Past Creative Glories And The Anchors Of Your Yesterself

image: Chris Schoenbohm

A while back we talked about creating space in your life to allow new ideas, projects and experiences to enter.

The analogy was, if your harbour is full of decaying and half sunken vessels, there’s no clear water for new ships to sail into, ships from exotic lands potentially full of wonders you’ve never seen. They’ll just sail on by at a distance and find a more willing and welcoming harbour to dock in.

We focused then mainly on the broken boats in your harbour – all the old ideas and half formed projects that realistically won’t ever be restored, but that you’re still clinging on to, preventing you from moving on to new work.

But there’s another element to this.

There are other boats in your harbour that are far from ramshackle ruins. 

There are ships that are glorious and mighty, and that have sailed an epic adventure with you, returning home triumphant on a warm Spring morning with sunlight glistening across their boughs.

In other words, these are all of your masterpieces, the artwork you’re most proud of, that you most enjoyed, and that felt the most rewarding.

Again, let’s return to the harbour. It has a limited space, a maximum capacity of open water for your vessels to float in.

What if much of this space is taken up with your greatest past projects?

What if you’re holding so tightly to the wonderful work you created months, years, even decades ago, that it inhibits you from starting anything new?

What if, every time you’re in the harbour, all you do is gaze at these past glories all dewy eyed and nostalgic and “ah, those were the days…”, and never start building any new ones?

There’s absolutely no harm in celebrating your creative triumphs in principle.

Indeed, recalling some of the heights you reached in the past can provide great encouragement, and a reminder of how talented you are.

But if all you do is focus on what, and how, you used to create, rather than what you’re creating now, then it’s going to be inhibiting you.

Rather than giving your full focus, energy and creativity to the project at hand, and letting it be all it can be, your hands, your mind and your creativity are shackled by those anchors of your yesterself.

Which means your current self – the person and the artist you are right now – doesn’t get free roam of the harbour. It might not even be able to have a quick splash in a tiny corner.

To move forward, the key point to remember is we’re never exactly the same person for two seconds in a row, let alone two years, or two decades.

We’re constantly evolving from moment to moment – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and creatively.

We can only ever be the person and the artist we are right now in this moment, not the person and the artists we used to be, or the person or the artist we might become.

A crucial element of creating to the best of your ability, and to your fullest enjoyment, is to be fully present with your creative process- your unique experience of creating.

To create like a three year old creates – as if there is absolutely nothing else in the world and everything that matters, ever mattered, and ever will matter, is right here in your hands.

You cannot create like this as your yesterself.

You can only do it as your present self.

How does this apply to your creative life?

Do you (maybe subconsciously) hold yourself back from creating new work, in new directions, because you’re constantly comparing everything to forming glories? Are you procrastinating because of a fear of not living up to previous work?

Imagine this: What if you had no yesterself?

What if today was the first day you’d ever laid eyes on a paintbrush, a pencil, a camera, and you could revel in the freedom of being a complete beginner?

Why not try to create like that anyway?

Unshackle yourself from everything you’ve created before, and anything you might create in the future. Create what you want to create right here and right now, just for the experience it gives you.

Give the work all you have – let it become all it can become – and you can’t help but experience exactly what you need.


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