Creativity is often perceived as being inherently risky, but the real danger lies in self-doubt. While the creative process certainly involves venturing into the unknown with the knowledge that the end result might not be what you expected, conceiving it as a risky undertaking from the beginning may prevent you from achieving the goals you set for yourself. At its best, creativity takes you from precipice to precipice; make enough jumps and, before you know it, you’re flying.
1. Do something no one’s done before.
Everyone wants to be the first to do [blank]. This is probably the number one driving factor behind most creative endeavors, but it doesn’t hurt to be encouraged to aspire to originality. Think ahead. Focus on doing what might best befit tomorrow, rather than fulfilling the needs and tastes of today.
2. Do something someone did before—better.
Precedents are only precedents until a better model comes along. There’s always an opportunity to “make it new” (shout-out to Ezra Pound). Whether an idea put into practice failed miserably the first time or if it has worked wonderfully in the past, revisiting it could make it relevant for a whole new audience.
3. Don’t worry about someone doing the same thing.
Right now, there are countless creatives working to capitalize on the latest trends. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but the energy you spend worrying about what other people are doing is energy better spent on doing everything you can to ensure your final product is the best it can be.
4. Try a lot of different things.
An oft-heard lament from creatives is in regards to not having enough time to properly vet decisions. Whenever a project allows for it, build in a blue-sky phase that provides an opportunity for ideas to grow organically. Pick a few, and run with them before locking yourself into one direction.
5. Improve something you’ve already done.
It’s not uncommon—and even considered healthy—to sometimes end unsatisfied with how a project came out. Perhaps you didn’t have the proper resources to get it right the first time or you simply learned more about yourself and the work along the way. Remakes don’t have to be bad.
Every decision—not just creative ones—involves the risk that the outcome will be different or somehow less than desired. A success, however, can come with just as many challenges as a failure, so plan contingencies for when it works and when it doesn’t. Put your acceptance speech in your back pocket, but tighten your gut for any punches coming your way. Either way, be prepared to stand by your creative decisions while acknowledging opportunities to grow in your art.
The fact is that most good ideas don’t make it beyond the cerebral plane because of apprehension or lack of confidence. Instead of viewing creativity as risky, consider it an opportunity to be bold and, in so doing, maximize your creative potential.
Ian Klein is a Producer at Column Five and holds an MFA in Dramaturgy from Columbia University, in New York City. In addition to his work in narrative development across multiple forms of media, he is a frequent contributor to popular culture studies and presents regularly at meetings of the Whedon Studies Association and the Popular Culture Association/Ame