The fact that I've been writing, with ambitions of books in print, since I was very small, combined with the fact I've been a professional harp performer for close to fifteen years, has had an odd effect on my relationship with the creative process. Often (though not always), I feel at a loss when I try to create something that won't become a product for sale. This has influenced my forays into photography and fractal generation ... not so much the drawing I've done, possibly because I can comfortably say there's no way anyone would buy my rudimentary portraiture. I finish working on something and think ... now what? ... and gradually, that "now what?" has crept into my brain before I even start.
That's not to say I don't "play" with my creative outlets. I learn tunes that no one is going to recognize for me and me alone; I challenge myself with unusual arrangements when something more simple would be perfectly appropriate for a background gig. I've spent a lot of time with roleplaying games, a tremendous investment of time and energy that will never be sent to a publisher. And even when it's work, it's fun: it just happens to be fun I signed myself up for. I couldn't stop any more than I could stop breathing.
But in those other creative arenas, I feel at a loss. What if I become a good photographer? How would I know? What constitutes a good piece of abstract art? When do I stop playing with a fractal? What do I do with all these pictures, short of filling up a tiny fraction of my hard drive?
I suppose for me, creative process has become bound up with creative product. The act of creation itself isn't enough: I need to see it through to completion, which isn't necessarily publication or sale, but at least a state of polish and perfection. When I play or goof off, I'm practicing my craft. When it comes to the creative arts I've only dabbled in, I don't know how to tell when I've reached that level of completion. Is it finding that one perfect photo out of a thousand? Cropping and editing? But some photographers will tell you that they never alter the picture as it was taken ...
I have neither answers nor conclusions here, really.