Bite Back! How “Setback” Makes You Strong and Creative


Frida Kahlo’s life was hard and brief — but she made it her own.

Frida Kahlo is known mostly for her art, but also for extraordinary ability to live.

She was twenty years his junior when she married the famous painter Diego Rivera, but became his spiritual equal by meeting hardship with her own kind of fierce beauty — “a ribbon around a bomb,” quipped surrealist André Breton.

This is a key part of becoming creative: finding ways to continually grow in strength. It is in the working through that we eventually win through.

Begin again. That’s the mantram.

Banksy, New York City, Day 14

It isn’t popular in our culture to deal with pain, much less use it as a sling shot.

But deep down, we don’t want to be so superficial. We want to drink in all that life has to offer. We have a sense that life really matters. And that living more intensively, more fearlessly, more proactively — is core to living at all.

We need your full intensity — creatively applied.

We live in a culture that so emphasizes success that the fear of failure can insidiously paralyze us at the final leap — the leap into the truly unknown that characterizes the beginning of real creativity.

But if you don’t experiment, and allow your experiment to teach you something, you merely repeat.

At its heart, creativity is about learning to learn. Try something, fail, try again, fail again — become interested. That’s the key to winning through to something worthwhile. When you do so, you also become “worthwhile.” You change yourself from what you’ve become by dint of your parents and upbringing into something else.

Beginning again heals, and revitalizes, and replenishes. And it makes you oh, so strong.


We’re all born with prodigious potential — but that’s all it is. Potential. We have to make it something. And that is not an easy road.

After the first burst of childhood genius, most of which we lose as we grow up — that’s when our real work begins. If you want to live at all, you have to become creative.

This is what makes us humans, isn’t it? Plants and animals are graced with their essence as an innate feature of their existence. They know who and what they are, and they live it as fully as they can (unless of course we inhibit their doing so, which sometimes happens).

Humans aren’t born finished. We have to learn. We can learn to be creative, and thereby strong. It takes a lot of backbone.

The soul is a newly skinned hide, bloody and gross. Work on it with manual discipline, and the bitter tanning acid of grief.
You’ll become lovely and very strong.
— Rumi

Developing creative muscle means taking the energies stirred up by pain and focusing them. The pain will subside; the energies — everything you gain by enduring pain and trial with resolve and endurance — remain.