Taking Risks: Four Ways to Get the Creative Juices Going

I’m at the point in my life when I know there are a few things I’m good at. There are some dishes I cook that always turn out right. Certain outfits I wear that just work. I know my way around Photoshop and InDesign. I can always go for a run and feel a sense of accomplishment.

The problem with doing the things I know is that it’s so easy to slip into autopilot. When I stay comfortable, things begin to look the same. I stop stretching and I stop growing. Worst of all, I stop loving the work I am doing. It’s no longer a journey of discovery and creation. Design becomes a chore. Creativity alludes me. I look for a quick fix, find it, and move on.

The only way I’ve learned to overcome this complacency is to take myself out of my comfort zone. Here are some of the ways I’ve attempted to get out of my comfort zone as well as the affect it has had on my creative process:


1. Try something that scares you: Skydiving

There’s nothing more exhilarating, but I had never been so terrified in my life. I also knew that it was HIGHLY unlikely for anything really horrible to happen, because I did go tandem. I’m not crazy. 

I won’t repeat the stuff that everyone’s already said about how it was life changing and awesome and how you should totally do it. I will say that, once I jumped out of a plane with nothing but another person and a silk sheet attached to my back, I’m pretty ok presenting a concept that would stretch the client beyond their comfort zone.

These real-life, pseudo death-defying leaps remind us not to take life so seriously. They remind us that it’s better to do something new than to keep doing what we know works in lieu of trying something new.


2. Try doing an old thing in a new way: Premier Pro

I know that After Effects isn’t supposed to be the only editing tool to make five minute-long videos. I understand that the timeline becomes unwieldy and the rendering can be very very slow. But it was just comfortable. Opening up After Effects is like sliding on that old pair of jeans that is comfortable and always fits. But you can’t wear jeans to a cocktail party! Relying only on After Effects for video projects was limiting me. I had to try something new.

I knew I would lose a day or two trying to learn how to work Premier Pro into my video editing workflow. And I was right. I lost about a day and a half watching tutorials and figuring out how to do things in Premier Pro that I already knew how to do easily in After Effects. BUT I was quickly able to make the time up in a speedier render, a much more manageable timeline and generally just using the right tools for the job.


3. Try something that embarrasses you: Calligraphy

I know more than a few people who are really good at hand lettering. My little sister sent me something in the mail the other day that was entirely made by hand and practically perfect in every way. I went to design school with Caroline Curtin McGah and Cat Coquillette who are leaders in the craft. There are scads of If I wanted to develop talent like that, I probably should’ve started wielding an angled pen when I was six years old.

But just because I know I won’t be the best doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. As a result, I’ve got some pretty scratchy, splotchy calligraphy samples. It’s embarrassing. But it’s just a start. Even Ron Swanson probably made a wobbly table or two before he became a master carpenter. And you’ve got to start somewhere.


4. Try something that takes a really, really long time to master: Polish

This could also be filed under something that embarrasses me. I’m typically floundering around trying to understand but 95% sure I misunderstood. But the only way to overcome this whole confusion is to work really really hard and spend a lot of extra hours working on it. The end goal isn’t on the horizon. The end goal (being able to have a real conversation in Polish) may be a couple years away.

This process of learning Polish is teaching me to enjoy the process itself. If I were learning the language only for the results, I would be discouraged very quickly. Not everything has a clear end date or a hot deadline. Some things worth doing take a long time. I’m learning to be OK with that.


Bringing yourself out of a comfort zone is an ongoing process. But the added effort leaves room for constant exploration, discovery, new perspectives and just keeping your creative edge. I'm guessing this road leads to the fountain of youth, as well. Just a guess.

Katelyn McGillComment