I recently had a discussion with a friend about how she wanted to get her art to the next level. She’s an accomplished artist, well known locally, but wanted her work to reach a broader audience. I made the comment she needed to break out of her comfort zone and try something different, which got us into a heated discussion about just what that actually meant. She felt getting her graduate degree in art was as much out of her comfort zone she wanted to get. It was tough on her and her family and she was proud of herself for accomplishing it. While I agreed with her on some level, I had to differ with her about the kind of risk she took to get it. I feel a master’s degree has a predictable result. I don’t want to minimize her efforts, but she knew from the very beginning she would get a degree and a good job after she graduated. It had an expected outcome.
I love this quote by Ray Bradbury: “Living at risk is jumping off a cliff and building wings on the way down.” To take a risk means something has to be at stake, whether it’s pushing an idea beyond limits of the ordinary, or using a medium in a new unknown way. It means forging into new territory where the outcome is not predictable. It’s about not knowing what the end result will be until it’s reached.
The debate with my friend reinforced my opinion of just how becoming comfortable with your work may actually bring it to a dead end. To take risks means leaving everything you know behind and allow yourself to explore a new direction. It means not knowing where it might take you. The key is not to give up when you jump off a cliff, but to build wings that will carry you down.