I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways to increase your creativity. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will share posts that focus on caregiving. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is X for Eliminate eXpectations.
Expectations are a good thing, though…right? Well, sometimes. But usually, when you eliminate expectations you are also removing psychological roadblocks in the way of your creativity. What do I mean by that? Here’s an example.
Would you believe square A is the exact same shade of gray as square B?
Copyrighted free use, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59829
But what does an optical illusion have to do with creative expectations?
When we compare our work to the work of others, it changes how we see it.
When I was in the 8th grade, we had a teacher who liked to tell us, “Blowing out someone else’s candle won’t make yours burn brighter.” It wasn’t original to him but it stayed with me all of these years. We aren’t in a competition. Yet we often end up blowing out our own candle!
“I wish I could write like that.”
“I’ll never be as good as her.”
Whenever you compare your work to someone else’s, you will run into issues related to expectations. This can be really difficult to combat when you consider how much media we take in every day, often related to your area of creative expertise. As a reader, I read all the time, and I learn from it. But I have to be careful not to judge my writing by comparing it to someone else’s. They have their voice and I have mine. There’s room enough in this world for both.
Eliminate expectations of what your writing (or any creative project) should be like. Instead, work on it as if it is in a vacuum, completely independent of anyone else’s.
Don’t limit yourself to someone else’s expectations
Whether those expectations are high or low, this can be a problem. Trying to live up to someone’s high expectations can leave you feeling discouraged when you miss the mark. And when someone makes it clear that they have low expectations, you can feel just as bad—if not worse.
Instead, be open to possibilities. Block out the noise when other people make remarks about how they anticipate you will do as a writer or artist.
When I was younger, I was a talented artist, able to draw very realistic pictures of anything I saw. I was particularity good at portraits. Then, one day my dad asked me why I never did any “real art.” Everything I did was realistic, not “creative.” This wounded me terribly. I stopped making the art I loved and tried more fantasy based art that meant nothing to me. I was just trying to win his approval. And I got it, but I lost my love of drawing and painting because what I was doing no longer meant anything to me. Ultimately, I quit.
That was an immature response to what I’m sure my dad meant as encouragement. But even now, it hurts to think about what I lost.
Eliminate expectations of your work being like your past work
You might stop short of your work being the best it can be because it is better than something you’ve done in the past. So you are satisfied. But what if it could have been even better? While you can learn from work you’ve done in the past, don’t unintentionally be limited by it.
Stop reciting should haves, could haves, and would haves from your vocabulary in relationship to your creativity. They only make you feel like you’ve missed the mark. Instead, look for opportunities to turn lemons into lemonade.
You can still use “mistakes” from past work in the future
Maybe you messed up on something and you’re ready to throw it in the trash because it doesn’t meet the expectations you had when you first set out to work on the project. It might not be what you ultimately need, but it could be something completely different. Many writers, including myself, never throw out their mistakes. Often when I am editing, I eliminate whole chapters because they don’t fit in with the book well enough to stay there. I can always use them as a basis for something in the future. So, I keep a file of documents on my computer with ideas, characters, and whole chapters of non-fiction work that I can use in the future.
When you eliminate expectations from your creative life, you get a purer perspective.
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What are YOUR thoughts?
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I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.
I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.