I have recently been reading a book that I am loving. It’s called “Stopping the Noise in your Head” by Reid Wilson. I highly recommend it.
The book focuses on decreasing incessant worry and anxiety using incredibly simple strategies.
I think that the strategies that he outlines in the book are also applicable for pushing your creativity beyond your comfort zone.
The ideas are that you can push through your worry and stress about trying new things, or old ones that make you anxious in two different ways.
The first is to be able to distinguish between a ‘signal’ and ‘noise.’
A signal would be something that alerts you to take action. For example, you have a big presentation tomorrow that you haven’t started to prepare for, and you get worried. That worry is appropriate, because you should be prepared for your presentation. The worry is a valid signal that you should get going on making your presentation!
Noise, on the other hand is something that can take over the background of your mind and isn’t useful. It might be a thought that plays over and over in your head that doesn’t allow for an actionable response. We will use the same presentation example. Perhaps you started weeks ago getting ready for your presentation and you have gotten feedback and revised it 7 times. You are ready. But there’s this little voice in your head that makes you worry. That is noise. It’s not helpful, in fact it is the opposite. The worry is going to distract you from other work you need to do, sleep or being present in the moment.
Being able to identify the unhelpful noise for what it is can help decrease it and allow you not to dwell on it. On the other hand, you can thank your brain for sending you signals, even if it wakes you up in the middle of the night and you have to write it down. Being able to distinguish between signal and noise can be a super helpful tool for diving into creative work, getting ready for a show, or presenting your work to a client or gallery.
The next step is moving towards your unease.
Say that a client asks you to do a custom piece for them. It is slightly outside of your work and comfort zone, but you would love to do the work and learn something new. Then your brain starts to get in the way and bombard you with unhelpful ‘suggestions.’
“What if you can’t do it?”
“You are going to try and fail.”
“Your client is going to hate it.”
Do any of these doubts sound familiar? They sure do to me!
You can dismiss these unhelpful thoughts as noise, but sometimes they will persist. Another strategy is to think about the worst case scenario.
I had someone approach me with a project that I was unsure I could complete. I knew it would require a skill I did not have. I would need to learn 3D modeling. Was that something I wanted to learn? Sure! Ok. So, I knew I was at least willing to try. I was upfront with my client that it would take some time and I wasn’t sure I would be successful. She was willing to wait and see, so I went for it. I learned, and tried and failed and persisted. It took so much longer than I thought, and I had to make many many revisions. Finally though I ended up with something she was very happy with. It had taken more hours than I thought, but I had a new skill that I could use for other work.
What was the worst case scenario?
One possibility is that I tried to learn 3D modeling and failed. But I knew that if I worked hard at it I could learn.
One possibility is that I would make something that the client didn’t like. Well, that happens. Then I have two choices. Take her feedback and revise it or move on. Not the end of the world.
That’s it. Nothing life threatening. No outcomes even remotely negative. I can learn something new and potentially make something that someone loves. Or, I can learn something new and chalk it up to a learning experience. Perhaps the client is disappointed with how the piece turns out or the time that it takes. I took care of that at the beginning by telling her that I would try but no guarantees!
The next time you are confronted with situation that makes you slightly uneasy because you are afraid you might fail, just ask yourself ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’
Good luck! and if you like these ideas, get Reid Wilson’s book, “Stopping the Noise in your Head”