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  • Maura McCarley Torkildson

Moving Past Creative Blocks in 2018


Thinking about your creative efforts in 2018? I know I am. It’s that time of year where we take stock of this year, and start to plan for next year. If you’re like me, this process includes past and potential creative projects. I like to call them Creative Soul Projects because I live, work and thrive in relationship to my soul purpose and that purpose includes an output of creative Soul Projects.

Sometimes the idea of soul purpose can come with lots of expectations and pressures which can be a bit of heavy weight on our creativity. I’ve been listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s audio book Big Magic and it inspired me to write this newsletter about some creativity killers. So here goes; I will address two creativity killers from my experience.

Getting Ready to be Ready/Perfection.

Okay, let’s just face it, your creative projects are probably not going to exactly match your vision. My creative projects never do, but that is not a bad thing. Part of “getting ready to be ready” is about wanting perfection. Perfection is just some static idea that is just that – static. It can’t possibly meet the moment or ever changing nature of reality. In my experience, the flaws and accidents have often led to the most wonderful outcomes. I actually love when accidents occur in my artwork – well, to be honest, I actually hate it in the midst of the accidental moment, but then I am often so pleasantly surprised at the outcome my work-around. It creates an innovation I would have never thought of in the first place. This tells me something deeper is working through me, which is what I really love. It reminds me how creativity is oracular. There is a large part hubris (speaking of my own) and pressure to think it all comes from me. The muse will have her way! Her way is not always my way. But Her way is beyond mine and I must give way.

Just so, your creative output is not all up to you. If you are a perfectionist, try to let go of your need for perfection, it is NOT serving you. Furthermore, letting it go does not translate into I won’t try hard enough anymore (another myth of perfection that needs close examination). If your experiment fails, you still created. If you are open to it, you also learned from that failed experiment. Most significant of all you had the courage to take action, which can be a very vulnerable thing to do. The action creates its own courage-momentum which increases your ability to live with discomfort. Discomfort is built right into the creative process. It will serve you to accept that truth.

Perfection is rather dogmatic. If you try to apply dogmatic rules to your creativity it will stop you in your tracks. Here’s one dogma I’ve run across: creativity should always flow, if it doesn’t it is somehow wrong. Consider this, sometimes the challenge, struggle, and frustration are the crucible that applies just the right amount of heat and pressure to turn dross into something AMAZING. Other times creativity will just flow. Each project is its own little universe full of variables. Can we really expect creativity to work the same every single time? Remember, creativity is a bit of a trickster, by necessity. Of course there are also times when it actually doesn’t work out and you end up with a tortured mess, but so what? You will learn something from that too. Nothing is lost unless that is the story you want to make up about it. I am not saying there will not be disappointment to grapple with, but trust me, you are capable of the discomfort of disappointment too.

Expectations (about how your creative effort will be received)

This has been a primary creative blocker for me. I had to give up doing artwork for a while due to this one. There was way too much pressure on my art – to make money, to win a prize, to be deemed good, to get approval. Wow! When my focus was on these expectations as I was creating, the results felt tortured and appeared overdone. If I am to be honest, this still happens AND I forgive myself for it. I am human, which means I will always have a need to belong and for approval. But being aware of this need gives me freedom to choose to ignore it and create with abandon. ”Good” is a weighty cultural program. Art critics, publishing houses, corporations, those who fear competition, people in your life who fear for your wellbeing according to their own limiting beliefs, your internal critic - all can imply your creative output will never be good enough to “make it” as a creatrix. It's helpful to examine what it means to be successful, and ask ourselves, does it depend on someone else? Because how anyone else responds is unpredictable and not in your control. What is in your control is how you define “success” or “good” for yourself.

Here are some options that don’t rely on others to define your success:

I increased my skill with this project I learned something new I actually completed the project I trust myself more I had the courage to do it and put myself out there I love what I created even if no one else does It fed my soul to do it I amazed myself I grew

Notice how they all start with I and end with value to self. Now if you actually do amaze someone else with your creative effort, then that is a fantastic, unexpected bonus and wonderful surprise to revel in and celebrate. . Creativity, unlike a court of law, does not come with the heavy burden of right or wrong. It is a process. The burden of right or wrong is too much weight for creativity to carry and still be free to fly.

What mindset will you commit to for yourself to free up your creativity in 2018?

Yours Truly, Maura


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