Whether you knit, repair cars, or make cookies for the holidays, creativity is a joyful form of self-expression. As a vital part of our resiliency, it deserves to be nourished and protected. Unfortunately, we sometimes discover there’s a bully named “Ambition” who is hogging the finger paints and breaking down our ability to express ourselves freely.
Sadly, last month I witnessed a friend, let’s call her Lori, nearly fall into Ambition’s trap. Every year, a phenomenon called “NaNoWriMo,” or National Novel Writing Month, begins on the very first day of November. Writers all over the country start tap-tapping away on their laptops in a contest of sorts to write 50,000 words in one month. The prize? The honor of being able to say you wrote 50,000 words in a month, which is quite an accomplishment. It’s supposed to help you stop worrying about the quality of your writing as you focus on pumping out the words.
Lori had enjoyed participating in NaNoWriMo in the past and had written several novels this way. This year she experienced the 50,000-word goal as pressure. Worse, she found no joy in the writing itself. She even began doubting herself as a writer, asking questions like, “If I haven’t even finished my other books, what’s the point?” and negatively predicting, “I’ll never get published.”
Lori is part of a peer-run writers’ group, so she had a wonderful group of writers who were there to help her move past this slump. We helped her see how the word-count goal was actually keeping her down. As it turned out, she hadn’t given herself credit for the thousands of words she had already written. Once she realized the experience was more important than goal, she reclaimed her sense of self-worth and her joy in the act of writing.
Fortunately, Lori reached out and we were able to help her. If you feel the fire for any activity you enjoy start waning, talk to someone. Yes, Ambition is what keeps us dreaming of fame and fortune, and all of us want recognition for our strengths. But, Ambition can also stifle our flow of productive energy by putting goals and achievement before the act itself. When this happens, we suffer because we stop expressing ourselves. Essentially, our love for ourselves and others diminishes.
This year and every year, let’s show Ambition the compassion it deserves, invite it to our holiday parties, and gently remind it that we’re here to have fun. Once Ambition feels validated and included, chances are it will fully support all of our efforts in self-expression and fuel our creativity for years to come.