Creativity as Practice: honing a craft can mean letting go of expectations

Studio by John Lambert Pearson

Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. ― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

With every chapter that I write in this dissertation, I am conducting a second area of research. I am constantly evaluating and refining my own creative process. In the past year have identified how many hours I can write reliably per day without burning out (4-6), what times of day are best for working (mornings), what outlets I need during the rest of my day in order to feel energized during working hours (exercise, eating, time connecting with friends and family). I have learned to watch myself power through my own doubts and fears about completing a chapter, have learned to work my way through an argument allowing it to transform into something unexpected, and to trust that, as I write, the insights that I can only intuit at the beginning of a project will eventually find their shape by the conclusion.

I’ve noticed that I sometimes enjoy the process of honing my craft more than I do the finished product.

In part, that’s because I rarely, if ever, meet my own expectations for a project, perfectionist that I am. But recognizing how much I enjoy the process of creating something allows me to let go of the inevitable mistakes I make along the way — critical for getting around writer’s block and getting down to the business of actually working!

Lily Percy’s post this morning for my favorite npr program On Being, reminded me of how often times great accomplishments require us to let go of expectations of greatness. She advocates striving for curiosity instead of success — following our own impulses to learn new things, play new instruments, essentially to live creative lives — without attaching ourselves too fervently to the outcomes of our work.

We too often give up projects because we fear that we lack the talent to create the masterpieces we see around us, but in doing so we not only form barriers that inhibit our innate urge for personal growth, we also detach ourselves from the joy of pursuing our various goals.

I’ve found that my hobbies are the perfect place to remind myself of the joy of sustained practice for its own sake. I wrote about how running informs my writing last year, but artistic endeavors are especially good for supporting the creative mind.

What hobbies and interests do you have an interest in pursuing for their own sake? How do they inform your work and enrich your life?

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