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Creative Expectations

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So, I've discovered podcasts. I know. I'm late to the party. Honestly, I didn't really want one more way to spend my time. Then I started a day job working for an art school, and one of my tasks is writing blogs. In researching some topics, I noticed there were a lot of references to art blogs -- and I thought, great, there's another blog I can put together! So, I started some experimental listening.

It turned out this was a good decisions, since one blog topic I am writing about is titled "Courage to Paint, Overcoming Masterpiece Anxiety." When I saw the topic listed, I felt a little bit, hello, writer, not painter! Since I didn't feel completely qualified to brainstorm the topic on my own, I hit Google. I ended up reading articles ranging from how to beat anxiety all the way to why do people even need employment. Yep, it's gonna be a humdinger of a blog. And, writing it is next on today's to do list. While I was searching, I discovered this art blog called Art Juice. They had an episode titled "Managing Expectations," and I found a gold mine of quotes there for my work blog.

I also realized, all creative brains, no matter what their medium, have similar struggles. I can't tell you how many times I -- and other writers I know -- have admitted that their emotional pendulum swings from, "This story I just wrote is Pulitzer worthy; damn I'm good!" to "I am such a loser, and I completely suck, and I don't even deserve to own a computer let alone even think about being any kind of writer!" Because, painter or writer, we have creative, ego-driven brains, and what we love to do leaves us open and exposed. It's kind of like that moment your boss is viewing the report you worked on. Only, you feel that way for a moment. We live there.

Writers have expectations, the same as any other creatives. And those expectation set us up for frustration, despair, and even writer's block or the desire to quit when our expectations are not met. As William Shakespeare said, "Expectation is the root of all heartache."

So, let's take a look at an indie author's (me) expectations.

  1. I expect to write good stories.

  2. I expect readers to love them.

  3. I expect people to buy my books.

  4. I expect my reputation and my business to grow.

  5. I expect to quit my day job at some point and write full-time.

That's just a tip of the iceberg kind of list. When I look at this list, though, I realize there actually isn't a single thing there which I can control. I can write the best book I know how to write. I can learn, and study, and grow, and improve. I can persevere, and market, and exercise diligence, and make plans, and build relationships, and get my books out there. In other words, I can do the work. Ultimately, though, there are zero guarantees other than I am not gonna get enough sleep, and I am gonna make mistakes along the way, and some people are not gonna be supportive when there is an easier, more direct path to the success they want for themselves and envision for me.

Except, this writing life is the life I want for me. So, from time to time, I need to manage, or adjust, my expectations.

In the Art Juice podcast, Managing Expectations, one of the hosts is asking herself what it means "to count as a Proper Artist." She realizes what she is doing, and that it is ridiculous. She is right. Yet, in so many words, all creatives do that to themselves. They expect to measure up to some sort of standard which too often is not even defined. And that is an impossible, frustrating task.

According to Alice Sheridan and Louise Fletcher of Art Juice, there is a difference between intention and expectation.

Expectations are different from dreams or goals or desires. Expectations are, 'I'm going to get this, and I'm just waiting for when it happens.' Intention means, 'I'm going to go and do the work.' Expectation says that things will [just] happen... Expectation is almost 'bring it on, I'm here. I'm waiting for what's going to happen, what's due to me.' And intention is, 'right, I'm going to go out and make sure these paintings [novels] get seen.'

Their advice is, "When you feel a crushing sense of disappointment, ask yourself what expectation was underneath this feeling, so you can question it" (Managing Expectations:

Art Juice podcast. Episode 119 Managing Expectations: Alice Sheridan and Louise Fletcher.).

That is undeniably good advice.

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1 Comment

Leigh Macfarlane
Leigh Macfarlane
Jun 17, 2021

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