Are goals a dirty word in the creative process? Part II

Intuitive painting by ... moi

In my last post, I talked a little bit about why goals help, not hurt, the creative process. But I'll also admit something: I'm a rebel at heart. The first time that there are "shoulds" or "ought to's" involved, my spine stiffens and my chest tightens.

Nope. Not going to happen. Not unless I can see a very good reason for whatever it is I'm being told I must do.

So, I'm not telling you that you should set goals or that you ought to do it this way if you want to find creative bliss. Only that you may find, as I have, that setting goals can actually be freeing. Goals provide a sort of structure. And by setting them--and then working slowly and steadily toward them--you're able to let go of the worry/fear/overwhelm that accompanies the outcome.

The importance of goals: a real-life example


I stand at my art table, picking at the dried-on paint. Inside, my mind is swirling with ideas. I've just visited an art gallery and, as always, the colors, textures, and unique pieces I've seen have ignited the tiny flame in my chest. I want to create. Turning, I survey the sturdy shelves holding my supplies. So many colors. So much to choose from! I fritter away precious moments feeling paralyzed, unsure what project to start, where to begin. Eventually, I leave my art space with nothing accomplished. Overwhelmed by possibilities, I floundered around mentally until I ran out of time to do anything at all.

Another day I am flipping through an art magazine and notice a themed call to artists. The challenge is to make a functional piece using recycled materials (my favorite to work with). There is a deadline and guidelines for size. Immediately, my hands and mind start working together. Pulling materials from the shelf, digging into the big, glass candy jar where I keep my best found objects--many from walks in my neighborhood or the woods--I feel a jolt of excitement in my chest.

Maybe, you might say, it wasn't the deadline or final goal that got me excited, but the prompt (using recycled materials to create a functional piece of art). You may be right. But I think that without the deadline, I wouldn't have bothered to get started. "Someday," I'd tell myself. "Later, but not now."

A goal is a dream with a deadline.

I'm not sure who said the above, but find it to be true. What about you? Have you ever played with goal-setting and seen positive results? Or does the thought of making a goal in your creative work fill you with dread?  

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