Creative Insights: Quinn McDonald

The Valuable Tool of Not Knowing

You already know how dangerous it is not to know something—the latest office news, your boss’s thoughts, your own job’s newest development. You may spend a lot of time gathering information so you can be in the know. Someone who admits to not knowing is branded as “naive,” “not ambitious,” or—even more dangerous at work—“not someone we would promote.”

How did knowing everything become so important? Particularly since not knowing is the way we get information, the way we learn how to do something new. In the business world, the importance of knowing could lie in the time- and money-cost of training. It takes longer to train someone who doesn’t know than someone who already does. And for a beleaguered supervisor, training takes time away from the job, so hiring someone who already knows the job seems the best route. A reasonable shortcut is on-the-job training. How much more exciting if we could admit we didn’t know, but were eager to learn a new way of getting to the result.

The problems start when the job expectations are out of reach of what we know.

This is no different for an artist than a corporate employee. An artist who tells a coach, “I know how to work with galleries,” or “I know what I need to do,” may be hiding an important part of their life that needs work.

Knowing and not knowing is closely related to control. The more we try to control every minute of our lives, the more we have to know. Not knowing relinquishes control.

What a relief the phrase “I don’t know” can be. It opens the door to getting more information, to new experiences, to new perspectives. There is a great release of pressure when you are not in control of every second of your life. You are not so disappointed all the time when you don’t know, when control is not the driving force in your life.

In the next few days, when you feel as if you are being pecked to death by ducks, try saying “I just don’t know” to yourself. Take off that heavy backpack of knowing and controlling and instead take three deep, slow breaths. Then decide right now to just be in this moment. And leave the backpack behind.

 

Quinn McDonald is an artist and certified creativity coach who helps artists through transitions in their lives and work. You can e-mail your business-of-art questions to QuinnCreative@yahoo.com. Quinn’s book, Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art will be published by North Light in July, 2011.


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