The Vulnerability of a Creative Vision
Over the years people have told me that vulnerability is my superpower. But recently, I’ve also become aware how reluctant I’ve been. I’ve hidden behind figuring things out, doing things right, working harder than anyone, having a fixed idea of how things need to be.
Vulnerability is easier to own as an idea than an actual practice. But it is a powerful teacher.
Because in creativity, vulnerability changes everything.
Vulnerability according to Brené Brown
Vulnerability is traditionally defined as exposure to the possibility of attack or harm, either physically or emotionally. Social research professor Brené Brown describes it as "uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure” – that unstable feeling we get when we step out of our comfort zone or do something that forces us to loosen control. So vulnerability can be a state of being (like the dependency of a newborn child) or a feeling (like the belief that you’re not good enough). And a big part of life is learning to tell the difference.
Brown spent 12 years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame. She made headlines in 2010 with her provocative TEDx Talk on the power of vulnerability. She followed up her talk in 2012 with one of the year’s top 10 business books, Daring Greatly. She wondered, “What exists in the absence of shame and scarcity?”
And this question is a perfect segue into the topic of creativity.
Vulnerability and Creative Courage
When it comes to creativity, the topic I’ve spent my lifetime studying and writing about, vulnerability is where it all begins.
In my book, I describe my belief that ideas have souls. When an idea comes to you, it’s inviting you to commit to it, to take it on and bring it into the world. But taking on that idea requires you to not know, to take a risk, to be willing to be judged.
Authentic creativity requires you to step outside your comfort zone. And that vulnerability is the very thing that allows you to dispel myths, make new discoveries and create original work.
At the same time, for the creator our greatest vulnerability is to the critic in our own heads. Before we put pen to page, we are reading reviews of our work hearing the voices of the critics. Nothing kills creativity quite like our own inner critic… if we stop there.
“After one of my plays came out, I had mixed reviews, some bad and some good. One day, it dawned on me. I thought, ‘I wrote a play and he wrote a review, and that’s the difference between him and me.’” – Steve Martin
That is why your longing is a sacred gift: a message from the person you’re becoming about what’s next for you (without knowing it will work out).
Creative Courage and Vision
Having a creative vision is like stepping into a gap. You deliberately choose to put yourself in between what is today and what you believe could be but is not yet. This gap is a gateway to a new version of yourself – the one you must become to realize what is now only a dream. And you have to leave behind the person you think you are today in order to get there.
In the Wheel of Creativity, vulnerability is most visible at the starting point, which I call Home. Home is your comfort zone, the status quo in your life where everything is known, stable, predictable, and ordered. But your hunger – your longing for something more – propels you out of your comfort zone and into a creative cycle that has the distinct possibility to change your life.
To honor that hunger is to risk everything you thought you knew and counted on. And vulnerability is there in every phase of the process. As you move further from what you know to what you do not know in order to discover something new, you continue going through this process again and again.
The creative process itself will bring up all the vulnerability you may have felt about yourself before you became who you are today – all that is unresolved in you. So it requires you to go deep, to meet whatever shows up with an open and willing heart.
Coping with Creative Vulnerability
The uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure Brené Brown describes as vulnerability are inescapable milestone on the creative path.
Creative people are famous for addictive and destructive behaviors – whatever gets you through the dark night of your creative soul – to cope with their very real sense of vulnerability.
Courage is required.
Cultivating Creative Courage
Courage can look like climbing the mountain or jumping from a plane, but creative courage is the willingness to follow your own intuitive calling, to honor your authentic inner voice, and to do it imperfectly.
Vulnerability is an essential part of the creative path. From the vulnerability to connect deeply with ourselves, to the vulnerability to share ourselves with others. This is the most sacred principle of original creative work.
What about you? What does creative courage look like to you?
If you want to live a deeply authentic and original life, you must make friends with vulnerability.
- What paralyzes you in your creative process?
- What causes you to turn back once you’ve begun?
- What has you lose faith in yourself or the process?
- What makes you so weary that you would abandon your work?
Your Hunger for “more than this” is sacred. It launches a creative cycle that leads you to back to yourself. The creative journey is not only what you produce, it’s the process of becoming who you are.
Come take a look at yourself and how to navigate your creative gap in my free virtual training, The Visionista’s Gateway. Click to learn more and register for the next event.