Monday, December 9, 2013

Creative Courage...

And Creative Confidence.

I don’t think creative confidence means knowing that something good or great will happen if you explore an idea; I think it’s trusting that nothing bad will happen if you explore an idea.

For example, in all likelihood, nothing bad will happen if you fool around with an instrument and try out different combinations of sounds and maybe words until you find one that feels right to you, that gives something important in you expression.

Or say, if an idea for a poem or a story or a song, or maybe just a phrase pops into your head, nothing bad will happen to you if you give some energy to that idea, if you consider some of the directions that idea could take in its expression and maybe take a few steps in some of those directions to see if anything starts to come together.

I want to be clear here that I’m talking about the creative explorative realm, where you test things out, experimenting with what might work for you. I’m not talking about the realm of committed action, where you take an idea, bring it to fruition and share it with the world around you. Bad things can definitely happen from bringing any creative impulse into fruition in the world. People have been killed and tortured for following trains of thought and bringing certain kinds of creative impulses to fruition. So there’s always at least some element of risk whenever you do that.

Being to explore freely when you get an idea, with no fear that something bad will happen if you do that, is what I would call creative confidence. If you have the fear and do it anyway, I would call that creative courage.

It seems obvious that nothing bad will happen to you if you explore an idea, but I think a lot of people have a real fear, conscious or unconscious, that something bad might happen if they do that. So they just let a lot of ideas go by without giving them any energy at all.

I’m not sure what this fear is about…maybe some inner conditioning brought on my childhood experiences…maybe it’s just a gene that some people carry…the kind that makes you more vigilant and fearful…I don’t know. But I do see it in people and I definitely see its opposite too. I know people who write songs and if, in a random group or one-on-one conversation, an idea for a song comes to them, they will write it down right then and there, on paper, on a napkin, on their phones, or in a voice recorder. If they have the time and the idea catches fire in their minds, they might step outside right then and fire away with several verses or a chorus. Their minds go into “explore” mode because they know that nothing is at stake yet. They’re free to explore and see if there is something there worth investing in. They might come back with nothing but they give each idea at least a look.

Other people do not explore as freely, even when there’s nobody watching and they’re just at the stage of exploring an idea. It’s like they’re already in some kind of spotlight, or under some kind of pressure, afraid to make a mistake, when really this should be the least pressured, least self-conscious part of creativity: the stage of trying the idea out a bit, extending creative attention into its possibilities.

So I say, if you get an exciting idea for something, anything, record it in some way and do it right away. And if or when you have the time, get back to that idea or phrase and see if it still excites you in some way, in some way releases a charge for you. Whatever ideas come next, another phrase, or another step of reasoning, another song verse, whatever it is…record that too. Just explore different directions a bit and see if any of them excite you or release a charge for you.
And if one of those directions does release a charge for you, put some energy into that and see what comes next.


Now if the excitement sustains…then you’re up against committing to finish it. That’s another job really. And there are risks involved, as I mentioned, whenever you bring a creative impulse to fruition and start to share it. The most basic one is that if you do bring an impulse to fruition and share your book, song, story, or theory with other people, they might make fun of you, ridicule you, or otherwise try to put you down. Sometimes depending on the impulse and the local political situation, the risks can be more serious.

So you know…it’s your call whether you want to finish or share your ideas, but I think the exploring part is so good for our brains, our hearts and just our souls really. To be able to explore ideas freely without fear of judgment or failure…just to explore and see if anything starts to gel, is a wonderful thing.
If you already have this ability, that’s fantastic and I hope you use it. If you don’t, you can still get better at it by facing whatever fear is there and exploring anyway. Or tell yourself consciously, “Nothing bad will happen to me if I explore this idea. No one can see me exploring this idea. It will work out or it won’t, but exploring it can do me no harm.”

That is how you develop creative courage, and creative courage leads to creative confidence, which again is not knowing that something good or great will happen if you explore an idea; it’s trusting that nothing bad will happen if you explore an idea. 

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