notices and deliver them right now!

I’ll clean, I’ll clear,

I’ll repair and repaint.

You can live here rent-free!

Like the new space?

Welcome home, Creativity!

Deb Lund is a creativity coach, children’s author, and popular presenter at conferences, schools, and libraries. Deb is a pro at creating in chaos, and she would like to thank her wonderful family, Karl, Kaj, Sandra, and Jean, for helping her develop that skill. You can hear more from The Creativity Café here.



    • Julie, you’re right about the invitations. We actually welcome them in. I hate that part. I want to blame someone else—anyone!

  1. Well said! Go on! git! We don’t need those rotten renters (and quite frankly, I can’t remember the last time I saw a rent check from any of them.) Especially “Worry”: Oh I don’t like her one little bit.

    Thanks for the reminder.
    Bee, the bear!

    Hey, I didn’t know there was going to be a math test!

  2. Deb. Thanks for sharing your thoughts that fit right into my everyday life. I like the way you work through and release all the ‘hold me downs’ and move forward to let yourself be creative.

    • Oh, Lois. You might be giving me more credit than I deserve. It’s so easy to know things intellectually and still not be able to apply what we know whenever we wish. ; )

  3. Nicely done, Deb! I’m working on the critics and guilt. While we’re at it, I might be able to come up with a few other tenants I have questions about… Way to go!

  4. Like you, and countless others, I’ve spent years trying to banish those same pesky residents. But I felt the warmth of my own smile forming as I thought of the poem by Rumi, “The Guest House.” Each of those uncomfortable residents will leave, as soon as we’re done learning from them. For each of them is only there to teach us a lesson. My goal is to extract them from the core of my being and view them in a detached manner. Of course, that’s no easy feat either! Great post!

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