How to Be Okay with Experimentation

Abstract night photography – Photo by Dan Steven Erickson

It’s not easy to do things differently than everyone else. People have expectations. Experimentation can be frowned upon. The pressure is heavy for us to conform. I should know. I’ve been something of a non-conformist rebel for years.

Someone, I’m not sure who, once said that,

change is the only constant in life.

It’s true. We can’t stop the world from changing around us. And if you’re like me, you can’t stop from rethinking what you do and trying to change your own world.

Experimentation goes against the norms.

I’ve done a lot of writing, musical composing, and blogging. I’ve tried to keep what I do fresh. That means that I’ve been willing to work outside of the box. I’ve also conformed to the rules. I’ve seen the picture from both sides. Here’s what I’ve learned.

  • People like consistency.
  • When you work outside of the norm, you risk losing your audience.
  • People get bored with the same old thing.
  • When you don’t change things up, you risk losing your audience.

There you have it. There are no absolutes. Instead of using one method or another, the solution is in finding a balance between the two strategies. Before you can do that, you have to both learn the rules and be okay with experimentation.

Doing things different from everyone else isn’t easy. You might feel self-conscious. You’ll probably question yourself constantly. That is, until you reach a certain point.

How to be okay with experimentation.

In order to be okay with experimentation in your artistic endeavors, you have to stop caring. That doesn’t mean that you stop caring about your work. You’ll probably care more about the artistic aspects of your work than ever before.

Here’s a short list of ways to be okay with experimenting with your style.

  1. Don’t worry about what others think.
  2. Be willing to take creative risks.
  3. Don’t focus on financial gain.
  4. Learn to always have fun when you’re creating.
  5. Put quality before experimentation.
  6. Put experimentation before conformity.

But what about making it? How can you become known for what you do if what you do isn’t noticed because it’s too different from the rest?

Experimentation goes in both directions. I’ve created music that is noisy and discordant. I’ve written songs that follow a perfect pop format with great hooks and melodies. I’ve written blog posts by the formula and I’ve completely ignored the formula.

As a content creator, I’ve followed the rules of website design. Then I’ve turned around and broke those rules for the sake of being an artist.

Less abstract night photography – Photo by Dan Steven Erickson

I’m trying to find some middle ground.

You might have noticed some subtle changes in the style of my writing and the design of my content over the past few weeks. I’m experimenting.

I’ve always been comfortable with experimentation in art and music. I might go too far at times. I’m not sure how many people are interested in a poet-writer-songwriter-noisemaking-minimalist creator who seems to have too many irons in the fire? That might be a problem. This year, I’m trying to balance everything I do into a single place. That’s no easy task. It’s a form of alchemy.

Recently, I taught a class at Southern Maine Community College that opened my eyes to a something. Trying to find middle ground can be like taming an unruly beast. However, in the end, you’ll find great reward.

The mass communication course I taught was based on a premade curriculum. You might expect that I wasn’t excited about that idea. But I agreed to teach the course. I decided to use the premade curriculum and not change a thing. What a ride. I wound up teaching the most interesting and engaging course I’ve ever taught in my 25-year teaching career.

The entire course was an experiment because it wasn’t my content. I had to learn how to use the content given to me and add my own twist. The result was both fun and encouraging.

The struggle never ends, but don’t stop.

Welcome to 2024. You’ll be seeing some small changes here. I’m experimenting with writing some longer-format posts. I’m adding more headers. I’ll be using more photos. I’m changing things up a little.

As much as I love being experimental, I want to reach a larger audience. There’s a balance between being a non-conformist and reaching an audience. That’s the balance I’ll be aiming for.

Change is often a struggle. Every time you think you have something figured out, you see that there is still work to do. One experiment leads to another. That’s okay. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Being experimental sets you apart from the rest. In the end, you’ll gain more experience and learn how to better navigate creativity and life. Stop worrying about what others think. Start taking risks. Experiment. – dse

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Author: Dan Steven Erickson

Dan Steven Erickson is a great undiscovered American songwriter.