Sunday, August 26, 2012

Expectation Escalation

How many of us, as creative artists, are regularly paralyzed by the seemingly overwhelming tasks in front of us? The biggest obstacle to surmount is also the biggest asset we have... our conceptual nature! We tend to see the greatness of the finished product in our minds, but we're unable to understand or deal with the smaller chunks of tasks required to get there. It's this inability to define the "next thing" that causes us to shut down, completely discouraged by how impossible it is to do anything worthwhile. I call it "expectation escalation"—comparing everything we do to the best thing we've ever done— and "comparisonitis"— comparing everything we do to the best things anyone has ever done. (I'm guilty of both on a regular basis and it freezes my creative possibilities when I allow it.) Because the world tends to be driven by results, we are pulled right along with it. Process loses all value and we get swept up into the current of "what have you done for me lately?" We want greatness, but we're not always willing to pay the price for it. So what is the price of greatness? 


We forget that nothing happens all at once. No great work of art, entrepreneurial venture or feat of architecture appears spontaneously out of thin air. Each required months or even years of experimentation, learning, crafting and even blood, sweat and tears. This is in addition to the years of training each artist had to forgo and undergo in order to simply begin such a project. The thing to remember is that we are not going for the quick pay off. If the goal is to use your creativity as a means to get rich quick or to be famous... best wishes! But please know that you will eventually find yourself right back in the place of the beginner, desperately looking for meaning in what you make. If, however, you pay the price to develop disciplines and discover who you truly are as an artist, then you have something sustainable and meaningful to say. Art and life... is about improvisation, discovery and awe. It is about leaning over the edge and staring deep into the abyss. It's about staring into our own inadequacies and, just as we think we might come up short, finding the answer that we need was there all the time. As we create we not only reveal a reality, we reveal ourselves. It is important that we not allow expectation escalation and comparisonitis to suffocate us. 

No comments: