What You Need to Know About Courage and Struggles to Reach Your Dreams

When we’re children, in the early stages of life, we create for the shear joy of it. There is no self-consciousness about our artwork. It’s just fun to draw, paint and create stuff.

Then things change. Socialization, hormones, adolescence and maturity come calling. We long to fit in. Be liked. Accepted. Maybe even admired and respected.

How people see us, and how they react to our creative efforts, begin to matter a great deal. Because we’re not fully formed yet. We need the validation and approval of others.

During this stage of our lives, it becomes difficult to put our creative work out there. Entering competitions, approaching galleries, seeking publishers, or even sharing our work online, can be hard.

What will people say? Is the work good enough? What if they laugh?

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” — Sylvia Plath

I remember how long it took me to create a website for my artwork and writing. I used to tell myself that artists put their stuff online prematurely.

“Keep refining the work,” I told myself. “It’s not good enough.”

Over time, however, my opinion changed. Artist friends pointed out how valuable it was to put one’s artwork out there. They explained how the feedback of collectors, instructors and other artists can help you grow.

So, despite my reservations, I created an artist website. I started blogging and sharing my work on social media.

Before long, I began receiving all kinds of feedback. There were positive and constructive comments. All of them were useful in different ways, and helped me evolve.

It became readily apparent. I should have put my work out there sooner.

The hard knocks of life

The artist Henri Matisse was right. Sort of.

Creativity does take courage. Courage to listen to your creative heart, and craft authentic work. Courage to face the criticism of others. Courage to know when it’s time to risk new approaches.

But eventually, the hard knocks of life shape us. People might wound us with their words and actions, but we’re able to bounce back. We develop resiliency and self-confidence.

In time, we stop emulating the work of others. We move past the feedback, good or bad, and listen to deeper instincts. Creative whispers, that reflect our most authentic, personal expression.

And that’s when creativity no longer requires courage. Because we’ve reached a point of artistic maturity. That place where we are at peace with our creative souls, and our most beautiful work emerges.

So much passion

I don’t know if you’re an artist, writer, musician, designer or some other kind of creative spirit. I don’t know where you are on this amazing, infuriating, exhilarating, frustrating, creative journey.

What I do know is that it matters. Your art and creative instincts reflect something deep and precious within you.

Never let outside forces deny you this creative path you’re on. To do so would be to let a part of yourself die. And it would deny others the gift of your art.

“An artist is typically a being that is filled with so much passion, love, or pain for certain lands, people, ideas, or images that all they can do with that overflow is bleed it out by creating. And with this type of art, the energy will be shifted from the depths of them and into the depths of the audience to be felt. It is a dance. A transference. An intimacy. It is to touch and awaken another human in a place they hadn’t known was aching, or sleeping. Both are opened. Both are nourished. Both are transformed.” — Victoria Erickson

The utility of struggle

Much of life is a struggle, as we navigate the narrow path between chaos and order. Murphy’s law and the persistence of entropy forever intrude upon our lives.

We long for things to be easier. To require less effort, hardship and sweat. But the reality is that, most of the time, the prize is won as a result of struggle. And it’s more rewarding that way.

I don’t particularly look forward to working out. I’d rather create art, read or lounge by the pool. However, physical fitness requires work. Struggle. Sweat. Consistency.

So I go to the gym. I make it a habit and routine. Because through the struggle I become fitter, and happier.

Some people are blessed with good genes. They don’t seem to work out much and still look great. I wonder, though, how much they take it for granted. Are they missing out on the satisfaction that is felt from working hard at it?

It’s kind of like the difference between a self-made millionaire and someone who inherited money. Success after a long struggle is far more fulfilling than inheritance. It’s why we admire rags to riches stories. It means more when we earn it.

The utility of struggle is that it’s necessary for our betterment. Personal achievement (not necessarily achievement over others) is immensely gratifying. Especially after a long, hard slog.

“Your personal life, your professional life, and your creative life are all intertwined. I went through a few very difficult years where I felt like a failure. But it was actually really important for me to go through that. Struggle, for me, is the most inspirational thing in the world at the end of the day- as long as you treat it that way.” — Skylar Grey

So here’s the deal. Understand that early in your creative development, you’re going to have doubts. You’re going to be easily swayed by the opinions of others.

In time, through trial and error, you’ll find your artistic sea legs. You’ll reach a place of self-assurance and confidence. You won’t have to summon courage as much, because the strength of your authentic self-expression will be undeniable.

However, there will always be struggle. Even when you’re self-assured and confident in your work, new vistas will beckon. A good example of this is the martial arts.

A kid studying the martial arts has one goal in mind: become a black belt. So she trains really hard for several years and suddenly, the day arrives. She takes her black belt test and gets promoted.

Now she has a lot of confidence. She doesn’t need to summon as much courage because she has attained her goal. Except, now what?

She realizes that the journey doesn’t end. There are higher levels of proficiency, beyond the fist degree black belt.

The struggle continues. And that’s a good thing. Because with struggle comes greater achievement. Greater personal fulfillment. Greater meaning.

And this is how we inch closer to our dreams.

I’m John P. Weiss. I draw cartoons, paint landscapes, and write about life. Get on my free email list and I’ll send you cool cartoons and articles every week. Sign up here.