First, my apologies for not writing my weekly blog yesterday. I was caught up in, and thoroughly enjoying, writing manuscript #5, and I didn’t think about my blog until it was too late in the evening. However, I suppose that does go along with the topic for this week. Have you noticed that our own expectations are what get us in the most trouble? For example, I expect to develop a topic sometime during the week, and then sit down on Sunday afternoon and fill the screen with a thousand words or so about helping others in their creative projects. When I miss a Sunday, I know my regular readers will catch up later in the week or at another time. The only one disappointed, is me. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: no expectations, no disappointments.
The same goes for creating. If we expect that every time we make a pie, the crust will be flakey and light, the filling divine, and others will ask for the recipe, we may be upset when the center is still gooey or the crust is burned. If we write, and from experience expect that an hour every evening at 7 PM will create six pages, and then we miss an evening due to dining with a friend or a phone call from our mother, there might be guilt attached to ‘not living up’ to our expectations. Sometimes this can lead to rigidity, which for many artists, is like putting a kink in the garden hose. Too many rules, too many expectations of everything being great every time, causes the critic to take the throne, stifling the muse.
As creators of music, poetry, stories, dance, food, pictures, or sculptures, we walk a fine line between setting aside the critic and entertaining the muse. Too much of one or the other, and the work is either mediocre or too frou frou to do much with it. We can schedule a time and a place to create. The critic can be heard, and then set aside. The muse can be released, questioned, smiled upon. But one must beware of the expectation snag. To expect the muse to show up on cue, the critic to remain silent while ‘work’ is being completed, to expect that everything created is worthy of awards (especially without editing), or to expect ourselves, as human beings and those who bring forth amazing, enlightening, colorful creations each and every day, is a set up for an absolute shut down.
In previous blogs, I’ve written about letting go of guilt for not meeting a ‘goal’, or when ‘intention’ is unfulfilled. However, I’ve also shared my thoughts on creating, no matter what arises that may attempt to keep us from our creative projects. Like anything else in our lives that we attempt, if there isn’t the drive, some standard that we hold ourselves to, some ‘expectation’, then, really, nothing would ever get accomplished. So, set your intention. Have all the materials you’ll need at the ready. Listen briefly to the critic, then indulge the muse. Play with it. Balance it out. What works for you? What makes it easy, more joy filled? What creates difficulty? Most importantly (maybe), check out your expectations.
If ‘best-seller’ status is expected each time you pick up the pen or place your fingers on your keyboard, and there’s difficulty in the flow of the story, or life tosses in a flopping fish, or the manuscript has sat for months without being worked on, how’s the expectation now? Feeling kind of depressed? Disappointed? Angry or upset with yourself? What about name calling? The question is: if we fail to meet our expectations and indulge in the ego’s version of the self-inflicted gallows, what suffers? The spark within each of us that relies on us for tender care, and our creativity. The most devastating crime would be for the expectations to be such that if they were not realized, that the muse fades away, giving way to the critic and its ticket-tape parade of “I told you so’s”. And where’s the joy in that? Gone with the muse.
Did you know that I’ve also started a teaching blog and a yoga blog? What I’ve discovered, however, is that none of them exist in isolation. They all swirl around and lend themselves to all areas of my life. For example, when I teach in my classroom, I employ creativity as well as the teachings of yoga. When I’m participating in yoga, there is a spontaneous creativity in each pose. And when I write, well, the yogic teachings are there, as well as the use of proper grammar. So, follow along as I illustrate what I mean. Yoga says that we create our own suffering. Sure, I intended to sit down and write tonight for a couple of hours, but since I flaked on doing this blog yesterday, I’m now shuffling one for the other (yes, they are both writing, both creating in the flow, but there’s something about manuscript #5 that emerged last night that makes we want to crawl back between the pages and see what else there is). I can feel really horrible about not getting my blog written, after all, I expect to update once a week and when I don’t, there is room for all kinds of ‘feeling bad’. That’s the suffering, the optional misery. So I missed writing my blog. I refuse to whip myself with a wet noodle or a stream of hurtful words. Hard to do? It was harder before I learned what yoga has to offer. Artful living (read: joyful) is available when I can surrender to swapping one action for another, accepting what occurred and responding in kind. If you don’t create the perfect pie, the great masterpiece, the poem that awards you Poet Laureate, can you let it go and accept what is? Or will you wallow in your disappointment because your expectations were astoundingly difficult to reach?
I always offer at least one suggestion to try out for yourself, to experiment and see what works for you. If you create with the expectation that it will be perfect, and it isn’t, then what? If you create because it makes you happy and you have little or no expectations for the outcome, will you always be surprised? Or depressed? In my experience, my muse pouts when I set expectations, wanting everything to be perfect the first time around. I tell my critic it will get its time. Right now, the story needs to come, and I’ll allow the characters to do what they will, the setting to supply the objects in the environment, the plot to unfold in a way that entices interest. Later, after the story is completed and I’ve read through it a couple of times, then I ask the critic to arrive on the scene. Then my expectations are raised as I want to offer the very best I can to my readers. And if there are typos, an extra space, a comma splice, the question is, can I surrender to what is, or will the failure to reach my expectation of perfection withdraw the joy of the creative process? Create without expecting, and see if your muse isn’t smiling a bit brighter.
I am expecting my NEW web site to be completed soon. My fourth manuscript, Of Prophesies and Promises, I expect will be in print by June 1. I expect you’d want to view a few sample chapters of my first three novels, so go here: www.myjoyenterprises.com And now, I expect that I’ll have a little time to spend with Carli and Ethan, Zach and Alyssa, and the funeral for Bear Tanner. If not? I can accept that my intention was not fulfilled, but I’ll have no extra misery. There’s enough of that already in this world.