Trying new ideas in your creative practice can be a scary and vulnerable experience. Today let’s talk about how why taking risks in your creative practice is important and how to make it part of your practice in 2015.
It’s 2015; I can’t believe it. I feel like it should be 1999 still and I’m with my cousin in the streets of NYC celebrating the ball drop. Man, I feel old (I know some of you are giggling and shaking your head at me right now)! My niece and nephew are graduating from college and high school, respectively. I remember wiping their bums to change their diapers as if it were a few years ago. As time goes by, it’s easy to get into habits. And while habits are good for getting things done (everyone practicing their art for at least 15 minutes a day I hope?), it doesn’t mean all habits are worthwhile or fruitful. A new year means new opportunities. It means trying out new ideas and taking the opportunity a new year brings for a fresh start. Sometimes this means you try a new morning routine (for me that means morning journaling and tea before internet), and other times you have a new skill or technique you wish to try, or a new story to tell.
Oh, but I hear the Inner Critics (a la Tara Mohr) speaking out now:
“We don’t have the time,”
“Why would I try something new when everything is going well?”
“What if people don’t like my new work?”
It’s best to remain in our current habits, whatever they look like. It’s safer. It’s not so scary.
Well, I’m pretty sure you didn’t sign up to read Artist Strong, or show up here to read about creative practice if you didn’t want to grow and learn.
Do you want to listen to your inner critic or your inner mentor? While we all have that critic, trying to protect us from harm, we also have that other inner voice. You know the one. The one that leans into the fear of trying something new, the voice that tells you “you are ready.”
It can be scary to try on new ideas, even more so to share them with the world. We feel it’s personal because our art is a part of us, it’s part of who we are, so any possible criticism is a reflection of who we are, it’s not about our work.
That’s why it’s important to take a step back and give yourself space while you try on your new idea. Don’t talk about it with anyone, and whatever you do, DON’T share it with anyone! Don’t share it with your husband, your dog, your child, your grandmother, your postal service person, not even anonymously on the internet. Do this new project just for you and when you feel unsure about something or know you need to take a break, put it away for a wee bit: one or two weeks should do the trick. Come back to it and look at this new idea with fresh eyes and perspective. How do you feel about it now? Is it less threatening to share it with people who can offer valuable feedback? How do you feel about your new idea on the world wide web?
It’s an amazing thing, but giving yourself the privacy to try new ideas as well as the space to take breaks while you are working on it can offer you all the perspective you need. It quiets your inner critic and makes room for your inner mentor to speak more loudly. And that distance created by time between you and your work makes it even easier to share it with the world and be prepared for all the criticism (sometimes good, sometimes bad) that can come your way.
This is particularly poignant for me right now because I am at a turning point in my artist practice. I’ve had a huge calling to try out some new ideas. But I’m scared. Just like you, I feel vulnerable, and I worry: “will it be any good?” I just had family visit for a month and it was really fun, but I knew I needed them to be gone and for my husband to be away for me to engage with my new ideas. Because they feel that personal to me right now. Even the slightest bit of perceived criticism or disinterest could thwart my risk taking, so I’m making the space for myself to try it on. I’ve even told my husband I don’t want him to look at or comment on my work right now because I want to try something new. And I got some books for reference (yay Christmas gifts!) as well as some new tools (yay paintrollers 🙂 ) to try it on.
So today, in the spirit of the new year, (yay 2015!) think about the one thing that feels a wee bit scary and intimidating, but in that good way. It’s that feeling you have when you are excited before a performance: it can take your breath away a bit, but you feel anticipation, and hear a voice that says “go for it.” THAT, my friend, is creativity calling your name. I can’t wait to see it when you are ready to share it with the world!
Think about the one thing that feels a wee bit scary, but in a good way. That is creativity calling your name! (Click to Tweet!)
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Write down in your journal, sketchbook, or whatever creative space you keep the idea that’s been on your mind for a while but you’ve been too nervous to acknowledge. How does it feel to admit it to yourself? What steps can you take right now to start taking this new risk in 2015? I want to know! Tell me about your first step of risk-taking in the comments below.
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YAY for paintrollers and new endeavors! Your enthusiasm to not only share your pursuits but challenge others is just beautiful. Thank you. 🙂 I’m in a season of being brave and charting new territory in my business sense of creativity. Up to my eyeballs in it and I think I need my studio to be a place of safety and consistency. ha! With permission, of course. So I’m pouring my novel-creativity into business efforts, while maintaining a steady flow of “my style” in the studio. I think that is the right kind of balance for me. For now. Although I will be experimenting with different layouts and compositions over the next few months. Does that count? It doesn’t feel too adventurous to me.
Mandy, thank you for reading! 🙂 I’d say charting any kind of new territory is a risk! It sounds like keeping your studio as a place of safety will help you navigate those new waters. And anything new you are willing to try in your creative practice can be a risk. As we grow accustomed to taking risks in our art, sometimes they feel “Easier” to take too. Sounds like you are off and running in 2015. I can’t wait to see what you do.
I’m so pleased to have found these words to go with my morning coffee! I’m up to my eyeballs in risk this year, opening a small art school and next year a gallery below the loft apartment that I designed in a 110 year old building. We moved in a week before Christmas following a year and a half deconstruction/construction and I am overwhelmed. Not having made any art during that grueling process I’m feeling a bit lost and paintings are piling up in my head! I needed to hear the words “keep in private”…I tend to require validation and don’t handle criticism well, particularly from non artists. Glad to have found this new little voice to sit on my shoulder.
Hi Audrey! WELCOME to Artist Think 🙂 Wow, you have some amazing risks you are embracing this year. Good luck with your gallery and art school, what a wonderful think to contribute to the world. And yes! Hold your work close to you, especially if it’s been a while. That is always when I feel most vulnerable about my work. When you are in the making zone again it’s a lot easier to share and get feedback. I’m so glad to be that little voice. Best wishes to you and I hope I hear more!