My hands-down favorite reframing exercise is the one where I call whatever I'm attempting an experiment.
What a small, easy shift!—to give a name to some new effort I'm undertaking—and yet, it's really an enormous gift to myself: In one word, I grant myself room and time and patience to stay oriented around process, around learning, around data collection. Not around results, outcomes, successes or failures.
Experiments are easy. Fun. Low-risk. (No-risk?) Curious. They can't go wrong; there is no wrong. It's all information, every last bit.
An experiment is a marvelous way to fake out the ego; generally speaking, the ego wants an arena where it believes skill and ability are the be all, end all (and neither matters very much in a bonafide experiment), and it wants to show off and impress and hinge our self-worth to flimsy things like praise and perfection. The ego gets bored with inquisitiveness and relentless seeking, which means either is an ideal gateway for beginning anything.
In preparation for my next experiment, I'm trying to surround myself (online) with creatives who are particularly generous in sharing their processes—as a way of reinforcing the concept, but also because I'm always fascinated by practice, by the deliberate recording and fleshing out of half-formed ideas, by the frustrations and the course corrections and the pleasant surprises. The outlines, the sketches, the beginnings of collections, the collecting of thoughts—all of that is so much more interesting to me than any finished product. I want to be let in on the evolution. I want to know the story; even better if I was permitted to witness its unfolding.
One of the wonderful things about running an experiment publicly is how it opens up the experience, the process of learning and discovery, for others. It makes the thing transparent. And, perhaps not surprisingly, that transparency adds dimension.
I'm sensing a new creative undertaking on my horizon and I have no real idea what it is or how to approach it—except to call it an experiment and to find a way to share with you whatever it is I'm learning about it along the way.
(Wildly enough, this is exactly how I began Weekly Findings last year.)
I wonder about your current thing—if you know what it is, if you're willing to reframe it as an experiment, and how differently it looks when you think about it as a transparent process.
How Ann Wood experiments: "I have to trick myself into starting a new shape—I love the process when I’m in it but there is always anticipatory anxiety—it’s knowing I have a series of failures ahead of me. I don’t mind them as they happen—it feels like process, progress and discovery, I get immersed in it. But still, even though I know that—starting—taking the very first step—is always hard, even for stuff I’m pretty excited about."
As we returned from Riverside Walk in Zion, we spotted this shallow pool alongside the paved trail. Tiny springs pushed crisp water up through the ground, where it bubbled and created these cloudy sand flurries that I could've watched for hours. I pressed my finger into one.