The other week Kat from Rock n Roll Bride asked me to write a guest post for the green room section of her infamous blog. I had a few ideas about what to write about, but in the end I opted for a topic that feels very close to my heart right now, nurturing your curiosity & courage, and how these two things can help you in your business and as a creative person. This is a topic that I will most definitely be covering in more depth once mnoo school workshops get going, but for now, you can read some of my thoughts over on Rock n Roll Bride (or the transcript, below).
One of the biggest fears for photographers (and I’m referring to photographers as that’s my reality, feel free to substitute a camera for whatever is your passion) when making the transition into a working professional is the doubt about whether doing something for a living takes the shine out of it. Whether in a few years you will start feeling like a new assignment is just ‘another day in the office’, and that in the end you lose that passion you have for your craft. For me this was one of the biggest psychological challenges to get over when I was thinking about starting my business. I was so protective of my craft, my creative process and my artistic outlet, and I was so afraid of potentially compromising all that I loved about photography if it was to be the provider of my main income. Eventually a switch flipped in my head though, and it seemed like madness to sit in an office doing a job that wasn’t fulfilling, while I could spend all my days with a camera in my hand doing what I love. Making that leap was at the same time scary and overwhelming, but also freeing, like stepping into my true self.
In all fairness, it definitely hasn’t been all about spending my days on cloud 9 with a camera in my hand. But now, after a few years of the hard graft of building a business from the ground up, having lived through a lot of highs and lows – including moments where I can’t believe how lucky I am to be living my dream, to moments where I’m so busy I feel like I’m losing myself while doing my best to service my clients – I’m finally approaching a balance. And now that I’m in a place where I can see a bit more clearly, where I have some more space to put things into perspective, it has become clear to me that two of the most important components to achieving both success, and retaining your own identity as an artist, are curiosity and courage.
Whether you’re an artist or not, but especially if you are, it is vital to stay curious about the world. To always keep an open mind and to always look at the bigger picture and consider different angles. If you don’t, life can start feeling very small indeed.
A good way to keep your senses open and your curiosity about the world piqued is to try something out of the ordinary on a regular basis. Just make it habit to step outside of your normal routines, and even comfort zone, and you can feel how the world around you expands a little bit every time, the air gets fresher and new ideas start brewing.
Some things you could do to nurture your curiosity:
♥ Learn a new skill, perhaps you could try basket weaving, or even learning a new language.
♥ Read a lot, whether fiction or fact, books are windows to the world beyond us and engage our imagination in a way that already directed and art designed movies can’t.
♥ Do watch movies, but try movies from all genres and all eras, don’t assume you know you won’t like something before actually giving it a chance.
♥ Look out of the window when you’re travelling on a train or a bus, what’s really out there?
♥ Look at a familiar scene, such as your home street, and try to see things you haven’t noticed before.
♥ Do something you don’t like – if you hate heavy metal listen to it, if you dislike poetry really try reading some.
♥ Go out to the sea or into a forest and just sit and listen to the nature.
♥ Get to know a new person, really listen to their story instead of going through the motions.
♥ Try to always remember to look at the bigger picture and to be grateful for what you have.
The reason I think curiosity & courage go hand in hand is because the bigger your view gets, the more you want to shake up the equilibrium, and in order for you to do that, you need to be brave and take action – otherwise you’ll just be daydreaming.
It takes courage to grab your dreams and stand behind them. It takes confidence to say: ‘This is who I am and what I want to do, just deal with it!’. Often it can feel much safer to go with the familiar than to embrace the unknown, and let’s be honest, familiarity takes a lot less work. But unless you keep dreaming and keep pushing yourself, you fill always feel less fulfilled and more and more stuck in a rut as time goes on.
So many people let the fear of failure stop them from trying new things, or starting new ventures, they are always so afraid of making the wrong decision that they never even start – and nothing ever changes. I’ll let you into a secret – most decisions in life are not set in stone, they can almost always be undone. In the same way as most things we view as a failure are not in fact fatal, but necessary ways for us to learn and see where the road is. If you’re worried about not being able to cope with scary or difficult parts of a journey, does it really make sense to never even start on it and thus miss out on all the brilliant and potentially life-altering bits?
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in life so far is to ‘go towards the fear’. When you start feeling scared, it usually means you are getting close to something important to you. And if you just push through the fear and do it anyways, the payoff is so much more valuable than what you get from taking the easier and more familiar path.
I love quotes and their ability to put complex ideas into a simple metaphor, so I will finish with one I found recently. I think you could pretty much condense everything I’ve written into this quote.
‘If you only do what you know you can do – you never do very much.’ Tom Krause