Great Expectations


A lot of energy can go into trying to make sure you don’t make something “bad.”

Playing it safe, doing what you know, or simply not making anything at all–just to really seal the deal.

The thing is, do you really know when you’ve made something “bad?”

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that what you made didn’t meet your expectations.

And perhaps it’s those expectations that need re-examining.

Are they accurate? Fair? Helpful?

Do they leave room for experimenting? Practice? Being a beginner?

What are you asking of this one moment in time? Of this particular object or artwork?

I personally have had family members retrieve work out of my garbage pile that is hanging on their walls right now–work I now actually like myself.

Things I thought were bad because they didn’t meet my expectations.

When we stop and consider what our expectations are, we become aware of their actual existence, and that can be an eye-opener.

Because usually they’re harsh and unforgiving. And usually, we mistake them for reality–for the nature of things–like the air we breathe.

And when you experience your expectations as the nature of things instead of thoughts, you’re stuck with the unhappiness they cause.

But they’re just thoughts. And while they might be compelling, they’re only permanent as long as you remain hypnotized by their stories.

This is a huge relief. Because even if you’re not sure yet how to let go of these harsh expectations, how to stop believing their lies, once you realize they aren’t the truth, they’re no longer quite so in charge as before.

Not that it’s easy. Lord knows.

And certainly, throughout it all, we all want to make work that we care about, feel proud of, think is “good.” That’s natural.

And I know that as long as I continue to make things, I’ll continue to think some of them are “bad” and you know, some of them will be.

I just won’t always be right about which ones. And neither will you.

And, just as important to realize, it works the other way too.

Something you love right now may not do it for you in the long run–may not have the staying power you…..expected.

Which almost makes it funny, really. How perverse our expectations are. How unimportant and relative. How little they have to do with our creative essence.

They simply don’t deserve the serious attention we give them.

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  1. Nat says:

    It’s easy to forget that we choose our own expectations voluntarily, and we should be choosing helpful ones.

    I like this analogy: thoughts that hold us back are about as useful as a chocolate teapot. :-)

    Thanks for another uplifting, insightful post, Sarah!

  2. caryn says:

    hey there!
    glad you didn’t post yesterday –
    hope you had a FAB day!! full of smiles

  3. Bobbi says:

    I saved this in my Spiritual file. You touched not only my heart, but also my head. I will need to read this again and again. Thank y ou!

  4. CathieG says:

    Funny how you posted this just as I am having one of my melt downs that none of my work is any good. Doesn’t matter the praise (although that does help :-) . It doesn’t meet the quality of work I want it to. Think I have a split personality…one side says you are an artist..the other says you are a fraud…I know this feeling will pass and I will keep plugging along. One thing I have started realizing is that I should take joy in the process of making/creating something and not think about making something everyone will love..if I am just producing ..what fun it that???

  5. Yona says:

    Thanks Sarah, as always yr reminders r helpful… I had to drastically reduce my expectations for my show…

  6. I think, in todays world, so much pressure is put on the creative person to crank out perfect work we tend to get caught up in unrealistic expectations.
    I have learned over a long time that I usually *know* when something is good. I also still make stinkers, and they go into a pile FOR REVIEW LATER.
    -When I have detatched from the work emotionally
    -When I want to rethink something
    -When I need a substrate already textured
    ….and numerous other *whens*.
    Sometimes getting an idea from the mind to reality is extremely difficult; you have to trust the image to guide you and let go of preconceived notions. The art at hand generally knows where it needs to go, quite often better than we do!
    Nor should we compare our work to others; instead, search for that voice that is yours, and the quality of the work will improve. We all work at different paces, in different styles. Don’t judge harshly…….just let the art happen.
    And everything else will work itself out.
    It will!


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