I’ve been trying to name something I’m willing to put my name on and leave it there; something I’ve created that I’ve been proud of, and I’m certain I’ll continue to be. It’s hard. I realize the irony in that statement. I make things all the time. Most paychecks I’ve earned in the last few years have rode in on my creative capacity: writing, cooking, recipe development, design, etc. The act of creation is not an overwhelming task for me. I love the challenge most of the time.
But then there’s the rest of the time, down the road (sometimes far out and sometimes immediately after) when I look back at what I’ve done, and fault-find. It wasn’t as good as it should have been, or could have been or close to the merit of someone else’s something. The first I kitchen I designed was not as well-planned as the second, the collection of recipes I started writing a decade and a half ago seem unrefined and unskilled compared to my current cache; even the outfits I once wore, thinking myself so stylish at the time, now seem pastiche. Old writings, old versions of myself. I willfully shred past creations at the benefit of betterment. Surely, I can do better than I’ve done in the past? How can the next thing be better, be more something?
I do the same thing sometimes in my head, trying to try back on my old brain from many revisions past, wondering how was it that I thought that way back when? How did it feel and was I really as sure back then as I am unsure about those feelings and ideas now?
Sometimes I feast on my past self for my future self. I realize the product is good- progress! Yay. But the process I go through, cannibalizing my past is not so good. I’m seeking for expansion, improvement and increased understanding, but I’m often pecking at my earlier efforts, diminishing them from what I thought they were or they once were to me.
Even in my problematic approach, I’ve had an epiphany lately. That the things I create are nice, sometimes beautiful or worthy, but ultimately don’t matter. They wear down, wear out of fashion for me or for others; stuff fades. It’s the practice of creation, being willing to tear apart what I once upheld and thought “this is my best,” and opening my mind and hands to attempt again at creation for better, more authentic, more me.
Ultimately it is, just me.
I’m the real creation.
Yet, odds are, I’m going to look back in a few moments from now and decades in the future at myself at this time and long to be doing more and better, faster and stronger, with more compassion and grace, more productively and with more merit. Given my history, this is inevitable. But still, I’m grasping at my most notable creation- a forever work in progress and process.
And that realization, that the things I create are just evidence of my progression, makes it okay.
True satisfaction can’t be externalized in accomplishments. It is something rooted in the only authentic and unending creation I have: myself.
So, I guess this means it’s fine to continue looking at myself and creations critically, it is for my own betterment; that’s good. But if I am my ultimate creation- my mind, my body, my spirit, my heart, my joy, and my depth- then it would certainly help if I attuned to nourishing my past self to become my future. Feeding on myself, cannibalizing myself certainly yields results, but nothing balanced or healthy. I can’t steal from my past self and hope to regurgitate them into something new. True progression, real creation is expansive, additive; outward, not in.
What are you creating? How do you feel about your creative progression?