How to play big when it comes to your creativity! (Click to Tweet)

TRANSCRIPT of today’s video:

It’s the fifth Monday of the month, which means it’s Artist Strong’s Doodle Book Review. This month we take a look at the book Playing Big by Tara Mohr. I select books I’ve read and found worth in to share with Artist Strong readers.

Playing Big was recommended to me at a fortuitous time: I’d just received my worst online troll comments ever (how many f-bombs can fit in one sentence?!) and while I didn’t know the person and it was clearly not about me, the bite stung. I shared it in a forum of encouraging, like-minded entrepreneurs where I got a wave of feedback, ideas, and support. One of those recommendations was Playing Big by Tara Mohr.

Playing Big was written with a female audience in mind but as you will all learn today, everyone, including us creatives of all genders can learn a lot from what Ms. Mohr has to say. The title gives you a taste of what’s to come, in many ways it is a call to action: are you living life small, or are you playing big? Her subtitle gives us more: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message.

These three things are SO important for us creatives. Our act of creating is sharing our voice and transmits a message to our community. All of this is a reflection of a larger calling or mission that drives us to create. Yet, we don’t always take the time to really know these three key ingredients for our creative practice.

Mohr offers assorted reasons we may choose to hold ourselves back, which is why so many of us are not playing big. I’m not going to spend today’s energy on the rationale, I’d rather give us action based advice we can apply to our creative practice. Let’s talk about using some of her advice to impact our creative process. So, here we go:

3 Key Takeaways for Creatives

Listening to the voice of Inner Wisdom

Mohr dedicates an entire chapter to this inner voice of wisdom. In all aspects of life, we do well to harness the power of our intuition. Some science based research suggests that there are micro-movements, micro-gestures we can see in others that we don’t understand on a conscious level, but that can actually drive our intuitive, gut feeling. If you take a more spiritual or religious stance, perhaps it is your divine creator offering you guidance and direction. Either way, everyone has at some point felt that inner voice calling to us loud and clear. It’s a great tool for creatives to harness and develop.

Mohr advises people to get into a space of mental quiet and then reach out to our “future selves.” Ask yourself: what do you look like? Where do you live? Do you have a studio? What is your art about? What is your life about? By having this inner conversation Mohr argues we can really check in with the choices we make today: is this in alignment with my real hopes and dreams for the future? With repeated practice, Mohr believes we can all check in with this voice without much effort and begin to align to those dreams and goals we hold for ourselves now.

Act Now: Take a minute and disconnect from your day and reconnect with your inner spirit. Close your eyes. Take a really deep breath, inhale in…. and release. Inhale…. and release. Now begin to inhale and exhale evenly. Count your inhale as one, your exhale as two… do this until you reach ten. If you lose count, don’t worry, start over again. When you feel in a general state of calm, ask yourself: what does my future creativity look like? What does my future self have to say about it?

Unhooking from Praise and Criticism

Praise and criticism can both be tools for information, or be the inconsistent drive with which we make our daily choices. In this particular chapter Mohr offers examples of women who felt disconnected and unhappy because they were acting based on these outside influences.

Let’s be clear here, this is not advice to assume all criticism isn’t worth your time or that all praise is helpful. Mohr is suggesting we check in with our inner voice, message and mission to investigate: does this criticism inform and help me move forward with my creative goals? Does this praise reflect goal-setting and achievements that will continue me on my path? These are the important questions to ask ourselves when we come into contact with praise and criticism.

This one really resonates with me. Ever since I was a little girl, I worked hard to gain the approval of others rather than achieve for myself. It took me a long time to understand that and to start listening to my inner wisdom that called me to live a bit differently and make art in my own way. That drive to create for praise will always be a struggle for me. It’s deeply embedded into my personality. But, I now have strategies to connect and check in with my inner wisdom. So, when I can feel that overwhelming desire kick in, I can also slow down and check in with myself.

Act Now: Think about the last time you received some criticism about your artwork. What was the nature of the hurt? Why did it hurt so much, or not? Can you find the truth in the criticism that can benefit your future artwork? Do you hold back from sharing your artwork or writing because of “what people might say?” Write down one action you can take today to help you unhook from praise and criticism.

Communicating with Power

Language is a powerful tool. We don’t always give it the full credit it’s due. There are words we commonly use to downplay our message or authority and Mohr outlines 10 these undermining speech habits. Some of these words and phrases include:

“Just.” I’m just going to share… I’m just going to talk about… These “justs” are devaluing!

“Actually.” As in, I actually disagree. As Mohr puts it, “Actually makes you sound as if you are surprised you have a question or that you disagree…”

“This is just an idea…” Mohr also tells us disclaimers, like this one, undermine the ideas we share with others. Why would anyone fully embrace an idea that we share with such…confidence?

Creatives, take note! When we communicate, in writing or verbally with our community, we convey a message about how we value ourselves and our artwork. If we write a novel and speak about it with hesitance, who will want to read it? If we share a painting and nitpick all that we still see is missing, what kind of collectors do you think will come knocking on our door?

Act Now: Read the last letter or watch the last video you sent out to your community: how many times do you use the words just, actually, or include disclaimers with your ideas? Tabulate them and take note of your common offenders. Create a reminder for yourself to review your writing and art marketing for these undermining speech habits as part of your editorial process.


I would be interested to know how different genders and different ages handle this advice and content. As a male, do you ever check in with your inner voice of wisdom to help you on your artistic journey? As a woman, do you really communicate to your community with power? I catch myself all the time using words that downplay my strengths, at least now I know to keep my eye out for it! (I also want to reread all of my articles and remove all of my “actually”s and “just”s, because I see them in here!) Each person is different, as is your creative process and your goals as a creative: be sure to reflect and consider what’s true for you and how to help yourself grow.

Playing Big is loaded with more advice and wisdom, I’m only giving you a taste of Tara Mohr’s voice, mission and message. I hope you’ll give yourself the chance to Play Big. I’m sure the next troll to set up shop in my web space may still sting, but now we all have some tools and strategies to develop and celebrate our creative inner voice.

You can find a copy of the book Playing Big by Tara Mohr on Amazon here (affiliate link) or here (not an affiliate link). Thank you for helping Artist Strong spread creativity worldwide!

How to play big when it comes to your creativity! (Click to Tweet)

BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE:  If you enjoyed today’s review, please share today’s post and tell me in the comments below: what actions can you start today to play it bigger? I want to know!

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