When I was in elementary school, we used to have these projects where we were given these blank books. Completely white cover with completely blank, white paper. If I remember correctly, we called them Bare Books. I’m not completely sure on the name, but I do know that when it was that time of the school year, all the students would get SO excited. We filled them with stories, pictures, answers to questionnaires our teachers gave us, and whatever else our heart desired.
I was always a horrible artist. I could draw a mean stick figure and a pretty awesome tree with a sun, but that was the extent of my art skills in elementary school. (Who am I kidding? That’s still about all I can do!) However, we were always tasked with designing the cover of those books along with filling them out. I’m pretty sure I remember one year I drew a stick figure girl who was supposed to be me with a giant rainbow. Did it have anything to do with the stories inside? Nope. I just liked drawing rainbows and coloring with all of the markers.
Anyway, I started to remember those books while I was at a bookstore recently. I thought about how much I looked forward to writing in those books. I loved creating stories, characters, lands, scenarios, everything. I loved it.
Then, I got sad because I remembered how much school ruined reading and writing for me. Reading became something I sped through so I could take the Accelerated Reading test and get the most AR points. Writing became a chore because in Texas, you have to take these standardized tests at the end of the year to determine if you pass that grade or not. If your writing didn’t fit perfectly into their cookie-cutter mold of what a “successful paper” would be, then you failed the writing test.
I could go on a whole entire rant about how much I hate standardized tests and how absolutely horrible they are for students, but that’s another topic for another time. What I would like to talk about is how to get that passion back. How to not look at your writing, your artwork, or whatever your creative passion is with such a critical eye. How do you give yourself the freedom to create without limitation?
I’m constantly looking at my blog posts, my short stories, and wondering, “Oh wait, am I making grammatical sense? Did I use the correct punctuation? Am I using enough adjectives?” I think, in my mind, it’s because I’m so used to a “good paper” being something that checks all of these things off on a list. My work isn’t valid unless it meets specific criteria that someone somewhere deemed determinate of good work.
This is where I have to remind myself that creativity should not be measured. You should never compare your creative self to that of another. That would be like picking up a paintbrush and giving up because your art doesn’t look like Monet’s or sitting at the piano and comparing yourself to Bach. It can’t be done. It shouldn’t be done.
Not everything is black and white. Not everything can be measured and I’m sick of people calling creative work “good” or not. Something being “good” is so relative that it can’t be measured by any scale, list, or table. Never create anything with the goal of people calling it “good.” You’ll never be satisfied.
So, the next time you want to sing a song, write a book, or create something from your heart, give yourself permission to do so with no hesitations and without apologies.
Until next time ❤
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