Love and creativity are inextricably intertwined: both can ignite our deepest passions, both can help us create fulfilling, satisfying lives, and both, in their darker manifestations, can engulf us in unhealthy situations and behaviors.
Just as one of the prerequisites to finding a good relationship is developing the skill of discernment, this skill is also valuable when selecting a creative project. Like a successful long-term love relationship, worthy projects are deeply compatible with who we are; by interacting with them, we’re challenged, even tested, yet we enjoy ourselves most of the time and end up feeling as if we’ve grown as artists and accomplished something significant.
The late psychotherapist Jean Baker Miller formulated a list of “5 Good Things” that she felt were hallmarks of growth-enhancing love relationships and friendships. I’ve found her list has parallels in the creative realm. Here is my list of “5 good things” that are the hallmarks of a worthy project.
1. Worthy projects give you a sense of zest or well-being. No matter how hard they tap your skills or resources, worthy projects infuse you with energy and give you an overall boost when you work on them.
2. Worthy projects provide you with the ability to take action. In the midst of a truly engaging book, song or film, few artists get blocked. Why? Because the thrill of interacting with the material or process provides momentum to move forward past plot impasses, conceptual blocks, or stalled negotiations with collaborators.
3. Worthy projects increase your self-understanding and your knowledge of your discipline/medium. An ideal creative project puts you in a “flow” state, in which feedback on your progress is immediate, and the activity is neither too hard nor too easy to master. Such projects help you know yourself and your artistic approach better when you reflect upon them later.
4. Worthy projects increase your sense of worth and artistic confidence. No matter what your experience level, worthy projects are filled with significance for you. Completing them reinforces the notion that your ability to make meaning can continue to evolve over time.
5. Worthy projects encourage you to participate in additional creative endeavors. Healthy creative outlets are expansive—one is left wanting more, not wishing they could confine their creative energies to this project alone.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at a few ingredients that are important for finding or crafting a worthy project.
Note: This article (and the post following this one) was adapted from one originally published in the February 2008 newsletter of the Creativity Coaching Association.