Becoming a Wealthy Creative: Taking risk and feeling exposed (sometimes naked even).

Creativity

kriːeɪˈtɪvɪti/

noun

the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.

synonyms

inventiveness, imagination, imaginativeness, innovation, innovativeness, originality, artistry, expressiveness, inspiration, vision, creative power, creative talent, creative gift, creative skill, resourcefulness, ingenuity, enterprise

In my previous blog post I wrote about finding your authentic voice as a creative. If you haven’t read it yet, you can read it here. We ran a competition where we asked our readers to share a story of their own authenticity and doing the hard work of pursuing their dreams. We had a few really beautiful stories shared with us and we loved what Chandre De Wet (the winner of the competition, yay!) had to say:

“In the height of my gloom, I booked a trip to start to fulfill MY dreams as I have worked hard for others dreams forever. This Dreamer went to the dreamer Nation, the USA, and besides being inspired by not only the creativity and experience of some organizations themselves, in the final week, the spring came back to my step and joy and hope and purpose bubbled again. I spent 2 days at Disney Land. I bought Disney takkies (sneakers), which I call my dream takkies and really inspire me when I wear them, and I came back to South Africa and enrolled within about a month later at Bellville Library art school to begin to hone this part of my creative gift. In class I intentionally choose pictures that are out of the box, or in line with my thoughts and dreams. And it is my happy place… I am still far from where I want to be but I made a Start and I’m super happy about it”.

 Last week we released our podcast with published writer, blogger and speaker Dalene Reyburn (take a listen here, Dalene is a genius and shares some amazing wisdom nuggets) and something that she said really hit me between the eyes; ‘we often focus on our circle of concern rather than our circle of influence’. This resonated with my experience of pursuing more of my creativity. I have often felt intimated by my circle of concern (e.g. all the people who my music is NOT for, the fact that maybe I WON’T succeed in the way that success is usually measured etc.) rather than being inspired by my circle of influence (e.g. all the people who my music IS for, the fact that maybe it’s not about my definition of success but rather something deeper and about very much more than I may ever recognise in my finite understanding of these things). And this got me thinking about a few of the other vital ingredients that I think are necessary to becoming a wealthy creative.

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Taking risk is one of the scariest things we have the opportunity to do as humans. It is tough because we kind of have to fight our very basic survival instinct. Our brains are programmed to shut off perceived threats and it is often in that moment where we pause to reflect or question the risk we are about to take that we lose the courage to go against what we would naturally do and remain in the place of comfort. Taking risk is uncomfortable and makes one feel vulnerable. My experience is that I have needed to make friends with these feelings or at least acknowledge that they exist and may be influencing my choices in order to take more risks.

I remember when I used to take one risk about every 5 years. My comfort levels were extremely high and I guess one could argue that it must have felt great but I cannot explain the frustration that I felt every single day of my life. I just knew deep down that I was made for more. The number of risks I take has increased exponentially and I can’t remember when last I felt that deep seated frustration. The thing is though, in my experience anyway, is that you can’t have both. You can’t have both high levels of comfort and take a lot of risk…and this can make you feel exposed on levels you didn’t think possible.

Last year I released my first album (it’s called ‘from dust to heaven’s lights and you can find it here) and I remember my finger hovering over the ‘publish’ button on the platform I was using and I literally had cold sweats as I was about to launch my sound into the big wide world of the internet. ‘What if it’s not good enough-what if no one listens to it-what if this is the worst idea ever-what if-what if- what if?’ were some of the thoughts that thundered repeatedly through my brain and I eventually looked away and clicked ‘publish’ and then had a mild melt down. Why did I have a mild melt down? Well because I felt exposed and just a little bit naked. Some of my very personal stories and compositions were now in a realm where anyone could access them. These are the moments that we often have to face on our own. These moments of truth and risk. Did I become an overnight internet success? Nope. Did no one listen? Nope (thankfully).

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(This is a photograph of the wonderful and supportive audience and my album launch. Photo cred: Alison Harris).

Although I didn’t become an overnight internet success (for which I am rather grateful), I did get to start engaging with my own friends and family around my music as well as some strangers (some of whom got in touch and shared such beautiful things about how much my music had touched them. This inspired me to start telling people more often how their art/design/music/poetry etc. touched me as often we think we have no impact merely because no one ever encourages us). One of my favourite stories was of hearing of a friend of a friend who took my music and jammed her bass guitar along to my pieces. Never in a million years would I have thought that my music was bass guitar jam material and the thought of her rocking out and having her own creative experience while doing this put a really large smile on my face. You see we never know where our risks will take us. How big or small their impact will be. What is big and small anyway? That kind of comparative thinking can be a real killer to your risk-taking ability. I believe that risk-taking is something that you can develop, for some people it may come more naturally but all of us can develop a mindset around being more willing to risk.

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(Sharing my story and music at my album launch last year. Feeling somewhat exposed but also excited. Photo cred: Alison Harris)

Here are a few things that I have found helpful in developing my ability to take risk (I have most definitely not got this all figured out, but love to share what I’ve learned):

  • Take note of the areas in your life where you feel deeply frustrated…this can be a good clue to where you could be developing your risk-taking ability. Frustration can be a good driver.
  • Take some small risks to build up your confidence and you’ll be surprised at how you become better at taking risk as you do this…because once you realise that you don’t actually die, it stops being so scary.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work out how you thought it was going to. Sometimes it won’t and that’s okay too. If you can be kind to yourself and have a ‘what can I learn from this?’ kind of approach, then you really can’t go too wrong.
  • Work towards having a long-term view of what you’re working on, instead of having a ‘once off event’ kind of mindset around risk. I guess you could think of it in terms of rather eating healthy most days instead of flash dieting (the analogies are endless, that one just came to me now in a moment of inspiration, haha)
  • What you have a value for you will pursue more and will get more of in your life. So, if you can start valuing taking risk instead of being intimidated by it, then you will see more of it in your life.
  • Let go of perfectionism. I know, easier said than done but totally possible.

As always, we’d love to hear from you. Please comment below and feel free to share a tip with us on how you’ve developed your ability to take risk.

Chat soon,

Carol

(P.S. Brene Brown’s TED Talk on ‘Why your critics are not the ones who count’ has been super helpful for me to understand some of the dynamics around taking risk and learning how to work with critical people (most especially my own inner dialogue). You can watch it here).

 

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