Creativity: Expectations vs Reality
Creativity Ideas Innovation

Creativity: Expectations vs Reality

Creativity. What pops into your mind when you hear these words? Some mystical process that’s only achievable by the legends, such as Stephen King or Elon Musk? Some unreachable, unachievable quest that can only be done by completing some arcane rituals to the creative Gods? Or perhaps just an impossible ideal that you’ve never been able to achieve so far? Well, it doesn’t have to be like that! In fact, it’s not like that.

The thing that’s messing you up here are your expectations about what creativity should be. It’s been so overhyped and overblown in your mind that you think it’s just too advanced and complex of a process for you. But the truth is that it’s not! You simply need to change your expectations to align with the reality of it.

Author Kilroy J. Oldster writes: “Every encounter with the external world presents a conflict with a person’s cherished inner world. How we resolve these ongoing boarder conflicts between reality and ideas results in tectonic shifts in our mental makeup, which influx we incorporate by responding to the never-ending chaos of a worldly life.”

And this doesn’t just apply to your work either. Expectations can seep into every part of your life. The monk and author Venugopal Acharya says: “The widening gap between our fanciful expectations and the bitter reality of this world is what we often unknowingly refer to, as stress or depression”.

When you sit down and try to be creative, you might expect the flow of ideas to come gushing out like a burst dam. But the reality is, it’ll be more like a jammed-up tap. It’ll come out drip by tiny drip. That’s completely fine.

When you try to organize your ideas, you might get overwhelmed and confused at how to categorize or sort them. That’s fine too.

You might be unable to tell which ideas are viable and which ones need to be put out their misery. Which ones can scale and which ones can’t. Which ones can be huge and which ones can’t. This is also fine.

The point is, everything has a rough start. Don’t sweat it.


You may also have the expectation that you can just get creativity done in a simple, streamlined process like working out. But the reality is, it can be a messy process. You may have to reach inside yourself to new depths you hadn’t reached before.

You may expect that your first idea might be a blockbuster and change the world. But the cold, hard truth is that it probably won’t. Neither will the second. Or the third. Or the fourth. Or the fifth. Well, you get the idea.

There’s a common saying among artists that your first thousand paintings are just going to be mediocre, and you need to get them done and out to get on to the good stuff. There’s also the well-known concept popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers that it ultimately takes 10,000 hours to ever truly master anything. So be mentally prepared to spend all the time it takes – sleepless nights and early mornings.

And finally, don’t expect that you will be able to please everyone all the time. The thing about creativity is that it’s intensely subjective. You may think of an idea, and think about it and think about it and get so attached to it that you might not want to let go of it.

And then, when you present it in a team, and someone comes up with a better idea, you might not be able to judge that idea on its merits because your judgment might be clogged from the attachment to your idea. This isn't optimal to free-flowing, all-encompassing innovation.

There’s an idea in writing that you should always ‘kill your darlings’ (i.e. Delete the sections that don’t add to the story no matter how much you love them).

But this idea also applies to creativity as a whole. Similarly, don’t be attached to anything but the final outcome and be willing to jettison any of your ideas in favor of better ones as long as it all contributes to the ultimate good of the project.

In conclusion, don’t be too tied to your expectations about creativity. Keep an open mind and remember to always go with the flow, no matter what!