Being creative and creating new work involve taking risks and “moving out of the head and into action” as Julia Cameron succinctly describes it in The Artist’s Way. But most of us are very careful not to take risks. We’d rather be safe, but safety keeps us blocked, and so we are stuck. Is this you?
Ways to Avoid Risk
Naturally, creative people are very creative about how we prevent, limit or avoid risk. Here are some typical scenarios for this kind of self sabotage.
We are afraid of looking silly, foolish, inept or incompetent, so we refuse to start at the beginning and learn a new skill or technique.
We prefer to do only what we already know we can succeed at, so there’s no chance of failure.
We have lots of reasons we tell ourselves why we can’t do such and such – here’s a quick sample of 75 “reasons” we use for why we can’t create.
We stick with the formulaic, recycle the tried and true, repeat the been-there-done-that, precisely because we know it works.
We wait until we are sure we can do it perfectly, because we have high standards and so does our audience, our critics, our readers, our viewers, us and everyone else.
We hold certain beliefs about what we consider possible and do-able, so we limit what we aim for, what we will even try.
Caution: Safety is Boring
All of these self-imposed limits on our creativitiy protect us from failure, from looking foolish, from feeling uncomfortable, from being challenged and tested, from doing it wrong, but they also hold us back. Risk avoidance can keep us blocked in a lulling same-old, same-old pattern, stuck making the same choices over and over again. This can feel comfortable and safe and secure and yet, for all that, it is mind-numbingly, soul-suckingly, creativity-smotheringly dull.
Expand Your Options, Expand Your Creativity
Could it be possible that anything worth doing is also something worth doing badly?
Could taking a risk be worth it, in and of itself? Just to see what would happen? Just to try something new and different?
According to Cameron:
“There is something enlivening about expanding our self-definition, and a risk does exactly that. Selecting a challenge and meeting it creates of sense of self-empowerment that becomes the ground for further successful challenges. Viewed this way, running a marathon increases your chances of writing a full length play. Writing a full-length play gives you a leg up on a marathon.”
It occurs to me that the Outward Bound program is based on this type of thinking, where attempting, facing and meeting a challenge in one area increases your self confidence and expands your awareness of your capabilities and possibilities in all parts of your life. This helps you grow.
If I Didn’t Have to Do it Perfectly ….
I’m not saying you need to turn into a wilderness explorer, but what have you tried lately that is challenging and new? What creative risk are you avoiding? What would you risk doing if you didn’t have to do it perfectly?
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