The "Comfort Zone"

April 23, 2019

Much has been lost to it. Fears are often ruled by it. Lives are lived based on its code. It's a necessary evil that we adhere to more than we realize. Ladies and gents, I present to you: The Comfort Zone. 

Now, I'm not equipped with the proper degrees to discuss how The Comfort Zone affects us psychologically (I don't even think there's a course in Business School about that... Maybe Game Theory...) but I can talk about how it can affect our creativity, because it has for me time and time again. And it's not as if it's detrimental to us to not branch out and try new things; sometimes that's just how we are wired that we find one thing that works for us and stick with it. However, it can be detrimental if you feel inspired by these new methods or artistic ideas, but you don't know how to start, or you're too scared to. 

Trust me, I get it.

I still feel that way sometimes. And for me, it doesn't even stop at trying new things, but putting my art out there. Contacting pop up galleries. Being featured in magazines, Instagram pages, websites, you name it! If it has something to do with public exposure, you can expect a degree of anxiety from me. My comfort zone has always been in my artistic bubble: me, my art studio, some music, and my dogs. But the fact of the matter is that in order to get anywhere we want to in life, whether it's for your art or work or school or relationships, we have to step out of our bubble and face what we fear the most. To get the degree of exposure you require, you have to run ads on Social Media, reach out to galleries, apply for art shows, and try not to cry as you're doing it (that last part is mainly for me). 

Having said that, if you would much rather keep art aside as a hobby and be low key about it, that's fine too! You simply have the luxury of never having to worry about going through the steps of putting together an ad with absolutely zero marketing experience to work with (again, guilty). I work with data analytics, and that knowledge helps to keep me abreast of how my site is doing (another post entirely), but I know nothing about marketing my stuff on social media or, at least, I didn't when I first got started. That's not to say that I'm some expert at it now, I definitely still struggle with how to put together a target market online and what not, but because I stepped out of my comfort zone to try it in the first place, I can now utilize this extremely helpful service to my benefits. 

The point is, you have to give yourself that chance. "Everything you could ever want is on the other side of fear" (insert author of this quote here).

You don't have to throw yourself into the lion's den from the get go. Perhaps you can try finding the nicer of the lion pride (the pacifist, if you will) and see if he or she will take a treat from you... Meaning the first step to getting out of your comfort zone is actually researching what it is you fear and seeing how it could work for you. You can't really get the benefits you want if you don't know what you're getting yourself into. I'd say always read up on it, and maybe that'll be enough to temper your fear of it. And if not, the exposure and looking into it still helps more than hurts. This is a blanket statement, it could apply to anything you could attempt to promote your craft: workshops, online ads, showrooms, galleries, art shows, tutorials, online sales, etc. If your knowledge of that is biased or limited, look into it! Expose yourself to it. We have the beauty of the Internet and all her infinite knowledge. Best to make her do some work for us before she turns against us Terminator style. 

I won't go into the details of how to dip your toe in the pool of the various ways you can advertise yourself (maybe another blog post when I become smarter about it and actually know what I'm talking about), but if you're rearing to get started and you can't wait for me not be clueless about this stuff, check out Agora Gallery's article on art promotion! There are some excellent tips there, and not all of them are dramatic and terrifying. 

I mentioned researching tactics to gain exposure. That's a general first step. However, if you're really wanting to take a drastic step and you already have an idea of what you want to do and kind of know how to do it, but you're kind of scared to take that next step, you could rip off the bandaid that go for it, or you could consult someone who has done it before. I find that when I get advice from someone who has had the experience that I am seeking (let's say for online advertisements), it not only provides me with more information to add onto what I already knew, but it comforts me to hear someone else talk about having done it. And look! It didn't defeat them! We don't play lightly when it comes to anxiety on my blog, because I am a long time sufferer and perhaps you are or you know someone who is. It's very serious, and it can affect us even with the little things. So I don't make jokes when I say that the idea that someone tried something that scared you and survived; it's a reassurance. Sometimes all we need is a voice of reason or advice from someone who's been through what scares you.

If it's something that you can't get past even with all the advice and research in the world, seek alternatives. Can you find a temporary way to seek some manner of exposure (if that is still what you want) without taking any dramatic steps? What method of exposure would work best for you while still keeping you somewhat in your comfort zone? Remember, the idea is that any alternative you seek out has to be temporary, so it can get tricky if you snuggle yourself in and refuse to leave. 

An alternative That I always found optimal during times when i didn't want to get out there and make a dramatic entrance was to simply adjust and modify the hashtags that I used on my posts on Instagram. I would search around the Insta-universe, find what was trending, see which ones the more successful artists are using, and adjust accordingly. And yes, it can be a Huge chore to go through your entire feed and copy & paste new hashtags on all of them. I'm sure at some point Instagram even blocks you from editing your content for a select amount of times. But if you've ever worked with seo or any marketing content editing strategies, you know to promote your best-selling or most popular content. Adjust the hashtags on those. It's not as dramatic as paying to have your content advertised but just enough to get it re-posted in the hashtags that you use, moving your content back up top. 

Now, what hashtags to use depend entirely on what is trending, so I cannot comment on that, But if you make sure to keep whichever ones you use specific to the content that you're posting. So if your page is dedicated to hamsters, don't #parrots. if you're not posting any multimedia art, don't use the #multimedia hashtag. once you know how to manipulate hashtags specifically to promote your content, it really just becomes a matter of keeping an eye out for which ones are popular. And, most importantly it gives you the right amount of exposure without drop-kicking you out of your comfort zone.

There is going to be a part II to this post because I know there are other options that I just can't think of right now. If anything that I've said here helps, then awesome! If not, feel free to message me and ask. I cannot guarantee expertise advice, but I'll use my experience to try to guide you in the right direction. 

Until then, and thank you for stopping by! 

xo - M.P.