I just spent 16 hours in a car over the last 2 days as my wife, my daughter, and I all zipped off to a vacation. I spent a lot of that time listening to podcasts, and so many of them happened to talk about being creative, calling yourself “a creative” vs. “an artist”, and similar conversations. I listened to a lot of people talk about their creative endeavors, and getting inspired to pursue mine.
But, since I was stuck in a car, my mind instead wandered to “why do I have such a hard time actually being creative?”
I have so many random creative projects in flight. An incomplete list:
- A new EP (which may be on hold - see my last post if you’re curious0
- A D&D campaign I’d like to get back to running, which is a prelude to…
- A D&D campaign I’d like to actually get written so I can run it at some point
- Learning Swift, so I can make a couple iOS apps
- Learning how to draw
- Learning how to crochet
I have absurd admiration for people who create things from scratch, and every once in a while I’ll get the itch to try, or get back to trying, my own hand at it. But I’ve got a problem.
I talked last time about my endeavors with learning to play piano. I always saw my music as a creative outlet, but what I did was more about precision and exactness. About perfection. If it wasn’t perfect, I had to drill it over and over again until it was. If I had any sort of creative flourish to add to something, too bad, that’s not how the piece was written, can’t do that.
After more than a dozen years of that, I’m unable to just create, or even just try something - it must be perfect, or it’s no good.
Take NaNoWriMo, for example. (For the uninitiated, NNWM is an event during the month of November where people attempt to write a 50,000 word story, which would be the length of a typical novel.) I’ve attempted NNWM 3 times previously. I make it maaaaaybe 3 days before my brain goes “no, you ding dong, you need to go back and edit what you’ve already written,” which goes against the spirit of the event. You’re supposed to just write, and write, and write some more.
There’s a saying about race cars that the most important element is the brakes. It doesn’t matter how fast your car can go, or how easily you can turn, if you can’t stop. I have the inverse problem - my brakes are TOO good. When it comes time to hit the gas and accelerate, my car is held back like the parking brake is permanently on, because well what if I need to change directions suddenly?
And don’t get me started on learning new things. I’ve always wanted to learn how to draw, but I remember in 5th and 6th grade that my “drawing” skills were actually me just tracing the final examples in a “learn to draw” book. I started trying to teach myself again last fall, and I did about 2 or 3 things before I went “wow this is kinda tough!” and not touching it again. When it’s not perfect right away, I go “ugh this sucks” and give up. Which is a horrible mentality to have… and yet.
I wish I could turn off the part of my brain that equates perfection with success. I wish I could be ok with learning something new, or making something with imperfections, instead of being annoyed and frustrated with it not sparkling like a gem.