Creative prompt: how does it feel to set the timer for 15 minutes, draw, paint or write, then set your work aside and do something else for a while?

I was disappointed with the result of this watercolour (first layer). I’m also celebrating the choice I made to set it aside even though I was itching to try to make it ‘right’.

Because I wanted to keep my promise to play mini-golf with my son instead. That’s how the top layer came about. It’s a quick illustration I made over the top with markers this morning.

I’m not satisfied with the aesthetics of the picture itself. But I’m celebrating the choice that opens up when I am able to be with thoughts emotions I don’t enjoy such as ‘this is a waste of time’ or ‘I’m ineffective at this’ …


Being with my disappointment and frustration …

Noticing the urge to stay and keep adding more to the page to try to make it ‘right’ …

Awareness of my son waiting downstairs …

That was the gift for me. Awareness. Choice. Freedom to ‘fail’. Choosing to go out and enjoy my family and afternoon anyway.

This kind of compulsion seems universally human to me. I doubt there’s anyone on this planet who enjoys being disappointed or dissatisfied after spending time and energy on a particular task: housecleaning, share trading, writing a presentation, gardening.

What happens when investing our energy and skill doesn’t deliver the sense of accomplishment we hoped for?

I share this picture to face into the core belief that I should only show what I’m proud of. Maybe it will inspire you to grab some paper and have fun. Or to drop your work for now and pay attention to other things that are also important to you right now.

I hope sharing this picture and the musing behind it will inspire someone else to persist with the self-discovery of creating anything. You never know how it will turn out.

Or, that it will remind you that you’re not a slave to sticking at that page or any piece of work until you’re satisfied. Other things might be important to you.

Art or writing or deal making or getting through the to-do list or work of any kind is one way of meeting a wide range of needs: freedom, creativity, purpose, self-worth, effectiveness, self-expression, connection with emotions, adventure and fun.

If I stuck at a page or task at all costs I might protect myself from accepting disappointment, but I can lose out on other satisfactions such as connection with family and friends, nurturing my kids, getting out into the fresh air, company, and the self-respect of keeping agreements and being considerate of others.

I celebrate another creative experience of discovering I really am safe to be disappointed in my efforts, to say, ‘ah well, I’ll set that aside. I’m free to go and enjoy an afternoon of fun with my son’.

Finessing a picture isn’t the only way to get enjoyment. In fact, it’s unlikely to bring the deep sense of contentment, freedom and joy which brings me to creativity in the first place. There are many ways to experience satisfaction too. And all are equally as risky from the point of view that I might spend energy on them and end up not feeling as glad as I’d hoped. That’s the uncertainty of life, hey? Can I accept the reality of that?

Out on the mini-golf course, I noticed how my son celebrated if he was “on par”. And how his shoulders dropped when he putted more times than he wanted to get that darn ball in the little hole.

I longed to impart what it’s taking me 4o+ years to learn. Just because someone else says the par is 3 strokes, that doesn’t mean we have to make their standard. ‘Just have fun’, I wanted to correct him, ‘don’t be so hard on yourself’.

Ah, now I was struggling to be with the feeling of my child being unhappy. Someone around me being disappointed with themselves. Tight ribs. Hey, I can be with that too. I can relate to wanting to be effective. Who says he shouldn’t feel disappointed for not making par as many times as he’d like at mini golf?

Maybe art journalling made that awareness possible when I was with my son afterwards. I had more room to accept what was important to him instead of rushing in to ‘set him straight’.

Feelings. They’re here. A fact from moment to moment. Not to be fixed. To be felt. To open up awareness and choice.

I honour that I want him to learn earlier than I did to notice and be with is emotions, not correct them, absorb them, let them flow through and guide his life.  I accept that longing and that it is not utterly within my control. Perhaps the greatest influence will be to live that way with as much self acceptance as much as I can myself, trusting it naturally leads me to contented growth.

Have you found it hard to set aside work and do something else that was also important to you? Want to make some marks on paper about that?