Not long ago, I embarked upon my own version of Wild: two weeks of unfettered painting in the hillsides of France. As I carefully packed, I reflected on the fact that the best supplies are important to support the work we want to create.
Without my much-loved pack, easel, paints, boards...painting en plein air would not just be more difficult; it would be less enjoyable.
Yet while physical tools are necessary to get the job done, they’re a secondary necessity for creativity, only working when we first have the essential intangibles in place -- in particular, the mental muscles that create an impenetrable foundation for creativity.
The mental muscles I’ve found most important to hone are ones I’ve also written about several times before, in different ways: Courage. Curiosity. Persistence.
When fear makes us question whether we’ll fail or whether we’re good enough. When ego makes us question whether anyone else will like our work; whether it will be accepted. It’s in the face of fear and ego that we need the courage to embrace stillness and focus inside.
When our inner naysayer rears her negativity and imposter syndrome has us wondering who we are to do this work, we need the courage to put our soul on display.
When we’re tempted to keep our work under lock and key, depriving it of its chance to be seen, to be improved, and to grow, we need the courage to show our vulnerabilities and practice gratitude for those around us.
When we’re determining how we want to live and what that looks like, we need courage to make choices; to have conviction.
When the busyness of life sets in and we’re feeling just a little too “adult” in both creativity and personal matters, we need curiosity to light the childlike exploration that forgets rules, relies on more than learned skills, and lets imaginations wander.
When we are in a constant spiral of to-dos and anxious to check the next thing off our list, we need curiosity to encourage us to make time dedicated for exploration without an end goal.
When we’re on our way to burnout and creative blocks begin to set in, we need curiosity to burst open our minds and take us to a place where adventure leads and little miracles follow.
When we’re distracted by the plethora of ideas known to any creative who loves to dream, we need persistence to complete the projects that are already lighting our fires.
When we’re tempted to give up because of overwhelm, because of fatigue, because of fear...we need persistence to seek both the internal and external validation that keeps us going.
When we aren’t confident in our path or the work we’re creating, we need persistence to remind us that art is a generous act, and that someone, somewhere, needs what we are creating.
Creating your impenetrable creative foundation
The importance of each of these cannot be overstated. Likewise, they cannot be compared -- without curiosity, courage and persistence lead to hustle without exploration. Without courage, curiosity and persistence lead to exploration without conviction. And without persistence, courage and curiosity lead to fearless wandering without consistency.
Building courage, curiosity, and persistence is lifelong work that amplifies our creativity and the work we put out in the world. That creative work? It’s a gracious act; the tangible manifestation that shows the courage, curiosity, and persistence are worth working for, no matter your creative pursuits.
Because the world needs more creativity. And that creativity requires courage, curiosity, and persistence.