Lower Your Expectations of Your Creative Work

Expectations are the bully pointing out your flaws as you walk into the gym. They’re the nag telling you to quit because “You’re probably not going to measure up anyway.”

Expectations help give you a foundation for what you are trying to accomplish in linear, non-creative work, like building a house or cooking a meal. However, for creative work, expectations can be a liability.

When I sat down to write this, I asked myself what I most needed a refresher on right now. I had a few ideas, and they seemed pretty grand, and I noticed fear inside myself keeping me from doing it. Then I remembered the power of lowering my expectations. It’s very freeing. Like taking off your swimsuit underwater when nobody is looking (not that I would know).

The counterpoint, of course, would be that without knowing where you are going, you will surely get there… nowhere. But I find that not to be the case with creative tasks like writing. It’s almost like they take shape as you write. As though there was a final outcome predestined and all you have to do is show up to punch the keys.

It’s quite a fun experience to write something and see yourself creating without really knowing where it’s coming from.

Give yourself permission to be an amateur, a novice, a beginner. It’s only in this state that we learn. The expert learns nothing and fades into irrelevance.

The first site I built, I had no expectations. The only expectation was that I would build a site. It ended up being a humor site dedicated to videos. But that’s not what I set out to build. It was great. Afterward, I had trouble replicating that success, because I had expectations. I had created something viral, how would I do it again? It really jammed me up. Now when I start something, I have to remember that not everything I do has to be for a particular outcome. I try to get more in tune with the work itself and wanting to do it for its sake.

It’s easier to be authentic when you don’t have expectations. When you let go of your expectations, then you can explore things you might not have otherwise.

Hope, on the other hand, is a softer guide. I can have hope for a work, without having an expectation. For instance, my hope for this article is that it’s helpful. If not to anyone else, but to me. When I forget and get wrapped around the axle with expectations, I hope I remember to return here and get back to lowering my expectations.

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