There are 3 things I have come to believe about creative courage:
- Courage is a muscle (the more you use it, the stronger it becomes)
- Courage creates (projects, ideas, openings, opportunities, miracles)
- Courage usually feels uncomfortable, but it always takes you home (to your truest self)
Understanding and unlocking creative courage is one of my biggest passions because it’s basically miracle grow for your creative dreams and journey to personal wholeness. Making tiny but meaningful courageous moves on a daily basis will transform your creative life.
I also love it because we don’t need to learn courage, we just need to remember it. (Spend some time watching a kid in creative flow or audaciously publicizing a musical in their living room ?)
But/and/also — the pressure to be courageous can feel overwhelming.
We can put a kind of paralyzing expectation on ourselves that we need to be ALL kinds of courageous ALL of the time or we’ll never get where we want to go. Have you ever felt this?
We open our social media apps and see memes telling us to do epic sh*t and we watch our friends and colleagues #killingit (in the cutest outfits) before they have even eaten breakfast and taking big leaps while the net ALWAYS SEEMS TO APPEAR, and we immediately feel behind and not enough. We get overwhelmed with ALLLLLL of the courageous things we feel we should be doing.
Which is why a fundamental
philosophy survival tool of my adult life is reminding myself that we don’t need to do 100 courageous things TODAY — we just have to do the next brave thing that breathes life into our own particular creative expansion.
And identifying and doing this one next brave thing is a kind of miraculous focusing tool that can set a whole series of events into motion.
It also RELAXES us to know that we only have to focus on one small thing.
As we embark on our hot and courageous creator summer ? I’m sharing these 12 types of Creative Courage in the hopes that they may create some permission and ease and ideas for your next brave thing.
As you look at this list consider — what type of creative courage is your inner voice guiding you toward? What shoulds can you LET GO OF? What’s your next brave thing this summer?
Leave a comment and let me know ?
12 TYPES OF CREATIVE COURAGE
1. THE COURAGE TO SHOW UP
One terrorizing voice in our head gives us 10,000 reasons why we’re not ready yet for the thing that’s calling to us and another is furious that we haven’t completed it perfectly and successfully. Showing up is impossible until we actively disobey these voices so we can follow the whispers and nudges and wildness inside of us. Having the courage to show up means we override our fears of doing it wrong, stop waiting for our ducks to be in a row, and instead just turn on the timer for 2 minutes and begin.
2. THE COURAGE TO LOVE WHAT YOU LOVE
Not what you feel like other people want you to love, or what would make you look cool. The strange and curious things that you love when no one is watching. The things that you literally must love because not loving them means you start to die a little. Loving what you love means unleashing a kind of daring enthusiasm that can feel exceptionally vulnerable, and unacceptable in a culture that operates in the currency of cool. But of this I am certain: loving the unique constellation of things that you love will always take you where you are meant to go.
And your love is greater than any industry, title, or opportunity. Having the courage to nurture your particular enthusiasm is your greatest asset, your biggest superpower, and what makes you utterly unrepeatable.
3. THE COURAGE TO CREATE THE PATH
Going LEFT when your education and your culture and sometimes even your childhood dreams tell you to go RIGHT is the sweatiest, scariest thing. The courage to create the path means letting yourself be ALL that you are, and creating an ecosystem around your wholeness. It means prioritizing your inner truth over the linear, conventional path. I know from experience that this can feel really lonely, but if you’re reading this, I imagine that you know, somewhere inside of yourself that you are a trailblazer and you were literally born to create the path you are on.
4. THE COURAGE TO TELL THE TRUTH
Our next chapter of creative expansion will require us to bring more parts of ourselves into the light— the things we are embarrassed about and the things that make us feel strange are the things that bring our work alive. Cultural conditioning reinforces a performance of self that eliminates the full truth of who we are — digital culture trains us to crop out the parts we don’t want others to see. But the part of the picture we have been taught to hide is often where the deepest beauty is.
Telling the truth means allowing ourselves to be seen in our work, risking a kind of next-level vulnerability, and releasing our attempts to micromanage whether people will be happy or not. Rilke’s words are a touchstone for me here: “I do not want to stay folded anywhere, because where I am folded, there I am a lie.”
May we replace the obligation to be perfect with a devotion to be true.
5. THE COURAGE TO TAKE A BREAK
Maybe you, like me, have gone through some big life stuff recently and have to take a break or pull back from some of the ways you are used to showing up creatively. Or maybe you have reached a burnout or breaking point. Our culture makes this feel isolating and wildly humbling — like you are getting off a train that races past, leaving you behind in the dust.
But I’ve made a policy in my coaching practice that any time a client has a voice inside of them that expresses a need for a break, we prioritize that voice over all of the other voices.
Because inside of our call to take a break is the source material for our next creative chapter.
And breaks and rest are an essential part of the flow cycle. But it’s defiant to take a break in our culture, and we have to override a false belief that breaks and rest detract from our creative prolificity, when, in fact, they empower it.
6. THE COURAGE TO BE IN PROCESS
The messy middle can be a sludgy, unglamorous place. It’s also invisible because of our cultural addition to the myth of Before and After.
But we are always in process! So we have to learn how to stay compassionately committed in the liminal space and to trust its alchemy. Here we can summon the courage to still regard ourselves as real and worthy even if the world doesn’t count process as valuable as the destination.
The process is how we become the next version of ourselves. There is nothing wrong with you because you haven’t gotten there yet. This is so key — to remember that your outcomes don’t define your worth as a creator. You are actually breathtaking in your process.
7. THE COURAGE TO PLAY
We are conditioned to believe that certainty is superior to curiosity, and that imagination is a less valuable or grown-up skill than strategy or solving. When we want to level up we often replay messages inside of our head like quit messing around and get serious. Sometimes we think that leveling up requires us to have guaranteed solutions that mean we know how everything is going to turn out.
Yet creativity thrives in wonder, possibility, play, mystery, and wildness — and withers in rigidity. When we want to grow, we need to play more, not less. Having the courage to try stuff, and to make experiments instead of ultimatums creates fertile ground for creativity to come alive.
8. THE COURAGE TO CHANGE
For me it often feels like jussstttt as I’m starting to get the hang of a particular way of doing things or chapter of my life or work, I start to feel a quiet rumbling inside of myself telling me that something is ready to shift or evolve. This feels simultaneously maddening and thrilling — in the way that most of our inflection points involve a layer of grief and a layer of excitement. Maddening because change is always inconvenient. Thrilling because on the other side of whatever change is calling to us is the next evolution of our self. Fear also comes up because change requires a total bet on the unknown, especially if we are feeling called to shift from something that is working.
This also means giving yourself permission to give things a rethink, switch up your process, or try something new.
The courage to change is often helpful when we notice ourselves saying the same thing over and over again. We can ask: What do I know that I am pretending not to know?
9. THE COURAGE TO FINISH THE DAMN THING
“I know the sag of the unfinished poem. And I know the release of the poem that is finished” writes Mary Oliver.
Completing our work releases energy into our lives and into the world, but it requires us to confront our fears of success and failure simultaneously which can feel so daunting that we sometimes spend years avoiding it. If you were taught by your culture that voice is less essential or worthy, completion becomes a kind of defiant revolution to the cultural conditioning that engineers our smallness.
Finishing the damn thing requires us to uncouple from perfectionism and instead pledge our allegiance to our creativity – completion being the ultimate act of trust with creativity herself. The deadline then becomes an act of devotion — a loveline with your creative voice — and an essential boundary for any destructive inner voices trying to hijack the work. Learning to utilize deadlines is one of the single biggest skills to cultivate for creative success on your terms.
10. THE COURAGE TO BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE
Maybe you, like me, wish that someone would just jump into your laptop or brain or studio or journal, discover your brilliant work, and take care of sharing it with the world while you go back into your creative cave and make more stuff.
And yet. Completing the creative cycle requires that we advocate for ourselves and our work. That we allow ourselves to be seen alongside of our creations and ideas.
Having the courage to be the advocate for yourself, your body of work is one of the highest forms of respect we can give ourselves and our creativity, but it requires us to make sharing ourselves and our work MORE IMPORTANT than our fear of being disliked. The most vulnerable thing!
A helpful mantra here is: Let whomever say whatever. May this reach the people who were born to receive it.
11. THE COURAGE TO LET GO
We need to talk more about the alchemical role of grief, release, and letting go in the creative process. Living a truthful creative life means constantly letting go, and allowing ourselves space to be in the postpartum phase (I often call this the Integration Phase) even when the culture fails to recognize it exists.
For me right now this is about letting go of what other people think, the need to prove myself through my accomplishments, and just generally loosening the grip in the creative process.
We can ask: What must I release so that I can expand? What do I need to grieve so that I can be free? We can wait patiently for an answer that feels true. We can courageously act on it.
12. THE COURAGE TO KEEP THE FAITH
There is a dark night of the creative soul in every meaningful creative process, but losing the faith doesn’t mean we’re doing it wrong. The courage to keep the faith means prioritizing trusting your creative vision, and betting on the unseen over the chorus of doubts.
Fear shows up before, during, and after moments of expansion and is often a sign that we are walking the path of our purpose.
Keeping the faith means that we can identify fear and resistance as reminders that we are headed in the right direction without letting them drive our creative bus. Faith is a much better bus driver.
There’s another reason why I’m sharing this with you today and it’s because I have a strong hunch that you are most likely underestimating your own courageous heart and actions.
If what I just wrote makes you uncomfortable, I encourage you to stay with me here.
I have this hunch because 99.9% of everyone I have ever worked with significantly undervalues their own creative courage and contributions.
This is edgy territory. Women, in particular, are indoctrinated to be exceedingly humble and avoid having a big head (whatever the hell that idiom means – I literally have an extremely large head from a circumference perspective so I guess I’m doomed) and so often this is because culturally we are instructed to define our courage externally, rather than committing the grave sin of, as Elise Loehnen writes in her excellent new book On Our Best Behavior, “proper and accurate self-regard.”
We may be endlessly championing our friends and kids and colleagues all day long, but when it comes to ourselves we hold some sticky beliefs that it’s inappropriate or arrogant to acknowledge our own courageous acts.
So here’s my dare for you: Acknowledge your remarkable self. Dare to call yourself courageous as you head into summer. Notice which types of courage you can honor in yourself so far this year and celebrate them wildly.
I’m doing this alongside of you and it’s sweaty and awkward and uncomfortable. It also feels like progress. Every time we acknowledge ourselves without apology we give someone else permission to do the same.
Here’s to our Hot and Courageous Creator Summer — but make it relaxing ?