In our house, whether we’re celebrating Diwali or Christmas, it’s my son who takes the lead in doing the decorations. This means that they’re more or less likely to be what the world considers tasteful now that he’s seven, but in recent years, well, let’s just say, people would walk in and say, “Did you let your four-year old decorate that tree?”
And I proudly said YES!
The impulse is there to fix it, of course. The impulse is there to make it better, make it perfect. Maybe less garish. Maybe not have red, blue, and white sections with their own slightly askew ornaments.
But as a creative person raising another creative person, I’m very aware of the messages I inadvertently send to my kid and the last thing I want my child to internalize is that his creative act, which he thought was quite beautiful and remarkable is “not good enough.”
The message I do want to send is that it’s just a tree. Play with it. Experiment. Take it apart. Then put it back together again. It’s our tree and we can do whatever we like with it. And if it’s wonky or comes apart, so what? As long as it’s fun, the end result is irrelevant.
Because what I want my son to understand, and it is a lesson so many adults, including me, take an entire lifetime to finally get, is that creative courage is basically the willingness to allow yourself to be vulnerable. To say, well yes, it sounds like a stupid idea when I say it out loud but I’m going to explore it anyway because I feel called to do it, because I think it’s worth exploring, because it speaks to me in a way that I can’t quite vocalize yet.
And maybe something will come of it. But crucially, maybe something won’t. Maybe all that I get out of this one is the joy of having done it.
Creative courage is allowing yourself to take the risk of having something you’ve created fall flat on its face.
And doing it anyway.
Two days ago, I handed in the latest revision of my novel to my agent. This book took seven months to write and about as long to edit, with several rounds of revisions. This novel is somewhat autobiographical and is centered around the assault, my assault, at the hands of an expat journalist sheltered by that community. It’s taking courage—both creative and otherwise—to let other people read this book, and even more so to defend the choices of narrative I have made.
That’s how it should be. My goal, with every book I write and all the work that I do, is to push my own boundaries, enable myself to do something that I wasn’t capable of doing with the last one. And be clear about my vision, especially when others question it.
But I can’t do that if I’m self censoring. I can’t do that if I’m not having fun with it. I can’t do it if I’m too worried about what people will think.
I can’t do it from a place of fear.
Of seeing this as “work” and “1,000 words a day” and “pressure to finish” and “have to prove myself.”
I can only do it from a place of meaning.
And that takes courage. Creative courage.
More and more lately, I have been giving myself the gift of vulnerability, the gift of creative courage.
It has taken me years to arrive at this point where external voices matter very little and my own vision guides not only what I write, but how I show up for the process of that writing.
If I have one wish for you going into 2020, it is for you to have the same.
I wish you vulnerability. I wish you creative courage.
And if you’d like to know how I arrived at this place, well, as it happens, I teach an entire course around the subject.
30 Days to Creative Courage will help you free your mind and give you permission to create.
And if you sign up in the next week, you can get 50% off the price.
It’s the season of giving, after all. And I’m feeling generous.
Creative courage is the best gift you can give yourself this holiday season, with or without my help. Of course, with my help, you could get there faster.
I’ll see you on the inside!