Every artist—writer, painter, composer, singer, actor, whatever—encounters creative U-turns. Something doesn't go the way you expect, and you lose your way. You lose your courage.
I've been thinking about courage and creativity a lot lately. Though writers have written about it for years (Rollo May's The Courage to Create, Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, for example), I don't think most people realize the importance of courage in creativity. It is key.
I know. I've encountered one of those creative U-turns recently and lost my courage. I look back at some of the crazy things I've done in the past, and I marvel that I ever had the guts to leap in and try what I had no reason to think I could do. I wrote plays. I wrote poems. I wrote music. I wrote books. I started a company. At some moment, for each effort, I somehow found a spark of courage and made a leap. I just did it.
But for the last few months, I've allowed fear to extinguish my creative side. I encountered a U-turn and let it rule. Getting bronchitis and being sick for the last two and a half weeks made me take a look at a few things. I remembered that sickness, for me, is often a sign of something—exhaustion, depression, something wrong. It hit me that the something wrong right now is my fear of creating. I've been afraid of failure, of leaping and falling. I've been allowing fear to stop me from what I love doing most—creating.
I decided that the only way to get my courage back is to leap again and remember that the process, the doing, is what I most love, regardless of the results. I have been needing at least one of what I think of as my "crazy projects." And as soon as I decided to find one, serendipity stepped in. Someone mentioned the same idea that had occurred to me recently, and we are pursuing it. We're brainstorming, playing, seeing what will develop.
And in the instant, the very instant, that I decided I must ignore my fear and leap back into the creative process, I felt joyful again. I'm still coughing, but at least I'm smiling while I do it!