Evaluation anxiety is that feeling you get when you’re just beginning to create something or perform. It’s second-guessing yourself and what you’re doing.
When you sit down to paint, when you start to play an instrument, when you begin writing, when you start putting together a presentation for a group of people. You worry that you’re not being as productive as you could be, or that you’re going about it all wrong. You get anxious about the quality of the work, about picking the right word, note, motion, brush stroke, or photo.
The anxiety can stop you in your tracks and make you reconsider creating at all.
When we encounter evaluation anxiety, ideas stop flowing, we stop creating. Or we keep creating but we stick to what you know, what’s already been proven and works. No room for mistakes, so let’s just do what has already been done before. We perform the complete opposite of creativity, of formulating new ideas.
This is where spontaneity comes in.
Spontaneity is the process of acting without evaluating, doing before (over) thinking. Acknowledging the large gap in front of you and then leaping with your eyes closed anyway.
Sometimes when you’re spontaneous, you miss. The ideas stink, your work is crap, or you miss the mark. But when it comes to creativity, spontaneity is a powerful tool that is almost always worth pursuing.
If creativity is the process of coming up with new ideas, and anxiety hinders that process, purposeful spontaneity can seriously help by breaking up the anxiety and pushing by it completely.
But how does one purposely become spontaneous?
By simply starting.
When I sat down to first write this post I was skeptical. I found myself wondering: “What if I don’t write the right words? What if I fail to convey the message that I want? What if nobody cares about purposeful spontaneity?” And then I got to work by sitting down and writing anyway.
Being spontaneous, being creative without evaluating every idea as it comes into your thoughts, makes it painlessly easy to have a lot of ideas (which we know is better for producing quality ones). Then, once you’ve captured those ideas (by performing the dance, or making the brush strokes, or pressing the shutter button on the camera, or writing everything down), you can focus on evaluating and editing. Only after you’ve created can you start to scale back, to be more focused and less spontaneous.
It’s this approach that allows us to circumvent the nagging at the back of our heads, the sneaking suspicion that we’re doing this wrong or that there’s something more we should be doing.
Sometimes there is a better way, but sometimes the absolute best way to be creative is to simply start. Critiquing comes later.
When do you often find yourself getting evaluation anxiety? How can you be more spontaneous with your work in those moments?
Read this next: Is it better to have many ideas, or better ideas?
Photo by BoyGoku.