“Creativity Takes Courage.”
This is one of my favourite quotes from French Artist Henri Matisse (31 December 1869 – 3 November 1954).
In today’s blog post, I wanted to reflect on the profound depth that can be found in this short quote by Matisse. By doing so, I hope that it can encourage us to be gentle with ourselves in our creative endeavours, but also learn how we can lean into creativity through courage in the times where our soul calls for it most, for its profound ability to heal us (all).
On my blog, Georgie xoxo, I’m currently writing a lot about courage as it’s my word of the year for 2021.
In 2021,I desired to be a flow of courage and a channel for courage to be nurtured and to blossom in.
The Origins of Courage
To dig deeper into the question of ‘how can we cultivate courage in creativity?’, firstly, I thought it would be fascinating to break down the origins of both ‘creativity’ and ‘courage’. Let us start with ‘courage.’
As Brene Brown writes in her groundbreaking book ‘The Gifts Of Imperfection’:
“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognise the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as “ordinary courage.”
How beautiful to know that the root of ‘courage’ was made to communicate the correspondence of the heart? The idea that we were made to inflame our heart with courage through our truth-telling is breathtaking.
However, in a society that so worships the mind above all else, I fear many of us have lost this sacred communication with the heart space.
Perhaps we can hear its voice every once in a while, but most of the time we resist its messages for we have been conditioned, in our modern times, to only enlighten the mind, and the mind alone, with our truth.
The Origins of Creativity
Now we’ve delved into the origins of courage let’s break down the origins of creativity.
Well, trying to encapsulate the history and the origins of the roots of creativity could be a blog post (or book!) in itself as the origins of this word, and its meaning, have shifted throughout history to fascinating degrees.
For the manners by which various cultures and generations have defined the idea of creativity has changed from the beginning of time, as has the word “creativity” itself.
For example, The Greeks had no terms relating “create” and thus “to make” or “maker” was sufficient enough to describe using the word “poiein” (“to make”).
And so, for this post today, I’d like to focus on the etymological root of the word in English and most other European languages that comes from the Latin “creatus”, literally “to have grown.”
We regularly consider creativity as making something, like the word “poiein”. However, if we are to dig deeper into the Latin word of ‘creatus’ and the image of growth, we can also associate the root significance of creativity with both making something and ‘to develop’ through growth.
Growth is our natural state. For if we aren’t growing, we’re dying. Therefore, growth and a sense of aliveness can be as simple as experiencing ourselves in a new way.
This is where I believe creativity comes in as “creatus” adds an aliveness to creativity through its rooted relationship with growth.
And indeed, when we engage with creativity, we feel as though the world and all that is in it is dynamically alive. Whether this be through the practice of making physical things, or by just allowing ourselves to birth our creative thoughts and ideas into reality.
What halts creativity?
So, what stops this magnificent flow of aliveness and creativity? What gets in the way of us stepping into our own growth, fulfilment, creativity and aliveness today and every day?
For me, a guaranteed way to halt the flow of creativity is when creativity meets with fear. This fear in itself has many ‘masks’ such as perfectionism, procrastination, uncertainty and so on.
On the subject of one of the above manifestations of fear, uncertainty, Eckhart Tolle so poignantly writes:
“If uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it turns into fear. If it is perfectly acceptable, it turns into increased aliveness, alertness, and creativity.”
It’s clear that there is a cost to creativity, and the cost is fear, doubt and all of the things your mind will try to convince you of that aren’t true as you step into your creative path.
It’s at this moment that we can begin to see just how vital courage is if we are to dig deep into our own fertile creativity as we unearth ourselves from the shackles of fear.
In order to understand just how important it is that we embody our unique imagination, and dig deep into our courage and creativity, we can enter into the mystical understanding of ‘The Golden Shadow.’
In an article for Fractal Enlightenment Gary Z McGee writes that:
“The golden shadow symbolises withheld courage, hidden talents, repressed passion and stifled creativity. It’s the unfulfilled potential that people fail to see or develop because of fear and a lack of risk-taking. In the spirit of becoming a more balanced and integrated human, and more authentic in our engagement with ourselves and with each other, being curious about the darkness within is a profound way of discovering hidden gold.”
Moreover, Carl Jung once expresses that:
“the shadow is 90% percent gold.”
What this implies is that there are numerous lovely gifts offered to us by our ‘shadow side’ (also known as fear) on the off chance that we set aside the effort to look.
This reminds me of the work by Elizabeth Gilbert from her groundbreaking book on creativity called ‘Big Magic’. Through this book, Gilbert writes at length about how curiosity fuels creativity.
Just as ‘The Golden Shadow Effect’ talks of ‘discovering hidden gold’, Gilbert suggests that our creativity is our ‘jewels hidden within’. She writes:
“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner – continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you – is a fine art, in and of itself.”
How can we cultivate courage in creativity?
Now that we have ventured into a deeper understanding of ‘courage’ and ‘creativity’ this quote by J.M.W Turner, I’m sure, will resonate deeply with you:
“It is only when we are no longer fearful that we begin to create”
So, how can we learn to dance with fear, in all its myriad forms, to bring forth our creativity that dazzles just like gold and jewels?
It truly is as simple as Matisse says: “Creativity takes courage”. However, I believe if we are truly to bring these words to life then we must animate them with the same aliveness we have discussed above so that creativity not only takes courage but it (creativity) requires courage.
It is clear to me that the opposite of the stagnancy of fear is the aliveness of creativity that seeks action, engagement, and leaping into the unknown with all our heart.
Fundamentally, we get to decide our experience of life but we have to go all in. We get to design our life but the Universe doesn’t just respond to our words. It responds to our actions. To our aliveness. Like the planting of a seed that requires the active participation of its nutrients in order to grow.
We often find ourselves using phrases such as, ‘they put all their heart into it, and indeed, I passionately believe that the answer to ‘how to cultivate creativity’ lies is in our ability to cultivate courage through the magical embodiment of creativity in our hearts.
So, what do we do with that old friend fear when it just won’t leave us alone? I return to Elizabeth Gilbert with these loving words:
“ ‘Whatever happens, I love you. Whatever happens, you’re welcome. Whether this is a success or a failure, you belong to me, you’re mine.’ That sort of language that we have to learn how to bring to ourselves because all too often we actually didn’t get that when we were kids because we were raised by people who themselves were terrified. So, it’s just a love contest really in the end, I think. And, it’s not the way that our culture teaches you to deal with fear, but it’s the only way I’ve ever been able to get anything done.”
To hold fear in such a loving way is so beautiful. For it is only when we are able to let go of our usual ways of holding back fear and protecting ourselves, that we can then free ourselves to express our full aliveness and creativity.
Moreover to me, having the courage to feel the fear and still draw out the creativity in you is truly the artistry of life.
The Rewards of cultivating courage in creativity
There are innumerable rewards for your courageous journey when we are to reflect back on one of the earliest definitions of creativity “creatus” which is synonymous with “growth”.
It is by holding the hand of fear as we venture into the depths of creativity that means we are then able to grow and experience all that this human existence has to offer.
Not only that, but we also get to craft our fear into something that serves us, nourishes us, and creates space for the unimaginable to show up in our life. By doing so, not only do we grow but also, through embodying the courage in our heart, we have the capacity to send a love potion out into the whole world.
Ultimately, I truly and passionately believe that cultivating courage within creativity can help us rediscover our strengths, keep our spirits and determination unshaken in times of need and that with this courage, our hearts and our world will be healed through embodying it.
Through a life-long battle with multiple chronic illnesses since childhood, life has taught me to be constantly courageous, but thanks to the research for this post, and my own life path, I truly understand creativity’s mystical healing properties more than ever before.
Whether it’s taking a new class, trying a new craft, learning a musical instrument, putting pen to paper, opening an Etsy Store, and so it goes on, every single day our creative acts, thoughts, desires and dreams really do take so much courage.
In a culture where images pervade our online landscape, and our creativity can reach people all across the globe we also find ourselves expressing the language of our heart for the literal world to see. This leads to deep vulnerability as we put ourselves out there to be potentially critiqued by everyone on the planet.
And so, to be creative, in whatever form, is bold, and vulnerable, and as we now understand to be so true, it requires deep deep courage.
I passionately believe every single one of us are creative beings and so I say this to you all: Have courage in art and in life and let creativity flourish in your heart so that your creative gifts can shine bright like the stars.
Reflective questions on courage and creativity
After this beautiful discussion of courage and creativity, I would now love to hear from YOU! Here are some reflective questions based on this post. Grab your favourite journal, or alternatively, reflect in the comments below. It makes my day to hear from you!
How do you believe creativity and courage are linked?
How do you define courage?
How do you define creativity?
Does fear sometimes get in the way of your creativity?
How often do you listen to what your heart is wishing to communicate to you?
What steps will you take this week to bring creativity and courage together?
How can I leap into the unknown this week for my growth and expansion?
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