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THE INTRUDER ROLES (& How They Decimate Creativity) | Artist As Guide

Updated: Jan 23, 2020

These four roles just might be decimating your creativity.

If your creative work is consistently leveling off, these four roles may be your prime suspects. At first glance, they may seem like they are work-friendly, but in actuality can completely stall progress. These seemingly useful roles, at the heart of it, tend to cause more destruction than helpfulness.

I call them, The Intruder Roles:

The Perfectionist, The Busy One, The Muse & The Expert

I’ve deemed them The Intruder Roles because left to their own devices, that’s just what they do: Intrude. They are roles that tend to balloon in our lives so much that they push other roles we play out to the peripheries.

We’ll examine each role, one by one. As we are moving through them, feel free to assess if one or more of these roles is regularly played out in your life. If so, it may be crowding out the opportunity for other roles to come to the forefront---Including the Artist role.

The Perfectionist.

At first glance, the Perfectionist Role in us appears to be a connoisseur of fine work. It aims to perform at the highest level and deliver impeccable standards. Its seeming goal is to offer a pinnacle of excellence and it won’t stop until that is accomplished. It's uncompromising. It’s also unrelenting.

For those of us who have played out the Perfectionist Role with regularity, we know it’s a rigid role, almost to the point of paralysis. And it’s constantly driving us towards an endgame that is actually a myth: Perfection.

A role with self-imposed, unrealistic standards. No matter the Perfectionist’s final product, the role can easily find fault with it, skirting dangerously on the territory of burnout because it rarely feels satisfied. It can lead us to feeling drained and unfulfilled. Even more seriously, a recent meta-analytic review (University of Western Ontario, 2017) showed that Perfectionists had a higher rate of suicidal ideation.

The Perfectionist Role is often an excellent space within us to stow away unfinished explorations towards feelings of self-worth and acceptance.

The Busy One.

At a glance, the Busy One Role in us appears to be the one that can do it all. It presents as the consummate multitasker. As the constant plate spinner, the role appears to be able to take on anything---and a ton of it. At times, it can veer into the Wonder Woman, super hero realm.

The Busy One Role can be an energetic hurricane. Even in just talking about the Busy One, we might feel a pressure mounting in our bodies. It is a role that is constantly in a state of nervous system arousal, which can go hand-in-hand with generating anxiety.

It’s a deceiving role, convincing us that our value comes from how much we can cram in, which may not actually be effective. Our brains just aren’t built for excessive multitasking, particularly with technology. A study (Stanford University, 2009) showed that participants that engaged in regular media multitasking, demonstrated a decreased ability to effectively switch from one task to another and filter out irrelevant stimuli. To the Busy One Role, often, phones turn from a piece of technology into an appendage.

Overall, this role may keep us highly involved, but ironically, it can lead to us feeling isolated, as we can’t slow down enough to truly experience in the present moment.

Overall, this role may keep us highly involved, but ironically, it can lead to us feeling isolated, as we can’t slow down enough to truly experience in the present moment.

The Muse.

The Muse is a role that we wait on for inspiration to strike. When the Muse Role is within us, in our midst, all of a sudden we feel effervescently enthusiastic to do our work. When the Muse is present, creativity is flowing with ease. It is a romantic work state. Well, more accurately, it is a romanticized work state. And a fickle one, at that.

When we are in the habit of waiting to start our work once the Muse comes, we’re actually more in the habit of just waiting.

When we are in the habit of waiting to start our work once the Muse comes, we’re actually more in the habit of just waiting. Waiting for the time to be just right. Waiting for the mood. Waiting for the right environment. Waiting for the spark.

Deceivingly, we convince ourselves that we can’t work until the Muse Role arrives.

The Expert.

The Expert Role presents as the voice of a particular theme or subject matter. It can be an extremely useful role, as it can serve as a teacher, a mentor and/or a guide. Though when it comes to creative progress, the Expert Role can actually lead to a severe standstill in two seemingly opposite ways:

The first way. The Expert Role can stop us in our tracks when we have an inherent drive towards doing something, though feel we aren’t allowed to yet because we aren’t ‘an expert.’ When the role is overpowering us, we put self-imposed limitations over what we think we are allowed to do. Often times, when the Expert Role is looming, we assume that others will judge or shame us, shaking their heads with disapproval, thinking, 'Who gave them the right to do this? They’re not an expert.'

The second way. On the reverse, sometimes the Expert Role can be the near opposite where we want to step into it too quickly, without having done the work beforehand. Rather than actually investing the time it takes to become an expert at something, we want to skip to the front of the class and get the accolades of being considered ‘an expert’ without actually having gained the wisdom and/or knowledge that is inherent to the role.

It’s a role that can sometimes serve to frighten us, as we can feel that we aren’t enough to take the leap or we don’t invest enough in it, leading to glossing over the learning, growth and maturation that can serve to really enrich us and those around us.

The Intruder Roles.

Do you play out one or more of these roles with regularity? If so, which ones? Feel free to share in the comments below. You most certainly are not alone, if so. By naming these roles, loud and clear, when we play them out, we are offering ourselves the chance to dig into our creative work with greater ease by either honing in the parts of the role that are helpful to us or by shifting into another role, entirely.

It’s when we consciously decide whether or not we want to play out one of these four roles, that all of a sudden, they’re no longer so intrusive. At that point, they’re invited.


Ophir, E., Nass, C., & Wagner, A. D. (2009). Cognitive control in media multitaskers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(37), 15583-15587.

Smith, M. M., Sherry, S. B., Chen, S., Saklofske, D. H., Mushquash, C., Flett, G. L., & Hewitt, P. L. (2018). The perniciousness of perfectionism: A meta‐analytic review of the perfectionism–suicide relationship. Journal of Personality, 86(3), 522-542.

"When we change our relationship to procrastination, we change everything."


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