I recently wrote about the ducklings, and I have to do it again. One, because #adorable. And two, because they really do teach me so much about the creative process. About life.
They hit a milestone the other day when one of the girls got her quack. It’s a pretty fun discovery – after two weeks of peeping like a baby bird, suddenly one day that peeping squeaks out as a hnnnk! An actual sound, if not yet distinctly a quack. It’s a bit like a young child squeaking out a sound on a trumpet. It’s not an actual note, but an audible noise for the very first time.
And the look on the duck’s face is just like that child’s – a mixture of surprise and delight that leaves them beaming with pride, and keeps them trying to replicate the experience.
The thing I love about this moment is the pure joy of it all. It’s the moment when our creativity surprises us, before we build expectation into the mix. Before we insist that our skills match our vision, that our muse bend to our every whim.
It’s the moment when we exclaim, Look, I did a thing! And it’s enough.
But then we start to blanket it with expectations. I must be good at This Thing. I must be Better than everyone else. I must have a Vision and an Aesthetic and I must be able to do it Every Day, flawlessly, consistently. And if that all isn’t enough, It must all be Easy.
What takes us away from enough and into the Land of Expectation? Why do we seek to trade the joy of experience for something that hinges on uncertainty, and is arguably less meaningful? We willingly wrap our delicate flower of creative expression in layers of pressure – pressure that will only crush the thing that brought us joy in the first place.
This is a challenge many creative professionals have faced at one point or another: the thing they love becomes work. It becomes tethered to a particular outcome: an amount of money, a certain response, a future opportunity. When that outcome doesn’t happen, or if it doesn’t keep expanding over time, we’re disappointed. We tie our joy to what our creative work gets us, not to the process itself.
I get it – and don’t get me wrong; I do it myself. It’s a hard habit to break. We’re so used to climbing some sort of achievement ladder that the process of needing more, wanting more, seeking more has become the default.
But what if it wasn’t?
What if we left the Land of Expectation and intentionally sought to rediscover our passion? What if we chose to do what we love simply for the joy of it all?