Tuesday, November 30

The Freedom to Experiment

I recently spent time with my long-time friend and successful artist, Linda Maldonado. Linda shared that she is now thinking of her work as "experimental." She said that once she gave herself permission to define her artwork in this way, she found untapped creativity and freedom of expression. She felt less confined than she had when she was using more restrictive labels, such as "watercolorist" or "mixed media artist."

Linda's recent works exhibit a vibrancy and intensity that her previous work only hinted at. I couldn't help but think of the connection between her expanded view of her work and the powerful results produced--and observe that we all hold ourselves back by the labels we put on our work. Labels--in fact, nouns in general--create boundaries within which we then feel we need to remain. They literally prevent us from "thinking outside of the name." By expanding beyond such labels as "nonprofit," "member-supported," "administrative services," and similar categories, we free ourselves to see and consider possibilities that have been hidden to us by our self-limiting definitions.

Thanks, Linda, for reminding me of the value of experimentation. Especially in these economic times, we can feel that experimentation is careless or wasteful--that we have to get everything right the first time. We set out on a path before exploring alternatives, and then feel committed to that path even when it might not be ideal. I vow this holiday season to be more experimental in my life and in my work, and encourage others to do the same. Play with ideas, consider alternatives, move toward the unfamiliar, and see what freedom and insights you find as a result.

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