How to Manage Risk as a Creative
At no time I can remember has the need to be able to deal with creative risk been more important than now.
These times are unprecedented and the need for taking a risk even more important than it usually is.
Creatives always face risk and the knowledge that the risk will lead to some sort of inevitable outcome.
And since we are creatives we sort of expect that outcome to be negative.
‘What if they find out I suck?”
“What if they don’t like it?”
“What if I realize I shouldn’t be doing this?”
“What will I do when I finally come face to face with the fact that I am a big fraud and suck at most everything I ever wanted to do…?”
We creatives are nothing if not creative in the ways we think our failure is written in the stars and all we do from day to day is try to keep that secret safe.
But deep in our lizard brains we know it isn’t true because the next morning we get up and get after it once again.
Let’s take a look at those “What if’s…”
What if they are wrong?
What if they are bullshit?
What if they are frauds?
Now think about it… what would you do if you knew people were going to like your work and don’t think you suck?
Chances are you would do the same thing you are doing right now… but have a much better time doing it.
And let’s take it even further — everyone adores your every photo.
(I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom, for me and you
And I think to myself…)
Not having the stress we put on ourselves to be so careful with our expectations and just knowing they will be taken care of would leave more time for creating what we wanted.
And that would be super cool.
Or would it?
Would we continue to push ourselves farther and farther if we knew that most whatever we did would be accepted as awesome?
Why would we innovate? Why take any chances at all?
Why would we really give a shit… make art and get paid, baby.?
You see, there is a reason we doubt. It’s part of the process of keeping us focused on the betterment of our art.
And did you notice the focus of those ‘what if’s’?
They were all focused on the external… they, them, acceptance.
And we have no control over the external. Absolutely NONE.
Yet we give it all the weight.
We must stop.
We need to make our own art and find out specifically what we need to do for it to be better.
One way is to gather constructive feedback, adjust accordingly, test again, and repeat.
Feedback, especially constructive feedback, is often difficult to get, and that is one of the things that makes it so valuable.
While we cannot control the outcome of our ‘what if’s’, we can certainly control our ability to get feedback.
Post your images.
Go to workshops.
Meet your peers.
Find potential clients.
Show your book.
Meet the buyers.
And gather the data.
Who liked it, who was unimpressed?
Ask the ones who don’t seem to be engaged in your work what you could do to make them more excited about it?
“Thanks for viewing my work. I know how long you have worked in this industry and your work speaks for itself. I wonder if you would have a bit of advice to help me be a better photographer?”
Always let them know you think they are an important resource, then do the ask.
When we get the data, we adjust.
7 out of 10 clients did not seem to like my shot of the old Bentley. Two of them mentioned it in their critiques. Let’s replace it.
8 out of 10 seemed to love the food section. Let’s add some more food and hit them again in 4–5 months.
DATA… data data data.
We have no control over the outcome.
We do have control over the data… and we can keep manipulating our work using that data to get to a place where we may be able to expect a positive outcome.
Of course, I should add that we absolutely MUST be in love with what we create. If you are making certain kinds of images because you think they are “what is selling now”, you must stop. A passionate photographer who loves their work will always do better than someone mailing it in because they think they should.
Embrace the work, show it around, and collect the data.
Embrace and analyze the data to find what you need to add to or modify your work.
And do it.