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  • Writer's picturecarolyn land

Flexing Your “Risk Muscle”

“A man’s errors are his portals of discovery.”      James Joyce

Natures Force

Natures Force                                       Collage

Sometimes getting to the “heart or soul” kind of painting means you must take risks.  That is a very scary word for some people.  Most people do not like change.  We get comfortable in a routine, and if we are successful in that routine we ask, “why change”?  Short answer…we want to grow and get better.  But what if we fail?

There are two benefits to failure.  First, if we do fail, we learn what does not work. Second, the failure gives us an opportunity to try a new approach to what we are trying to do.  It becomes a steppingstone to new ideas. It initiates change. It makes us look deeper. These, all lead to creative thinking!

Failure does not kill us, but our fear of failure just may keep us from success. Success is good but failure is sometimes better. It does not mean our idea or ability aren’t good enough. It simply means there is something to be learned or another direction we can take.

Over my many years in the field of education I have seen too many creative and talented people give up just because they were afraid to flex their “risk muscle”. They were afraid of failing, afraid of what others would say about their attempt, or they had a preconceived idea in their head of what they wanted to do that was so strong, they could not see that what they were doing was better, more original, innovative.

How often do we hear people say, “I wish I had the guts to do that”? Courage is not the absence of fear; it is feeling the fear, and taking action anyway. When we try something, despite the possibility of failure, we show that we have courage.

Something else as an educator I have noticed about people’s ability to exercise their “risk muscle” is, they do not give things enough time.  They want instant success.  You do not get strong in one workout session.

I am a problem solver by nature.  When a painting fails, which many do, I put them away for another day.  I sometimes find that later they become interesting puzzles to solve rather than failed paintings, and that they are easier to work on than blank pieces of paper.  It becomes an interesting challenge!

When we are afraid to flex our “risk muscle”, and that negative “self-talk” inhabits our being, instead of stopping; think…this is a signal! This is just heightened energy available to me for my creative and productive use.

When we practice “flexing the risk muscle”, we will become more innovative and creative. Our work will take on a new dimension and we become stronger artists.

Even at this late date, I go into my studio. and think ‘is this going to be it? Is it the end?’ You see nearly everything terrorizes me.  I think that when an artist loses that terror, he’s through.”   Robert Rauschenberg

Go flex your “risk muscle”. Stay safe. Carolyn

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