Creativity for the Rest of Us

Letting Go of Expectations

Last summer when I was feeling stuck my coach suggested I write with my left hand for a while. Thanks to Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way, I’ve been writing Morning Pages for over 15 years. Morning Pages is an exercise where you write 3 pages fast, in long hand, first thing every morning to clear the clutter that accumulates in your mind overnight.  Writing with my left hand was going to require some serious effort.

I appreciate a good challenge and because I wasn’t enjoying my “stuckness”, decided to give it a whirl.  At first it was grueling – slow and awkward. After a while, I got into it.  I began to enjoy the physical act of writing itself.  Because this was all new, I experimented with holding the pen in different ways and using different slants of my wrist and the paper.

The four months I engaged in this experiment gave me a new appreciation for what it takes both physically and emotionally to learn something new.  To be a beginner is hard and especially frustrating when we pile on a lifetime of expectations that we also have to be good at what it is we’re doing.

Here’s the real prize.  Sometimes I also draw when I write.  With my right hand, I would only draw things I thought I could.  With my left hand, I would draw anything that came to mind because I had no expectation that it would be any good or even look like the thing I wanted to draw.  Without expectations I felt free to play, experiment, break out of my perceptions about performance and product.  It didn’t matter whether it looked like a dinosaur or not – something I had always avoided drawing.

Wouldn’t you know it?  My creative juices started stirring again.



For the next week (or as long as you can stand it) use your non-dominant hand for some of your daily activities – brush your teeth, hold a fork, pour and drink beverages, open doors.  Wherever you can pull it off and illegibility won’t get you fired or thrown out of class – write, draw or doodle.

Track what happens for you.  See if you can be an objective observer and watch yourself learn.  What feelings, emotions, thoughts get stirred up for you?  Do you hang in there or quit in frustration?   Are you able to move beyond the need to be good and enjoy the activity itself?

One Response to “Letting Go of Expectations”

  1. Hmm. Doing something you know you will be bad at (drawing with your left hand) so you won’t have any fear of trying something new? I like it! It’s got a crazy kind of compassionate logic to it.

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