Please enjoy this excerpt from Braving It, one of my absolute favorite books. You gotta read the whole thing…there’s so much in here about living boldly and freely! This post is from the chapter: “Create your joy”
“Creativity takes courage,” said master French painter Henri Matisse. It definitely does take courage to dance and sing and paint when we feel like we can’t. We don’t know how, and even if we do, we’re not “good” at it. One look at the stores on Etsy, at what people are creating, or anyone whose work is on display at a gallery or museum, or dancers online or on stage is enough to stop us. We could never…
But, beautiful someone, we can.
Yeah, we can
We can move our feet to music. We can open our mouths and make sounds to musical notes. We can put pencil to paper and draw lines. We can look through the lens of a camera, find a gritty urban scene, and capture it in a compelling composition.
These are creative acts that boldly tap an honest, unguarded part of our brains. They transport us to a new place in our hearts — a generous and brave one.
Creativity makes us courageous — it takes courage to try something outside our normal realm of activity, especially something that requires us to flex creative muscle. When I decided to learn to draw, I took a class at a community arts center nearby. At first, I felt like a total poser, an imposter. I mean honestly, me? But the community was unbelievably welcoming and open, and I will always be grateful for that. I credit my ability to put pencil to paper and persist in learning to draw to their support and belief that anyone can create art.
Then there was the day our subject was a Grecian marble bust. I had been taking class at this point for a few months, and if you’ve ever taken a drawing class, you know that the way it works is that your easel faces you. The subject is in the middle, and everyone draws what they see from their perspective. The teacher goes around and gives you encouraging feedback and suggestions as you work.
At the end of the class, everyone turns their easel around and shares what they’ve created. While I was working on my Grecian bust, I thought it was a fair representation of what I was looking at, that is until we all turned our easels around, and I realized that mine honest-to-goodness looked like a crayon drawing in a sea of DaVincis.
It was a day when I wasn’t feeling particularly brave. I slithered off vowing never to go back. What was I doing?! I had no business trying to learn to draw. I cried in the parking lot, with the sting of embarrassment in my throat. If it weren’t for my instructor texting over and over to encourage me to come back, I’m not sure I would have.
Creativity is truly a gift that does so much more than challenge us. It also strengthens us to resist judgment. It teaches us to detach from people around us who say things like:
“Why are you trying that? You’re not exactly artistic.”
“Okay, what IS that?”
“You’re still working on that?”
“How much are you spending on those supplies?”
“Are you gonna try to sell that?”
“Why are you wasting time on that when you should be [fill in the blank]?”
We gently but firmly t’ai chi any unsupportive comments out of our way with a simple, “I’m enjoying myself” or “It’s not for sale” or just offer a knowing and indulgent smile.
Creativity is also a road to personal discovery unlike any other, full of its own serendipitous rewards. In the process of creating something new, we discover what works and what doesn’t. We learn how to improvise when things don’t go as planned and maybe sometimes uncover an even better idea or approach. We learn about ourselves.
Creativity helps us have a sense of humor about our attempts that don’t work. I heard recently that world-renowned chef Julia Child used to joke that if the desert doesn’t come out even, cover it with whipped cream and serve it anyway!
Creativity can offer tremendous healing, as there are countless stories of people who (like Max) used art…painting or writing music or molding pottery to bypass the intellect and learn what they were feeling, sometimes surprising themselves, able to finally understand their experiences and even heal trauma through their art.
Art and creativity enabled them to reach for truth and ultimately forgiveness.