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The Missed Art of Expectations

How releasing expectations can unlock our creatives selves.

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One of the biggest challenges people face when starting a creative expression practice is overcoming the fear of expectations. Regardless of the person or form of expression, there is typically a concern with how the process should unfold, what the outcome should look like, or what type of transformation the experience should lend itself to be.

As a creator, we hope our expressions are valued, admired, or appreciated. Over time, the accumulation of these expectations eventually develops into a series of immovable mental and emotional blocks. Blocks that become cemented into place creating a wall too challenging to overcome.

When expectations aren’t met, it is common for a creator to question whether the art is art at all. Unfortunately, this places an emphasis on what is seen and prevents an ability to appreciate what is felt when creating or viewing the piece. When this happens, authenticity is often replaced with a question of achievement and the creative flow is stifled.

To break through emergent blocks, I encourage participants in my SketchPoetic workshops to focus on the present moment. This frame of mind is not confined by any measure of the past, nor is it preoccupied with visions of the future. Instead, it requires an awareness of emotions as they transpire. It also encourages a release of these emotions without analysis or judgment. This approach is the antithesis of grappling with expectations. It is a necessary step in creatively expressing an authentic experience. 

The emotional impact of art has always been understood. Art can capture imagination, engender hope, embody dreams, and inspire movements. It is a representation of one’s innermost self and an effort to make the intangible, tangible. The uniting factor in these qualities is not necessarily the visual component or a specific social acclaim, but rather the essence of its felt experience. Throughout its life, a piece of art makes its greatest impact through feeling.

However, this type of impact can only be created with the detachment from any preconceived expectations and the ability to maintain curiosity. A creator must learn to step away from the thought of a particular outcome and replace it with a willingness to travel deeper into the process. In other words, surrendering into what is unfolding internally as their piece is developing externally. This style of interacting with art bolsters creative expression as a tool for self-reflection, self-care, and self-healing.

There is not a correct way to stoke or maintain curiosity. This practice will vary from person to person, and from creator to audience. The most important aspect to keep in mind is the act of surrendering into the present moment and allowing whatever is found to inspire creativity. Cultivating what is commonly referred to as a “beginner’s mindset” can be helpful with further relinquishing expectations.

Ask yourself if you are genuinely paying attention to what your eyes are scanning over, within, and in front of you. Then, ask yourself what could change if you embodied the energy of an explorer surveying uncharted land with a notebook in hand; or a child adventuring into a new place with wild abandon and imagination.

How often do we allow ourselves to get lost in the moment? To take a detour beyond our best laid plans and to do so without expectations or a wanting in our hearts.

Ask yourself, what expectations are you holding on to and what experiences are you missing because of it?

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