I’m doing the A to Z Challenge in April using the theme “What to Pack on Your Creative Journey.” Today, we’ll put some Courage in our metaphorical suitcase. Every journey into the unknown begins with a single step made by a brave person.
Without courage we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest. ~Maya Angelou, USA Today, 5 March 1988
When you set out on any kind of journey, including a creative one, you’re going to experience some fears of unknown places that you are about to enter. Do I have the skills and luck to take this trip and return safely home?
Here are some questions to ask yourself that can lead you to identify fears and find the courage to take this trip (or the wisdom to abandon this path and choose another):
- What is the worst that could happen if I tried and failed at this?
- If everything goes exactly as I hope, what is the best possible outcome?
- What are the risks associated with doing nothing?
- How will my life change if I succeed and are those changes that I want?
- What is important about this idea?
- What is exciting about this idea?
If you’re worried because this project feels very important to you, consider ways to approach it that are deliberately messy. Make mind maps or draw thumbnails on scraps of paper. Write a bad first draft (that advice is from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, only she uses more colorful language). Practice your skills on something small, quick, and unimportant – knit a very flawed scarf before you attempt to knit a beautiful sweater.
If fear remains, see if you can transform it into excitement or enthusiasm. What scares me about a project is often the same thing that got me excited about it in the first place. Cultivating excitement helps courage grow.
If all else fails, I embrace the concept of “fake it ‘til you make it.” We watch other people do apparently brave things, but are unaware of how often they, too, are feeling less than adequate for the task at hand. Humans do amazing things even when we’re afraid that we can’t. Courage is often something that we never really feel–it’s something we realize we must have had to do what we managed to do. As Ray Bradbury said in an article for Brown Daily Herald (March 24, 1995), “Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.”
Tell us what you’re afraid of in the comments. Maybe the A to Z Challenge community or other readers of my blog will have some good advice about how to handle your fear.