Last night after the 2nd preview of my current show, I was talking to a colleague. After he shared his thoughts about the performance, I asked him what he was up to.
The way he responded was indicative of what I hear from so many artists.
He had just produced a major show for a pretty remarkable run in NYC (no small feat indeed) but could only focus on what didn’t work: the disappointments he had because things didn’t work out according to his biggest vision, and the one piece he was holding onto. The thing that he needed to have happen in order to feel that the project had been a success and that he hadn’t wasted the last decade of his life.
He was holding himself to an impossibly high standard and totally glossed over all his accomplishments in the process.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
There are a whole host of lessons in this story but for now, let me focus on this one.
Letting go is a vital part of the artistic process and when we hold on too tightly to a vision (with no flexibility), we are not only setting ourselves up for disappointment – it is so much harder to manifest a specific vision – we are also closing ourselves off from new and unexpected possibilities.
In theatre, there is a pretty good tradition of doing a post-mortem after a production. This is a structured meeting designed to recognize what worked and what didn’t work and what was learned from the process. When done well, the project feels complete and the team walks away feeling unburdened from their experience, positive or negative, so everyone can move on to the next phase of creativity.
But when we don’t do this process, or focus too heavily on what didn’t work, we get stuck in a cycle of hard work and burnout followed by disappointment. Then it is that much harder to start the next project which honestly is where ALL the magic is.
Everything we learn from one process leads directly into the next when we let it.
The artistic process mirrors the cycle of the moon –
The new moon, or the blank slate: This is where we start to call in a new vision of what we want to create and set intentions.
The waxing, or the planning phase: If you are writing, this is the dreaming or outline phase. What are the characters? What are the struggles they are encountering? What world do they live in?
The full moon, or visibility phase: This is when you share your work with the world. Whether it is a messy first draft, a few ideas. By sharing, we get feedback and insight from those around us, which gives us fuel to keep going.
The waning moon, or culmination: This is the process of tying up loose ends. Completing projects and reflecting on what we’ve learned and what’s next.
This process could happen in real moon time, ie. a month, over the course of a couple of weeks, from first audition to callback to potential booking, or over a much longer period.
Regardless of how long each phase of our creativity takes, we must move through the whole phase.
Skipping one phase just leaves us stuck and tired.
As I was wrapping up my conversation with my friend, I encouraged him to release the pressure around this one thing that he is sooo convinced will make the whole project (complete with its disappointments) worthwhile and to instead focus on his accomplishments.
Letting go of this one result (ie. practicing non-attachment) doesn’t mean this thing won’t happen, but it will open him up to new possibilities, which is the very seed of every new artistic endeavor.
Now it’s your turn!
Pull out your journal and start writing:
- Are you stuck in one phase of this artistic process? Which one?
- Why do you think you are stuck in this phase?
- What’s one specific thing you can do right now to move into the next phase of your project?
Have a big insight? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Your share can help other members of the community begin to move more fully through the cycle of creativity too.
PS: Want some help in learning to let go? I’m leading an Embodiment Circle this Tuesday November 8th at 7:30pm EST / 4:30pm PST where we’ll be harnessing the power of the Full Moon to release the things that are no longer serving us. Early Bird Pricing ends tonight at midnight. Click here to signup now.