Practicing the art of no expectations
At the moment I'm trying to practice the art of no expectations. What's that, I hear you ask? Let me explain. ... You see recently I started a new creative project - the next Stop Look Breathe Create book, in fact. (Woop! I'm very excited.) And I am, as we always are at the beginning of new projects, full of enthusiasm and expectations. This book's been brewing in my head for a long time and inevitably, along with all the sensible and necessary planning (how many chapters, what kind of structure, what practices) there's been a certain amount of rose-tinted daydreaming too. Which is all pretty normal for us human beings, and we mostly recognise these kinds of expectations for what they are, fantasy, but still it's good to be mindful of them.
What expectations do we have at the beginning of creative projects?
But there are often other more subtle and less helpful expectations lurking around for us at the start of projects, such as - 'I'll feel good about myself if I do this project.' Or just 'Doing this will feel good.' Or 'This will go the way I want it to.' We may even have negative expectations, ones that slither up from the places inside where we feel least confident - 'I won't be able to pull it off. It never turns out right,' those expectant voices say. We might even start a project with the expectation - 'I'm going to fuck-it-up'.
I've found that a commitment to being mindful at the start of projects, especially big ones, is VERY helpful, for catching these little seed expectations as they start sprouting. It stops me falling into an expectation-trap of my own creating later on. So, in case it helps you notice your own habits of expectation, I thought I'd share what I've noticed this time.
Working with our expectations
Mostly I've noticed a LOT of expectations around the illustrations for the new book, mainly that they'll look a certain way. This kind of expectation was one I had to be mindful of persistently when I was doing the last book. Calling something an 'illustration' in my own head seemed to turn the normally simple act of drawing into something way more complicated!
And that's because of expectations of course. I drew without expectation, but I was illustrating for a purpose; the drawings needed to be of a certain standard so that they were of 'publishable quality.' They were a teaching tool too, so they needed to illustrate the creative mindfulness process I was sharing with you.
This meant I tended to have a strong idea of what needed to go down on the page before I even started - which made for very stressful experiences when what I wanted to happen just wasn't happening, and the drawings weren't turning into the illustrations I needed. And my goodness, was it easy under these circumstances for my perfectionistic streak to kick in! And once that was combined with expectation, I was really in trouble.
Mindfulness & playfulness as an antidote to expectation
The solution to this was, of course, more mindfulness, more self-compassion and lots of PLAY! Then, and this time too, I'm choosing to forget about illustrating, forget about getting it right, and just have fun with it. This is a mindful and deliberate act of letting-go, of choosing no expectations. So much so that I forget that I'm illustrating and just draw, collage, paint and write. If I notice the expectations and holding-on to outcomes slipping in again - then I simply do more Stop Look Breathe before I Create. This helps me stay kind, stay true to myself and the practice, and in a way true to you lovely lot too. Because I want this book to be authentic and created in the right spirit, so that you can feel encouraged to create that way also.