Creativity takes Courage

I’ve noticed that the lives of creative folk like writers and artists are often idealized by the public. “Wow,” I’ll hear people say, “you’re lucky that you’re so talented,” as if the creative person’s work just sort of came naturally without any effort. Or they look wistfully at the sky and say, “I wish I could do (insert cool thing they want to do.)”

As Calvin (of Hobbes fame) once cheekily said:

“I’m killing time while I wait for life to shower me with meaning and happiness.”

Perhaps something can be attributed to the mysteries of talent, or genetics, or whatever. But most people I’ve talked to feel that we have to go after our goals with a club, and after doing that for a while it starts to look a rather lot like, well, work. And it isn’t always sunshine and rainbows and magical creative happiness. Sometimes it’s frustration and disappointment and writer’s block.

Recently I took a break from whatever project I was feeling stuck on and started to read one of my favorite reference books, Drawn to Life, by the famous animator Walt Stanchfield. The book is a series of short lessons on craft, but at one point in the book the author stopped and addressed motivation. He wrote that it’s important to remind yourself daily of something inspirational and encouraging, a mantra, if you will, to keep you going.

Sometimes we creative folks do need to find a way to give ourselves a bit of encouragement. After all, as Henri Matisse once said, “creativity takes courage.” It certainly takes courage to devote yourself to something, to give it your all, even when you might just be making a fool of yourself and waste your whole life chasing a rainbow. It takes courage to try something new, and then throw it away and start over because it turned out to be a failure. It takes courage to collect rejection letter after rejection letter, to sit down and revise that manuscript for the hundredth time, to objectively look at your work and see what’s wrong with it, and bare your ego to the world so that you can improve your craft. And it certainly takes courage to court the ever-elusive creative inspiration.

Where do you look for inspiration and encouragement? Please share in the comments!

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