BY DEB LUND, April 19, 2013
“Just BE (Ban Expectations) — but not all of them!”
I dabble in the arts. Some more than others. I write, I paint, I act, I sing, I dance; (mostly to annoy my children) I play some instruments, and I study the creative process and support others with their creative projects and ideas. And this is my confession. Expectations get in my way. And checking around with others, I’m finding it’s not just me. It’s every writer and artist I know. But we couldn’t create without expectations.
“Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate expression.” (Isaac Bashevis Singer)
I’ve surveyed many creative people about this, and they concur — no creative project ever comes out the way it’s imagined. The doing conflicts with the dream, but that’s how we tend to judge it — how close it is to our preconceived ideas. But here comes the catch. We can’t ban all those expectations. We also need expectations to accomplish our dreams.
“We tend to get what we expect.” (Norman Vincent Peale)
I have amazing ideas. Ideas that I expect will wow the world. Until I put them on paper. When I begin a new story, I know nothing about writing. I know I’m an imposter and the writing police will be on to me soon and I’ll have to give up this gig.
“Nothing you write, if you hope to be any good, will ever come out as you first hoped.” (Lillian Hellman)
My author/illustrator friend Jesse Watson and I talk about how we continue on a day-to-day basis using “Delusion as Motivation.” We hope beyond hope. And then, once our creative projects take on life, we have to block out the parts of our initial vision that obviously aren’t going to be part of the project before us. Once a project is underway, look at it with new eyes. Like some people you meet, first impressions aren’t always correct. The strange thing is, if you’re willing to reconsider your response to what you created (and if you’re a parent, you already know about this), some of those missed expectations can actually make your project unique, more fun, more poignant… More.
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” (Scott Adams)
Whidbey Island Center for the Arts (WICA) added another performance of “The Full Monty” to accommodate all the requests from lightening word-of-mouth recommendations. Group productions like this carry additional expectations because you’re not only dealing with the expectations you have for yourself. There are expectations that lines and music are learned, sets are built, choreography is incorporated, and so many more. Sheila Weidendorf, musical director and pianist for the WICA “Monty” production says, “Without such expectation — and the building of trust that this is all possible — I don’t know that we could have built such tremendous cohesion … After all, such a production as this is truly ‘all hands on deck’ and we must expect the best from each other in making the vision a reality, through many, many long hours of hard work!”
Weidendorf adds that there is not a “one-size-fits-all” method to “drawing forth depth from each cast member, so the artistic director, musical director, and choreographer must each be both true to their own respective spheres of expertise, and remain flexible with each other and the collective cast.” Her advice is to “Expect the world, desire to experience your medium fully… But always, always remain open to the gift lying in wait in the process that you cannot possible foresee.”
Let’s make a pact to stay open, to not be so quick to judge.
Take another look at those projects you decided were a waste of your time, energy, or money. Whidbey Island story-catcher Christina Baldwin says to “Replace judgment with curiosity.” Imagine if we did that every time we created something.
During school author visits, I show kids my “sloppy copy” of Miss Midge, a story about my inner critic who’s “tough as a tractor and built like a fridge.” This draft has more scribbles, arrows, and margin notes than words remaining in the draft. I show them this so they can dispel that vision of authors effortlessly writing perfect manuscripts. It takes time. It takes work.
No one would expect to play the Snow Queen in Whidbey Island Dance Theater’s “Nutcracker” without dance lessons or have their artwork hung in the Rob Schouten Gallery at the Greenbank Farm like Anne Belov and other Whidbey artists without putting in time with a paintbrush or other tools of artistic trades. And if Gloria Ferry-Brennan hadn’t continued on violin since her Island Strings Pre-Twinkle class, she wouldn’t be the national success she is today.
Give yourself permission to do art badly for as long as it takes to turn bad into better. To let go of the vision you had in order to celebrate what you have. And then, persisting beyond sense, seek higher expectations without smothering hope.
Make mistakes, be curious …
And when necessary, ban expectations!
Deb Lund is a children’s author, creativity coach, and a mom who creates in the middle of chaos. If you love the topic of creativity half as much as she does (or maybe despise it and want that to change), check out Deb’s “Creativity Café” Facebook page and her blog Deb Lund ad lib.