How To Let Go Of The Expectation That’s Choking Your Creativity

Choke Hold
image: Nathan Rupert

There’s nothing wrong with having ambitions for your artwork, with striving to create the best you can create, to experiment and create not only the kind of art that you’ve never created before, but that no-one else in the world has either.

The problems begin when we hold continually high, unrealistically ambitious hopes for what we create, and it starts to limit how freely we create.

Expectation is always followed by either happiness, or disappointment.

The greater the expectation, the more often, and the more deeply, we’re disappointed. Experience this too much and too often just discourages us from creating as bravely as we can, or from creating at all.

So here are 5 of the most common kinds of expectation that can choke your creativity, and how to let go of them:

1. Expecting every idea you have to turn our beautifully.

Ideas come in all shapes and sizes. Some arrive virtually fully formed, others are merely the tiniest fragments or suggestions to whet your creativity’s appetite. The outcome of these ideas can be just as varied, and is rarely predictable. Sometimes the ideas with so much promise reach a dead end, and those with barely anything to them at first evolve into something incredible.

Let go of the expectation that every idea you have will be (and must be) a masterpiece. It’s natural to have an abundance of ideas and only a small fraction of them be used and turn out well. Give each idea all the focus you can, let it evolve as it wants to, and enjoy each step of the process, rather than being so attached to the final “product”.

2. Expecting to have an abundance of creativity on tap.

We’ve all known periods of great creativity, where it’s gushed from us like an epic waterfall at the thaw of winter. But to achieve this kind of flow more often, we need to put in the groundwork, and keep our creativity limber, supple and well toned.

Let go of the expectation that you can go for days or weeks without creating, than suddenly turn it on and create at full flow. Instead, commit a little time each and every day to creating. Build those daily creative habits, even it’s just for 15 or 20 minutes. Doing this every day will keep your creative muscles in great shape for projects large and small.

3. Expecting to never make any mistakes.

If creating for you feels like walking a tightrope across the Grand Canyon – just a toe out of place and you plunge to certain death – then what kind of climate is that for creating freely? Being so scared of making any “mistakes” that it means you only create the very safest of projects – if you create at all – is no way to live your life as an artist.

Let go of the expectation that you’ll never make any mistakes. When you let yourself experiment and follow where your creativity wants to go, you’ll increase the chances of stumbling across Happy Accidents – new ideas, techniques and avenues that you didn’t plan on but turn out even better than you thought your original idea would.

4. Expecting to be able to create the same thing over and over and be satisfied.

Each of us who create have not only our own unique way of creating, but a continuous, steady evolution. It may feel comforting to create the same piece of art over and over, but how creative is that really? Where’s that natural growth that any of us have in our lives, and in our artwork?

Let go of the expectation that you’ll be happy creating the same work over and over like a factory robot. You won’t. You’re a creative human being, a living, growing, evolving artist, and what you created when you were 20 won’t be the same as when you were 25, 30 and beyond. It’s natural to explore new ways of creating, to gently expand on what you’re comfortable with. Be brave, push the envelope a little.

5. Expecting to master your techniques instantly.

Whether you’ve been creating in a certain media for five days or five decades, you won’t have reached the limits of your competence and your ability to express yourself in that media. You never will, it’s a continual upward change, and each creative project brings new reward and learning and experience.

Let go of the expectation that you’ll become a master of every technique within a few attempts. Enjoy your creating, enjoy learning and evolving in the best way possible – by actually creating, getting your hands wet and covered in clay. When you focus on the enjoyment, the reward comes naturally, and you don’t get caught up constantly comparing yourself to others and asking whether you yet meet some mysterious criteria that qualify you as a “master” artist.

These are 5 of the most common ways expectation can choke your creativity.

Which do YOU relate most to? What can you start to do, from today, that’ll loosen the stranglehold and help your creativity relax and breathe more freely?

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