Stretching the comfort zone of your creativity
Hello Creative QB’s,
How stepping from comfy sand shoes to nine-inch high heels helped me stretch out of my comfort zone and enter a regional art prize.
If like me, creativity is starting to feel like an old comfy pair of favourite sandshoes it maybe time to stretch yourself and slip into something a little more uncomfortable.
3 minute read
Experiencing discomfort in our creativity, our ideas, abilities, skills and talents and learning to push our creative boundaries are opportunities for creative growth. It’s a way to build creative confidence step by stretch.
A creative stretch is stepping outside of your comfort zone, doing something in your creative practice or life that pushes you beyond where you comfortably wish to go. A creative stretch prepares the ground for a new normal, like learning to walk, not in comfy shoes, but in nine-inch high heels and owning it.
Just last month my old sandshoes where feeling a little too comfy so I decided to enter one of my artworks into a regional art prize. I did this to stretch out the limits of what I think is possible.
Why did I stretch outside my comfort zone?
I knew it was time to push outside my comfort zone because:
- I’d been working on an artwork for a few months and I knew I needed to finish it, the deadline of an art prize entry form gave me incentive.
- I felt like I had ‘leaned in’ or ‘limbered up’ for a stretch. I’d been working steadily in my art practice, I was not at ground zero and I knew I was ready.
- I was willing to stretch. This was a really important part of my purpose for doing it.
There is a paradox in a creative stretch. When I stepped out of my comfort zone (by entering the art prize) I was initially excited and inspired and I needed that fuel to kick-start my courage. Then, once I’d committed, a plan naturally emerged with all the steps and tasks I needed to do to make it happen. Once that plan was in process then came the tummy churns, a combination of excitement and audacity, coupled with moments of self-doubt and the reappearance of the imposter syndrome.
On the flip side I began to fantasise about the possibility of winning or receiving accolades, while trying to push down the nagging feeling of potential rejection and disappointment.
It’s completely normal to experience all these emotions, because that’s where the lessons live. How we deal with living wildly outside the boundaries of our comfort zone is akin to inviting monsters into our backyard and that can be terrifying. But venture we must into the monster pit because those lessons build creative resilience, flex our risk muscle and give us an opportunity to hone our creative skills and talents for improvement.
In deciding to take a creative stretch, things that worked for me where:
- Being ready and willing – I was very mindful of being ready and willing. If you are not both ready and willing, a stretch can deal a debilitating blow to your confidence and thwart the next stretchy wave coming around. Be honest with yourself about being ready and willing. (although the opposite is also true, you may not be ready but your will is stronger, I call that a leap of faith and it’s another blog post entirely here)
- Making a choice – I acknowledge I am making a conscious decision to stretch, to be open and to share my gifts and talents.
- I’m walking the talk- in living a creative life I must show up everyday ready for the muse – whatever shape or form the discomfort or joy that brings me.
- Just because – knowing I can do this simply because I can.
- Managing my expectations – especially around the paradox of a creative stretch. This means asking myself some questions like; am I going to be ok if my artwork is rejected and I don’t make it through as a finalist in the art prize? Am I going to be ok with the critique from peers and judges? How might I react if I am successful? What does a successful stretch look like for me?
- Set and forget – I take the action and then I forget about it. Life goes on, don’t stress it, wish it to happen or become obsessive about an outcome. Be reflective about your feelings and emotions and really tap into the lessons it teaches you, that is the real masterwork of a creative stretch.
This stretchy lesson taught me more about ‘the offering of our gifts and talents’. It reinforced my perspective on the giving of our creative gifts in that; creativity is not ours to own, it is ours to give, firstly to ourselves and then to others and that is why it is called a ‘gift’.
Giving the gift of creativity to yourself first is an act of self love. Holding on, hoarding or keeping that gift from ourselves is not the spirit of creativity nor is it abundantly and generously living a happy, healthy, creative life.
If you recognise you are hiding your creative gifts away, ask yourself “what am I offering”? Just asking this little question may have you stepping into killer nine-inch heels and forgetting your ever owned those comfy old sandshoes.
The good news is I was a finalist in the Newcastle Emerging Artist Prize 2018 (NEAP) and part of the finalist exhibition. I also won the ‘Packers Prize’ to boot. That’s a stretchy win-win for me. Oh, just one more thing, I wore my most uncomfortable, highest of heeled shoes to exhibition opening night, just to remind myself that uncomfortable has it’s rewards.
TOP THREE TAKEAWAY’s
• A creative stretch builds creative resilience, flex’s our risk muscle and gives us an opportunity to hone our creative skills and talents for improvement.
• Remind yourself that being uncomfortable has it’s rewards.
There is a paradox in a creative stretch. When I stepped out of my comfort zone (by entering the art prize) I was initially excited and inspired and I needed that fuel to kick-start my courage.