What are you after?

Meaningful creative expression starts with intention.

What are you after?
Photo by Mike Hindle / Unsplash

What’s your outlet for creative expression? Maybe you have a few.

Do you write? Draw? Cook? Paint? Garden? Design?

What inspired you to start?

What’s inspired you to keep going?

Why do you do this thing you do?

I once had a conversation with a fellow sketcher about her intentions for sharing her work on social media. She was recounting how she had recently posted a few of her sketchbook pages on Instagram but hadn’t received many likes. She said the likes didn’t matter to her, but she carried on about how many likes another artist had received, comparing her “like” count to his.

“Why do you share your work on Instagram?” I asked.

She paused. “I hadn’t thought about that,” she replied.

She didn’t know why she shared her work. She just figured that’s what you’re supposed to do and had inadvertently turned to social media for validation. She didn’t know what she was after.

Creating anything takes effort. It requires an outpouring of resources which, over time, become depleted. When we don’t know why we do what we do (what we’re after), refueling our creative resources becomes more challenging because we don’t know where to look to find the sustenance we need. Without intention, we risk turning to the wrong places and sacrificing our creative expression to an algorithm.

It can be easy to get swept up in the content creation machine, but we’re not cogs: We’re living, breathing beings and our purpose is larger than feeding content platforms. The machine will always consume. It creates nothing. It gives nothing. When you choose to feed the machine first, it doesn’t take care to make sure you get what you need...all it wants is more. The machine becomes a parasite, leeching off of your creative body of work.

When, however, you remember that you, the creative producer i.e. the one who’s doing the work need to eat first, you prioritize yourself as a key factor in the creative work you have set out to do.

So, why do you do this thing you do? Chances are you didn’t begin it to merely feed a machine. What are you after?

Flexing my creative muscle helps me get lost, which helps me relax. Making art feeds me. I enjoy sharing bits and pieces of my creative work because of the community participation that follows. Oftentimes, I want to release my little creations into the world to spark a connection between myself and others. I also look for inspiration from others. Sometimes, though, I forget I’m creating for intentional reasons and thus forget what I’m after.

The moment I feel internal pressure to do these things, a little red flag goes up in my mind and reminds me to take a step back. Am I making and sharing to feed a bottomless content machine…or am I making and sharing to feed myself?

I make for the latter. That’s what I’m after. When I don’t prioritize for that, my creativity suffers and my spirit starves. When I turn my creative motivations back over to myself, I find what I’m after and I have more to give.

How about you? Have you checked in with yourself lately about why you do what you do? What’s one thing you can do today that is true to that intention?

Whatever your creative outlet, allow yourself to partake in the fruits of your creative expression before you begin to feed a bottomless machine. You may have zero desire to share (which is 100% okay),  but if you do, you have a much better chance of connecting with others in a more meaningful way. Know why you do this thing. Know what you’re after. Check in with your intentions and re-connect with the best aspects of your creative outlet.

Afterthoughts: When searching for GIFs for this post I came across this little chinchilla, soaking up the soothes. I couldnt find a good spot for him, so, I made one here:

This adorable chinchilla just wants to be gently combed.