The Prompter Room

For Monday, January 11, 2016:


“The artist must possess the courageous soul that dares and defies.”

Kate Chopin

What is it about creativity that is so frightening?

From my little notebook stash of quotations, I just counted at least 26 comments by artists and writers of all kinds that talk about the courage it takes to create.  There are even more that are less specific but can be easily related to the topic.

Books are written about it – I’m thinking especially of Rollo May’s Courage to Create, one of my personal ‘bibles,’ but there are many, many others.  Type in appropriate keywords on Google and you’ll find page after page.

What is it about creativity that is so frightening?

You’d think with so many great minds, so much experience, behind us and along with us to encourage us, it would be easier to contemplate and pursue a life of art and creativity.  Ah, but here’s the rub.  “Creativity,” writes Erich Fromm, “requires the courage to let go of certainties.”

Most of us, I expect, like the certain feeling of something solid under our feet as we stand, a smooth path with no obstacles on which to walk.  I know I do.  As someone who is prone to stumbling, it’s something of a risk for me to put one foot in front of the other because there’s always a possibility that I’ll trip or fall.  That’s been my reality for decades.

Part of that reality is that sometimes I need to rely on the stability – the certainty – of a cane or someone’s strong arm or hand to keep me upright.  I’m unsure every time I leave the confines of the house, even if it’s to go out into the yard, especially by myself or without a cane, because I’ve fallen too many times.  That TV commercial that exclaims ‘Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up’ isn’t funny to me.

Are we afraid we’ll fall, or fail, if we embark on a creative endeavor?  Are we afraid to venture into the unknown of what might be if we start a new painting, story, or poem, or a new business endeavor that’s different somehow?  Are we frightened by the thought that others might think us strange, or – worse yet, perhaps – not like our work or – even worse – not like us?

But think of the beauty that’s out there once we leave the confines of our fears!  If we stay wrapped up in our certainties, what are we missing?  What will others miss from us? 

The reality is that this world needs us – needs you – to help make it more beautiful.  Cast aside the cane and take the risk of opening to a blank piece of paper in your notebook, or putting a blank canvas on the easel, or their equivalent.  If you’re even thinking of a creative project, you have the courage you need to start.

And you have a lot of people behind you to hold you up.  Thank you for taking that chance!


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