In the early hours of this morning, I was nudged awake by two words and a concept: Creative courage.
Since moments of random inspiration like this had been few and far between lately, I took the opportunity to be led by this metaphorical white rabbit that was dashing past me.
What is creative courage? As a living example, in agreeing to be woken at 4am and inspired to write by this, I understood creative courage as the trust in moments of inspiration, even if they don’t seem to fit, don’t make sense, and even if you don’t know where they’ll end up; a trust that the experience of seeing what happens or where it goes will provide something positive, even if it’s just a once-off experience.
As I followed this rabbit, my thoughts went toward established musicians creating within the confines of their genre as well as the pressure of expectation, not just from their fans or management but also from themselves. The act of courage in creating something new without watering it down or adapting it to be more palatable then becomes something almost rebellious at times, knowing that it may inspire a negative reaction. Or no reaction. The call of creative inspiration doesn’t work to a rule book though, and producing something new may be jarring to those where the known and expectations are king.
The idea of creative courage brings to mind music I’ve heard recently and how the artists’ choices have either played it safe, or followed the call of creativity with delicious abandon. For example, creative courage is adding sounds or vocals to songs just because they came to mind, and because they just flowed, like the “In the middle of it all” repeated lyric of the song by the same name by Citizen. In an interview, vocalist Mat Kerekes was asked how he came up with that element of the song, and his answer reflects his effortless creative courage, as well as why the work of the Michigan/Ohio band in As You Please has had people spellbound since its release:
“I’m not sure. It just flowed. The whole song was completed and while listening to the demo I started humming it and thought it would be a cool/unique addition.”
Creative courage is creating something even if it doesn’t immediately make sense to others, and even if you know it is likely to be misunderstood or judged. It’s potentially a feeling of “I just have to do this”, and letting that lion’s roar of the creative voice drown out the other voices of “It doesn’t make sense”, “It won’t work”, or “It’s no good”.
Creative courage is respecting that roar, and championing it, not letting it be affected by other influences. It may be letting a feeling alone be justification enough for making a choice. It’s songs like “Live Outside” by Enter Shikari, being released, bringing a whole new sound for a band to life. In the words of Enter Shikari frontman Rou Reynolds about their sound: “It felt like, ‘Yeah, this is it!’”
No doubt easier for established bands, honouring creative courage puts new bands/artists with ‘weird’ concepts and ideas behind their art at risk of ridicule by those who don’t understand. It may also put pressure on a band to then explain their inspirations which may not yet be robust enough to handle being poked at. Creative choices don’t always need to make logic sense, nor have logical reasons behind them. And the deer-with-wobbly-legs feeling that new artists may carry in their music when they are doing their best to courageously create should be respected, not taken to with the same expectations of any other artist that ‘lives’ in the same genre ‘house’. This is one of my many inspirations behind Depth Mag; to respect the creative process that has gone into the making of music.
In my recent conversation with Tyler Dennen of Sworn In, he shared an appreciation for those who see Sworn In’s music as art, as opposed to seeing it as a form of entertainment that they’re owed. And yet the pressure to ‘make something good’ and ‘make something that sells well’ was apparent in that interview with Tyler, and it seems to be an unfortunate and inevitable hit to creative inspiration when bands are trying to make it. In Tyler’s words: “That’s part of the issue that I’ve had with combining art and career. It’s finding that happy middle ground where you’re appeasing those that support you and being real with yourself.”
As my white rabbit inspiration about creative courage dashes away from me, I’m finally inspired to consider my own role as a creator and how important it is to let inspiration do the talking, as opposed to voices which have hits/reads/visitors as a priority.
I want for people to read and enjoy Depth Magazine, and appealing to people and gaining traffic to the website matters. But as in music, it is the same in other methods of creating; those that trust more fully in the unique voice of creativity that flows through them have something captivating about them, beyond the nuts and bolts of what they’re making (be it chords, words, images). It may not even be easy to put into words, such as watching Endless Heights live.
Those that play it creatively safe feel far more .. bland, and are more easily overlooked and are not as memorable, even if the experience is pleasant (or dark or critical or whatever has been expressed).
The final glimpse of the white rabbit’s fluffy white tail as it goes out of view reminds me to create as courageously as I can muster, and to continue to respect the art of those that are either trying hard to honour their own creativity in fledgling stages, or successfully being brilliantly creatively courageous.