No matter your walk of life nor your life’s passions, most of us have a natural desire to play it safe. We want to do what is comfortable, forming a sort of "comfort zone" which is limited to the predictable and usually quite ordinary. New is scary, routine is comforting. As creatives, I believe this is more relatable than ever. We have our niche and stick to it. “I shoot intimate portraits with ONLY natural light. I don’t EVER use anything but my $4,000 watercolors. This is how I do it and I’m sticking to it.” I am just as guilty as these pompous creative figments of my imagination.
Trying your hand at something new can be intimidating and the idea of changing ones strategy can be scary. Be that as it may, I have recently found that a creative jumpstart occurs when I force myself to break free of my comfort zone and let my perspective take a new form. Let me explain in the medium I am most comfortable with, photography. But it doesn't stop there, weave this call for action into whatever creative medium you prefer.
In photography our comfort zones get formed early on, one can get fastened into a certain genre whether it be in action sports photography, the fashion world, or capturing your great aunts weddings. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, everyone has a inherent talent that they discover and use to try to make a name for themselves. But, do NOT confuse your genre with style. I will dive into this later. As a creative, I feel that your "comfort zone' can be the ultimate enemy of creative expression. It's just that when you let go of your expectations and let your whimsy have the reins, it forces you into a new light. The old becomes new, the boring coals ignite into new flames. It allows you a glimpse of what is truly possible and it might be bigger and better then you could ever have imagined.
Take for instance, this past weekend I decided to break free of my personal comfort zone and try my hand at a different style of photography. Instead of my usual weekend climbing adventure that always seems to yield some exciting images of steep approaches and climbers gnawing at rock, I hit the road with my lady, my camera kit and a vague idea of what I was searching for. I wanted something new but wasn’t quite sure what, until it found me. After an hour on the road venturing through nowhere Nevada, it struck me. Fashion in wilderness. With very apprehensive looks from my girlfriend about the weather, what I was going to have her wear, and the outcropping she was going to balance on, I followed my gut to the top of a lookout and found what I was searching for. There was a small rocky ledge with a beautiful backdrop of the Western Sierras. The voluminous clouds were perfect, whipping by with a little help from the relentless winds. With a little convincing and maybe a few bribes, I managed to convince my girlfriend to put on a colorful billowy dress complete with high heels and hike with me to the gusty overlook.
After nearly loosing some equipment and my girlfriend over the edge, the scene was slowly starting to come together. The entire time, I felt lost. How are you suppose to pose a model in an intriguing way? Look right, down, left, flip over backwards - I don't know! It made me dig deep, reach and try to discover something which I had never tried to grab. It became fun!
This doesn't mean I lost my style. I tend to shoot loose, playful and with unexpected angles. I just switched up my genre with which I brought my style. Never lose that. Style is bred, molded, and transformed. It travels with you no matter where things go. I’m not trying to tell you to change your style, just step out of the genre comfort zone and make something new. Make yourself reach. Twist, turn, and jump over backwards. The more we respond to new challenges, the more places we will find to explore, and with that comes new excitement. We live in a world bursting with creativity and it's our job to find it. Break free from your comfort zone and watch as the creativity finds new growth.