The ABCs of Creativity: Courage

Human beings have a biological need to be accepted as part of a group. In tribal situations, being sent away from the group was a punishment that often resulted in the banished person’s death. One human alone would have difficulty surviving the elements, finding food, and fighting off those animals at the top of the food chain. Even as recently as the Middle Ages, banishment from a country was a punishment on the same level as death. We want and need to be accepted; taking the safe path and avoiding ideas that might not work allows people to feel safe. No group would banish someone for doing what he or she was told to do.

For better or worse, people also have a drive to explore. As tribes grew and competed for resources, people needed to push the boundaries and find places with more resources. Everything that has ever been discovered required someone brave or stupid enough to try it first. It takes courage to go over the next mountain to find food. It takes courage to convince your tribe to stay in one place while crops grow. It takes courage to suggest a new action because failure could mean laughter, ridicule and ostracization.

Creativity takes courage because it leaves the person open to all of his or her primal fears. The group may not only reject the creative work or suggestion, but also the person may lose status or membership in the group. That loss of an identifier may not be as physically bad as death, but it is as emotionally bad as banishment. In a business setting, standing up to your boss in the face of things that have always been done a certain way is rarely rewarded. More often, it is dismissed. Sometimes, it leads to being fired.

If you’re going to be creative, you have to be ready to face people who will tell you all sorts of things. You can’t make a living through creativity. It’s never been done before. It’s not safe. Don’t rock the boat. You’re too stupid, too clumsy, and/or too flighty to accomplish the new task. You may even face these arguments from your own internal editor.

As Elly Brown says, “Fire that guy!” Don’t listen to him, her, or them. Draw on your courage and create. It’s okay to be afraid; do it anyway.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Creating for a Better Life and world.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.