I confess I was asked to write this post some time ago, and kept making excuses to avoid submitting something. I must have written three or four different pieces and scratched them all for various reasons -- not good enough, too personal, not personal enough, sounded silly when I read it again, and so on. I smile to myself as I write this, because as a music teacher I often observe this same creative paralysis in my students. Every year, my fifth and sixth graders complete a song writing unit. Most students don't take it too seriously and complete their work quickly. But there is always one student in every class who sits, staring at a blank worksheet trying to decide what to write, fearing that what they put down won't be good enough or won't be "correct."
As I pondered the unfortunate similarity of my response to that of my students when asked to create something of my own, I began to wonder if something other than perfectionism was preventing me from moving forward. What, in fact, was so bad about the pieces I had written and trashed? The answer was nothing: the only thing keeping me from sharing my work was pride. Pride often prevents me from sharing my creative endeavors with the world. I want so badly for people to think I am so wonderful and talented, that I am often unwilling to put anything out there that I deem less than perfect. This is ironic, considering I know from many years of piano lessons, recitals, and competition, that playing for other people and receiving their critique was when I grew the most. Yet I seem to have lost this skill, and have again become too fearful of what people will think.
Unfortunately, this is a cycle that is often repeated in my life, which has lately prevented me from sharing and growing creatively. For many of us–including myself–becoming better at writing, art, music, takes work and repeated practice and effort. When I refuse to share my work, I do not open myself up to criticism or feedback, and cannot grow and become better at my craft. While people like Mozart exist, who can put a fully formed masterpiece on paper, most of us mere mortals need to practice, produce, and receive critique in order to reach our potential in our field.
As I sat in my classroom during the last few days of school, pondering these things, I scrawled these reflections on a piece of paper and tried not to overthink it. I am resolved to do better in the future. Creativity deserves to be shared, and it is a skill that can only be improved through practice, a willingness to take on the critique of others, and the nerve to defend our work when necessary. I hope that anyone reading this is encouraged to continue sharing their creations, and take the response of their audience in stride, keeping in mind that the ultimate goal is not the praise of others but personal creative growth.
Megan grew up with Beccah and Noelle in Maryland. She attended Liberty University to study piano performance, and then went on to the Eastman School of Music for her graduate degree. She currently lives in New York with her husband, where she teachers Kindergarten - 6th grade music. While she enjoys teaching music, her greatest aspiration is to be a full time mom (and chicken mom), and someday manage a family farm.