January 3, 2020

Creativity Doesn't Feel Like Winning

Perhaps it's understandable that we focus on the results of creative efforts - on the products of creativity - rather than the processes by which they come to be. Our society measures the value of things in the most superficial of ways, after all.

Creativity Doesn't Feel Like Winning

Perhaps it's understandable that we focus on the results of creative efforts - on the products of creativity - rather than the processes by which they come to be. Our society measures the value of things in the most superficial of ways, after all.

But I think this explains nicely why we, as natural creators, often feel unfulfilled even when we're working on something that we love.

Creation is labor. Creation is discipline. It is systematic failure. It is the act of challenging and subduing the self. Creation is discomfort. It's never completed. It's always getting better, which means we can't ever feel egotistically proud of anything we've produced before. Creation is standing alone, and being vulnerable.

These are not the kinds of experiences our society relishes and seeks out. They are the path of  submission to the craft, of patience and - dare I say it - faith?

I read a quote this week by Alain de Botton:

"If we are not regularly deeply embarrassed by who we are, the journey to self-knowledge hasn’t begun."

Whether we are actively creating or not, we are all afraid of being exposed, embarrassed or laughed at. So when we take a step toward creative vulnerability, these anxieties become magnified, and can serve as a serious road block to our purpose.

We end up shutting our creativity down because our creative process - the most valuable part of creation - doesn't feel the way we think it should; or because people don't respond to it the way we hope they will.

In today's  world, where everything is on view all the time and personal privacy is almost non-existent, the oppression of public opinion is what is keeping  many of us from regularly DOING THE THING, and doing it badly. Which, of course, is the number one prerequisite for mastery.

So, friends, today I want to encourage you to do your thing, and to do it  badly.

Write shitty poetry. Paint something hilariously bad. Crochet a wonky scarf. Cook a meal that makes people gag. Dance like a fool. Tell  jokes that fall flat.

Then, tomorrow, get up and do it again.  And do it again the next day. And the next. And keep doing it badly until your ego quits and goes to sulk in a corner, leaving you to your  work.

And when you wake up one day and realize you've been  recognized and celebrated by the people you respect the most; that  people want to pay for your work; and you have a line of people waiting to support you and learn from you -- you'll recognize that their opinions on  how good you are don't really matter either.