I've recently started writing morning pages again. It always starts out painful but ends up revealing a world of ideas and insights. But when I start, I'm phoning it in. I let go of my expectation to pen a masterpiece with each stroke. Instead, I let the act of writing–physically touching a pen to the page–to fuel itself, and to see where it leads.
Many of us approach creativity as a cool idea that other people clearly do much better, and why doesn't my watercolor look like the one in the tutorial, damn it? I want to address the problem with expectation and creative work.
When I seek to make something, if I start with the end in mind I will always be disappointed, unless I have consummate craft and flawless discipline. Which I do not. There, I said it. But if I allow myself to explore, to enjoy a process, to experiment with color and shape, to let myself be intrigued by the process, I inevitably create something more meaningful: a process and an experience. Ultimately the product may not live up to a masterpiece, but it has gotten me closer, and it represents something of value–my experience. Complete enough of those and you have not only constructed numerous valuable moments, you've likely gotten much better at the craft of whatever you're applying your time and attention to.
Let go of outcomes in creative work. Expectation, especially that of others, is often a suffocating shroud that limits and stifles our abilities. It's not wrong to want to make something beautiful, but we shouldn't compare our work to someone else's who, in order to get to where they are, had to engage their own creative process for much longer than we have. And the results are clear.
We can't produce craftsmanship on demand if we haven't put in the effort. And to put in the effort we have to play, which requires a kind of fake-it-'till-you-make-it mentality. Set aside your self-judgement and let go of expectation. Get messy, get dirty, get into it, and fake the mastery. With enough time, it will come on its own.