Practicing Patience: Managing Expectations
by Taylor Slattery | January 11, 2021
2020 was a humbling year. The global pandemic has impacted everyone differently but has shown us all just how quickly everything can change. It’s interrupted our lives, the economy, and eroded trust. But it’s also shown us our resilience and ability to adapt. Despite the curveball 2020 has been, we’ve all managed to carry on to the best of our ability.
This same resiliency is necessary in the creative world, regardless of your work environment, freelance, studio, or otherwise. As creatives, we occupy a world fraught with uncertainty, and humans fear the unknown, making creative occupations both exciting and scary. We’re plagued by a plethora of problems, many of them coming from within. Imposter syndrome, analysis paralysis, a lack of inspiration, the list goes on and on. These problems come with the territory and it’s by learning to deal with them that we truly become professionals. The process isn’t easy though, and it requires a great deal of patience.
I believe a lot of the frustrations facing the creative stem from a lack of patience, either with ourselves or the creative practice. Creative victories are hard-won and can often be unpredictable, making it difficult to gauge our proximity to the finish line. As we become more familiar with certain types of problems, we eventually gain a degree of confidence and understand how best to approach them, but how could you possibly know how long it takes to do something you’ve never done before? This is the dilemma at the core of the many mental battles we wage against ourselves.
Whenever we embark on a new journey, whether it’s some sort of project or learning a new skill, we often bring with us some sort of expectation. Through some sort of mental calculation, we determine how quickly we’ll be able to complete the task before we even begin. However, we fail to account for the unknown variables, the factors that make certain tasks come more naturally to others, or the unforeseen speed bumps that can arise in a process we’re unfamiliar with. When things just aren’t clicking or the process takes much longer than we had initially anticipated, reality fails to reflect our expectations which leads to the problems mentioned previously, like stress, anxiety, and self-doubt. In actuality, all that’s happening is the stretching of an arbitrary timetable we constructed on a shaky foundation.
Both our creative journeys as individuals and each round of creative problem solving we face should be treated as unique and given the time they require. If we focus on speed, disappointment is inevitable. Either the quality of our work or the strength of our understanding is sure to suffer. The creative path is long and arduous. It’s a battle to reach each milepost along the way. Depending on your natural talents, the amount of time each stage takes will differ, but understand that each trial along the way is temporary. Think of these difficulties as growing pains. In moments like these, you can be sure there’s some sort of revelation waiting for you on the horizon. Once you reach that goal, another will appear in its place. In this case, it really is more about the journey than the destination, and you’ll need mental fortitude to ensure you can push through the rough patches and carry on. You can only control your expectations and the amount of effort you put in, how quickly answers will come to you is out of your hands. So practice patience and enjoy the ride.
Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.