The Pressures of Creativity

To this day, I can remember the feeling I had when I graduated from college. While most of my fellow classmates were making plans, I was floundering in a sea of unknowns. I had chosen English as a major because I loved everything about the written word…not because I wanted to be a teacher or a journalist. I was one of those nerds who actually liked diagramming sentences, and I felt much more comfortable with my nose buried in a book or my head in the clouds than I did with picking a career path.

Years later, I gave myself permission to pick the path of writing. Yet, as I graduated with my MFA in Fiction, I still felt uncertain about the future. I felt even more disappointed in myself. I had just spent two years on a story that I had begun several years prior, but it was still nowhere near to being finished.

And wasn’t that the point of going back to school…so I could “write my damn book”?

Since graduating, I’ve found myself longing to return to my story. At the same time, I’m afraid I’ll never finish it. The pressure I’ve placed on myself to make creativity happen has seemingly brought my creativity to a halt.

I still have dreams of being a published author. I still get excited with the thought of walking into a bookstore and seeing my book on the shelf. I’m terrified, though. I’m terrified that what I think is good won’t be good enough. And if it is good enough, I’m terrified I’ll never create something as good again.

Maybe I’ve brought my creativity to a halt on purpose.

In a recent post, Loryn Cole notes that we, as humans, are always looking forward because “[w]e tend to prefer the optimism of beginnings to the loss and goodbyes of endings.” Our techy-culture has molded us to live with a “what’s next?” mentality.

I, as much as anyone, love the thrill of starting a new project. I enjoy the planning stage especially. But just as I don’t know how to fill the plot holes in my current story, at the moment I don’t have any new projects waiting in the wings. So maybe my stalling is intentional…

Maybe I’ve spent so much time imagining my story in my head that I don’t want to allow it to be finished on the page. Maybe I’m not ready to let it go.

In a way, I suppose that’s okay. As Cole explains, “When you allow yourself to be driven by what interests you and your own creativity, you don’t have to constantly ask yourself: ‘What’s next?'” And just as we shouldn’t feel pressured to create the next thing for the sake of creating the next thing, we shouldn’t feel rushed to end one project just to start another. “[I]f we focus only on the ‘new’ and ‘next,’ we deprive ourselves of the richness of endings and the reflection we find there,” Cole states. “We all need space to absorb our experiences, even if it means stepping off the treadmill of production, or disrupting the flow of consumption.”

And so I’m floating once again in a sea of unknowns. I’m rediscovering how to allow my creativity to flow. One day, others will be able to find my book on a shelf. But for now, I’m holding onto my story a bit longer…so I can have it just for myself.

Katie Signature001


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