“Creativity takes courage.” ~Henri Matisse
“To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.” ~ Georgia O’Keeffe
Summoning courage for your creativity begins with a willingness to reach out for help followed by bold action.
Yayoi Kusama knew from an early age that she wanted to be an artist. Her mother had other plans.
During Kusama’a childhood when she worked on drawings or paintings, her mother would come up behind her and tear the work out of her hands. She also took Kusama’s art materials away and told her she would not be an artist; she was to marry a wealthy man and become a housewife instead.
Her mother also instructed her to spy on her father (who was having extramarital affairs). Kusama witnessed her father with other women which understandably had a devastating and traumatic impact on her.
Ask for Help
Still, Kusama refused to give up on her art and her dreams of being a successful artist. She gathered up her resolve and wrote to two artists in the United States, asking for their advice and help: Kenneth Callahan and Georgia O’Keeffe.
They both wrote back. They both offered her support and guidance.
Many years later when Kusama had established herself at long last as a successful artist in New York City, she credited O’Keeffe for giving her the courage to leave Japan and move to the United States.
Kusama’s body of work spans decades, and she has been active in all kinds of art forms: painting, sculpture, poetry, fashion, fiction, and more. Her popularity is legendary. She continues to create at the age of 91, making the short walk across the street from the mental institution where she resides to her studio. She works without ceasing from 9:00am until 6:00pm each day.
Imagine for a moment, a world without such a voice and vision…without such a compelling, gifted, and prolific artist who captivates us with stunning colors, polka dot and net paintings, infinity rooms, and vibrant sculptures.
Think of the nerve and resolve required to leave your country and fly 7,695 miles (with a small amount of American currency sewn into your clothes and stuffed into your shoes).
A courageous journey fueled by a hand-written letter, penned by an artist-mentor.
The Dream that Calls to You
Now think of your own courageous journey…the one that whispers to you late at night, begging you to gather it up, embrace it, hold it dear, and decide to (against all odds) take the first step. The very one we tend to turn away from, discount, ignore completely.
The one that may change the trajectory of our entire lives, if we let it. The one that gives us goosebumps, chills, and shudders of electricity when we indulge a moment or two of fantasy as we see ourselves living it.
The one we know in the deepest, most still places of our hearts is our truth.
How is it that we summon the courage to flee toward our dreams?
We need a Believing Mirror (what author Julia Cameron calls a person who sees the potential in us and in our work), like Georgia O’Keeffe was for Kusama. A person who can reassure us and offer us words of encouragement, potential paths forward, and trails blazed via sage counsel, an introduction, and/or key resources.
Note that we can be such a Believing Mirror for others, and in doing so, we may gift that courage to ourselves.
Once she had enough willingness sparked by kindness, Kusama harnessed her trauma and leveraged it toward the act of creation in countless ways. It is fitting that she may now serve as a Believing Mirror and beacon for each of us as we stand on the proverbial edges of our own daring.