Messy PaintArtists of all types have a bit of performance anxiety. It looks different depending on the modality and venue. Actors and dancers can get adrenalized before a performance, rehearsal, or tryout/audition, visual artists worry about the response to a particular piece or showing, writers try to not value the reviews even while they are reading them with an acid stomach. Creating is a vulnerable process. If we care enough to make it, we usually care enough to want at least a neutral response and to avoid negative ones. Most art and craftsmanship is a conversation between the maker and the materials, between their inner life and the external world, and sometimes even between their soul and the universe.  There is magic in that sweet union between the creator and the moment of creation, when the musician becomes the music, then the dancer isn’t just dancing, they have become the dance and time seems to stand still or become irrelevant.

It takes a dedicated person to make a life out of what they create. Being a creator means being in what amounts to an intimate partnership with creating. People talk about having to make sacrifices for their art, but we don’t think of it as sacrificing when we fall in love with someone. If they need us to move across country and we want to share our lives with them, then we do, not as a sacrifice, but as a joy. Some creating requires special diets and exercise regimes. Others require long amounts of solitude while others require that the creator remove the normal social filters and truly see people at a level that is both uncomfortable and revelatory. And almost all lives of creating involve a financial life which is as fluid as the medium used to create.

Yet people have for hundreds of years looked on the life of a creator as a means to fulfill their dreams of a stable financial life, as a way to achieve the life they want, with abundant freedom, and the ability to create whatever they want whenever they want. Unfortunately, this becomes a variation of the joke “You can have two of these three, but you need to choose which two…”  So many creative endeavors are crushed under the weight of financial  expectations even before they have come into being. Creators judge not only whether or not they will receive the funds they need, which can never really be determined with any certainty, and then start judging whether it is worth making or doing at all, which leads to them not creating. Because who can create freely in the face of such high expectations?!!!  It’s not that artists and craftsmen are unable to make a living at what they do, some of them can. But exponentially more don’t and multitudes more don’t even try because the expectation stops them in their tracks.

So before you crush your unique and exquisite gifts, why not set them free from expectations. At least give them the chance to exist before you ask them to go get a job and support you. 😉