Taking the expectation off your creativity

Creativity is fun!

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Or at least, it used to be. Back when we were kids. Creativity was a part of our everyday. We’d write or daydream, bake or play endless games of pretend. Our hobbies were messy and imperfect, taking the form of scrawled stories on Pizza Hut napkins or mud pie wedding cakes. We didn’t really need the approval of others (though we couldn’t deny the swell of pride we felt when our pictures got stuck on the fridge) – our relationship with creativity was just for us.

But that’s probably not the case now. Right?

The older we get, the more creativity seems to go hand-in-hand with negativity.

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Just a quick scroll through our Twitter feed proves our point. Everywhere we look, people are flagellating themselves over their creativite efforts: wondering ‘what’s wrong with them’ if they can’t get past a block or reach their follower goal. We’re not pointing fingers – we’re guilty of it, too – angry at ourselves if we’re not in the mood to write, constantly apologising to each other if we feel as though we’re not doing enough for this blog.

And that’s just the pastry on the PIE OF SELF-PUNISHMENT*.

*The only pie that doesn’t sound appealing to us.

When we’re not being creative – if we choose to spend an evening chilling out instead of slogging it at our laptops – we scold ourselves for ‘wasting our time’. Conversely, when we are being creative, we’re worried that we’re not doing anything useful or productive. We put pressure on ourselves to see results from our creativity. We set up goals, and are disappointed when they’re not met. We suffer from low self-esteem if nobody notices what we’ve made, especially when we see others on social media excelling. It goes on, and on, and on, and onnnn… (STREETLIGHTS, PEOPLE… DANCING IN THE BOULEV- bad timing? Okay then.)

The evidence is clear. Somewhere down the line – between childhood and adulthood – being creative becomes synonymous with being self-critical.

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The carefreeness of creating as a kid gets chucked out the window, replaced with all of the above niggling doubts, fears and frustrations instead. So where did it all go wrong?

We blame adulting (*shakes fist angrily at the sky*). Because it seems as though it’s only as we get older that we begin to expect so much of ourselves – and, by proxy, our creativity. Suddenly, our lives are measured by the goals we set and attain – from winning promotions to getting a thousand clicks on our latest post – believing that, once achieved, we’ll find more happiness and fulfilment.

Of course, this is no way to live: particularly when it comes to your creativity.

Here’s the thing. If we gear everything in our lives towards goal-meeting, our pursuits will become inextricable from the weight of expectation, and our enjoyment of them will be less. Particularly when it comes to things that are so wrapped up with our feels… such as our creative hobbies. Suddenly, the thing that you’ve enjoyed for years, that was once so freeing, is shackling – ultimately making you forget why you enjoyed doing it in the first place.

Now, don’t get us wrong.

We’re not saying that setting goals is bad, or that you shouldn’t aspire to achieve something more with your creativity. Dreams are important, and you have every right to want to make a career out of creativity (we sure do)! However, along the journey, it’s important to know when to give ourselves a break – being a little more mindful in our approach to getting there.

Protect yourself. Take note when your creative goals start to detract from your enjoyment of the pursuit. Realise when you’re being too hard on yourself. Approach whatever you love like Bob Ross (which is our general rule for life, but particularly in this case).

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Creativity should make you happy. Everything else is just a bonus.

When we create, we give ourselves a space to express ourselves to the world – to make our innermost thoughts and feelings manifest in a way only we can. It’s a privilege: so treat it like one. Create because you love to. Create because it makes you feel free. Conjure up whatever. Imagine. Be messy. Put what your heart on the page, and put your instincts first – everything else will follow.

Five quick tips for enjoying creativity again..:

  1. You know how everyone says that, if you can’t fall asleep, you should get up and do something else? The same applies to creativity. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing or aren’t making any progress, stop. Walk away. Make a coffee, flip through a magazine, watch Ross’ ‘PIVOT!’ scene on Friends on repeat. Recharge before you reassess.
  2. Try making something that other people won’t see. For instance, if you’re a blogger, why not do a little freewriting/journaling that you don’t plan on publishing? Do your hobby in a way that’s just for you – no expectations necessary.
  3. Try something a little different! Practice photography if you’re a writer. Dance if you’re a baker. Mix it up – you might find that trying something that you’re a novice at freeing.
  4. Before you create anything, ask yourself if it’s authentically you. Would you share that post, write that article or upload that picture if you didn’t have any followers? Create the stuff you want to create – not the stuff you think you should.
  5. Take a break from social media. If you think you’re a little too reliant on likes and engagements to feel good about your creativity (which there’s no shame in – we’re all guilty of it!) take yourself offline for a while. You can re-prioritise, enjoy making things just for you and hopefully, by the time you log back on, you’ll have taken the pressure off yourself a little bit.

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