Risk is an Indispensable Ingredient for Creative Growth

Why artists need to take chances

Christopher P Jones
5 min readMay 23, 2023


Photo by Svetlana Pochatun on Unsplash

In 1972, the performance artist Chris Burden devised an artwork in protest against the Vietnam War: he asked his friend to shoot him with a .22 calibre rifle.

He explained his motives:

“I had an intuitive sense that being shot is as American as apple pie. We see people being shot on TV, we read about it in the newspaper. Everybody has wondered what it’s like. So I did it.”

The bullet hit his arm and he survived the ordeal with a memorable work of performance art to his name.

Risk in creativity comes in many different forms: extreme performance works like these are not the only way — or indeed the preferred way — to explore creative risk. It was the right sort of risk for Burden.

Still, it’s necessary for every creative person to take a risk at some point, to venture into the unknown and learn something new, whether the result is success or failure. Pablo Picasso captured the spirit when he said:

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

In relation to creativity, risk is about experimenting with and stretching your normal patterns of behaviour. It means choosing the things you…