Every time I talk to a creative, this one thing pops up.
It's a BIG DEAL. It's the reason for most creative blocks. The reason you can't create at full capacity. The reason for my many failed attempts at productivity. It's important that you recognize it for what it is and work on eliminating it from your life once and for all. Otherwise it will keep ruining your creative life and blocking your creative genius.
I am talking about PRESSURE. But not just any pressure... Not the kind of pressure that comes with deadlines or limitations. I'm talking about the kind that comes with expectations - your own and those of others.
Your crazy expectations.
Let's look at all the things you EXPECT your art to do for you:
- You want it to make money, but that's a lot to ask of your art.
- You want it to be liked and understood by everyone, which is impossible.
- You want it to lead you in a linear way, which is also impossible.
- You want it to solve your problems, but you have to do that.
- You want it to be on time, but you haven't set the time.
I can probably think of a ton more examples how you suffocate your creative genius - by asking it to do things it was not designed to do. Things you need to do for yourself. The thing about creativity is that it gets spooked easily. The minute you tell it to do something other than float around and visit you from time to time, it spooks and runs.
Can you blame it? Would you be OK with such expectations?
You know what it's like to live under the thumb of other people's expectations, right? Your parents expected a lot from you, so you went to [whatever] school for them. Your partner expected a lot from you, but you refused to do it, so now you feel their disappointment. Or maybe it's you who expected a lot from you and you feel like a failure every single day. That's an awful way to live and a horrible thing to put on somebody.
If you think about it, creativity has some human qualities. It suffocates just as easily as you do by the expectations of other people or your own. Nothing can grow in such stressful conditions and your fun-loving creativity is no exception.
A better approach.
We all have to learn to treat our creativity with respect and patience.
Don't ask it to do things FOR you or things it was not made to do. It was not made to pay your bills and it was not made to be your life guide. It was not meant to be anything other than a partner in crime from time to time; certainly not when you need it.
There are ways to train it to appear when you want it, and it's quite easy. I called creativity a minute ago and it came willingly, even though I didn't feel much inspired to write this article. It came because I have trained it to appear when I'm at the keyboard, and it took a LONG TIME to make it. For a long time, it would just not come.
How do you train creativity to come? you ask.
By making it a habit. By writing every day. By being creative every single day.
It's so simple and yet so many creatives wait for the Muses to come, and they come when they've been taught to come. If you let them come once a month, they'll think it's OK to come once a month and if you need them some other time, sorry...
You might think that training is a form of expectation, but you're wrong. By training I mean that you teach your creativity that you'll do the work and all it has to do is show up. That is a much healthier approach than expecting crazy things like it doing the work for you or doing things it was never supposed to do in the first place.
You have more say and control in your creative process than you realize.
Another thing you can do is to consciously decide that pressure has no place in your creative life. You can create expectation-free space for you and your creativity, so when you enter it, pressure evaporates. You can do it in your head or in your actual work space, but you need to do it if you want to stop having blocks and finally accept your creativity for what it is - your ally, not your prisoner.
So don't even try to put your creativity in a box. Like you, it needs to breathe.
Every time I listen to Liz Gilbert, I'm inspired by her approach to creativity.
When she was young, she took an oath to never ask it to pay the bills. When she creates, she's grateful and playful. If we can learn to be more appreciative and accepting of our creativity, we'll be able to treat it like the child it is and not ask too much of it.
Finally, I can' help but think of this one book I read in University...
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I don't remember much of the plot, but I do remember the general feeling of expecting big things and disappointment. Poor Pip... he kept thinking these big things of everything around him, only to be let down by the reality of it. Have you felt like that? Like you had these great expectations of you, life, and those around you? And then you're let down by everything that happens?
Well, those let downs are actually your fault, not the fault of others.
Think about it. The world owes you nothing. Life is so constructed that you can't predict what's going to happen, and by having any expectations at all, you are setting yourself up for failure or disappointment or both. It's your doing, nobody else's.
Wanna borrow my life philosophy? -> Hope for the best, but don't expect it.
Things like hope and honest work and acceptance raise you up while expectations are only designed to put you down because you're not in control of these things.
Stop setting yourself up for failure. Set yourself up for success.
It will be so grateful that you'll have to keep up with the crazy flood of ideas coming at you. I know because I have made it a habit, and I have let go of expectations. My creativity knows it's safe to show up because I won't ever smother it.
Do the same for your creative child. It deserves this and much more.