Creativity takes courage: A personal story

The more I work with creative and cultural businesses the more I admire the people in them. There’s an important element to creativity that is not often promoted or encouraged – it is courage.

To put yourself out there and present your ideas, concepts, creations and delights to the world takes enormous amounts of courage. And if (or should I say when) not everyone loves what you, it can be very disheartening to get back on the horse and keep creating. I know. But more on that later.

I’m not alone in observing this. Tanner Christensen recently blogged that:

Many of us who have a powerful creative drive refuse to let it become more than just a few occasional day dreams not because we lack creative capabilities, but because we lack the creative confidence necessary to do the work. We think to ourselves: “I can’t write a novel, I’m not a writer” or similar thoughts. The result is that we end up fulfilling the prophecy. We don’t feel like a writer, so we don’t write, which ensures that we don’t become a writer.

Many creatives have said similar things, including Sylvia Plath: “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Or the fabulous E.E. Cummings “Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit”.

When you receive negative comments on social media pages, your ideas are scrapped or you are rejected for yet another gig, courage can seem far away, even when they are just a few voices amongst mostly praise. I’ve had my own battles with courage, especially over the last few years. I ran a publishing company and had my biggest client tell me in meeting with another provider that they wanted the look of everything we were doing to be like theirs – could we buy their design IP and make it our own just for their products. Ahhh?! In my consulting business, I’ve produced ebooks and had feedback from well-meaning business networking groups that ebooks shouldn’t be part of my strategy, they are a waste of time. Really? I thought they were good, maybe not? I’m not so sure now. I’ve launched ideas to the sound of crickets, pitched to people who just don’t get it and been told, in one famous incident, that I hadn’t come up with a good idea yet (my reaction to that wasn’t my finest hour).

So where is all this going? What it means is, this happens to everyone. Everyone. From the Beatles, to Lucille Ball, they’ve all been told they suck in some way or any other. They’ve all had people who like this thing over that thing or wish you’d never gone ‘Electric’ (nod to Bob Dylan for those scratching their heads).

So it will happen to you, it will keep happening to me. We aren’t alone. But the courage to continue is all that matters. Creating something is not about pleasing everyone.

Keep creating, keep thinking, keep acting. I will to. And when we feel like it’s all too hard, we’ll reread this, watch some of this, throw our hands up in the air to this and chant this at the top of our lungs! And keep on creating…