Season 1 Ep 4: Creative Virtues Part 2: Compassion, Celebration and Courage

In Episode 4 of the Go Creative! podcast, Orna Ross presents the second installment of the Cardinal Creative Virtues series. She explores the interlinked qualities of creative compassion, celebration, and courage. This episode illuminates how these virtues not only enhance our own personal creative process but also deepen our connection with those who observe or partake of what we're making. Learn how to cultivate these virtues in your own life and work to enjoy a far more fulfilling creative practice.

Read the Transcript to Go Creative! Podcast Episode #4: Cardinal Creative Virtues Part 2: Compassion, Celebration, and Courage

Orna Ross: Hello, creatives and creativists. Today, I want to continue our talk about the cardinal creative virtues.

So, we spoke last time about commitment and the importance of selection and creative intention, and also the importance of setting up the conditions that will allow you to actually go creative and follow your true wants, your true desires, into good creative intentions that have actual successful outcomes, and enjoying that all along the way.

I wanted to develop the enjoying it along the way today as we talk about celebration, another virtue, and also talk about compassion, creative compassion, another one. Then finally, I'd like to wrap up and discuss, because courage goes across them all, courage is the cardinal creative virtue. It's not possible to create without taking your courage in hand.

So, let's just begin by looking at compassion because a lot of people are surprised when I talk about compassion as an essential, as a core, and that's what I mean by the cardinal virtues.

Again, I'm not talking about virtue in the religious sense, in the moral sense of being a good person, I'm just talking about it in terms of its effectiveness, its importance. An important characteristic for you to develop as somebody who wants to go creative, as a creative person and/or creativist person who is consciously applying the creative process as you go through your work, through your life.

In those ways, these qualities are virtuous and the more you do them, the more you set up a virtuous circle that feeds back into the next part of the creative cycle, if you like. So, there's a reason we call it a virtuous circle. Essentially, once you begin to tap into these creative virtues, once you begin to activate them in your own process, but in your own life and become aware of them as qualities that are worth nurturing, everything gets easier, everything becomes clearer. So, it's really worth understanding these virtues, and it's really worth observing where you see them at play in your life and where you see they need strengthening in your life.

So, compassion. Why compassion?

Compassion is really important and again, just to make sure we're all on the same page, what I'm talking about when I talk about compassion is understanding really. That idea of if you walk a mile in somebody's shoes, you understand them in a completely different way than if you were observing how they're walking. So, compassion is understanding and concern for often other people, but compassion is something that we really need as creatives and creativists to extend to ourselves as well.

So, why compassion is so important is, without a nurturing environment, and this feeds into last week's virtue as well of having those creative conditions, the right creative conditions for whatever it is you need to make in this time, compassion helps to foster that nurturing environment, helps you to see and understand what you need, both internally, when you're talking about yourself, and so that's self-compassion, and then externally, because when we create something, whatever it is we're creating, we're not just ever just creating for ourselves.

This is true whether we're talking about creativity and work. If you're making a book, if you're making an artwork or whatever, you've got an audience in mind. You've got somebody that this work is being directed towards. It's the same thing in life. Whatever it is that you want to create, yes, you have the desire, but very often you are fired also by wanting to make something that is either useful to other people in a utilitarian sense, or you want to make things better for other people, or you may not consciously even have other people in your mind, but it is a by-product of you making whatever it is you want to make, that other people are going to benefit.

Whenever there's a true want, we spoke a lot about true wants in the last episode, wherever there is a true want, then there are other people who will be in receipt of that outcome.

This is why creativity, even though we need to do this internal looking and this focusing on ourselves, this admission of what it is that we truly want and the following of our own desires, this is why it is never contrary to what conventional society will tell us, it is not a selfish act. So, it is a self-loving act, yes, and that's where the self-compassion comes in. Yes, absolutely. 100%. No apologies for that. It is that, but it's not selfish because the actual true unfolding of what we truly want always benefits other people.

That's how you can separate and distinguish between a true want and the kind of wants we discussed last time, the cravings, the addictions, the consumerist stuff.

Beginning with self-love and, for want of a better word, love of others, this compassion and this understanding of ourselves and our own desires and our own process and what it is we've taken on and what it is we're trying to do, when we have that self-compassion, when we bring that in, when we bring in that aspect, when we're not berating ourselves for not being good enough or not having done enough, or for wanting what we want, or whatever it is we might be criticizing ourselves for, and this is the con mind at work, this is the contrary, conflictual patterns that we've learned and practice a lot.

When we let those go, when we bring in compassion, when we bring in self-compassion, immediately our creative anxiety falls and immediately we become more resilient. So, when we are exerting compassion to ourselves, and we're not criticizing ourselves, and not in confrontation with ourselves, we're far less open to the criticism and conflict and that sort of con mind mentality in others. We allow them to have a self-compassion by beginning, by practicing that self-compassion, that sort of positive self-talk. This is the beginning of any sort of breakthrough in creativity, whether we're conscious of it or not.

Without that allowing, without that energy of giving ourselves that, it doesn't happen. It's not possible because so much energy gets bleached away in the critical mind and in the opposing mind. So, if you talk to any writer or artist, they will tell you how important self-care has been.

Anyone who has achieved anything of note and created something that they're proud of, they will talk to you about how self-care came in and how it affects their work in a positive way. That is true even of those who seem on the outside to have chaos and things that are less than self-caring, they can still talk about those moments, those creative moments, the actual moment of creativity, the actual engagement with the creative process.

Sometimes it's not enough to save people, and our society loves to bring us those artists who weren't able to be saved by their creativity, and they died through drug overdose or suicide or some aspect of mental torment or unwellness, very often to drug induced, very often to prescription drug induced.

So, all of that can be going on in one dimension while you've got this self-compassion and creativity actually happening in another way, so that their art is the one part of their life where they're not killing themselves.

So, many artists now and always have taken this sort of notion and this understanding and expanded the self-care that is inherent in the actual creative act into more general self-care of say mindfulness exercises or ways in which their creative flow and emotional depth is nurtured and looked after and cared for.

Any artist that has longevity, so some artists come up in a burst of flames and they burn really brightly for a few years and then they're gone, but any artist and any person, also any creativist, it could be just a person in their relationships, or a person in how they put their home together, or a person in how they turn themselves out in terms of their clothing and their look. Whatever it is, anybody who achieves longevity in that sort of creative approach is somebody who has learned how to care for themselves, has a dimension of caring in there for themselves. That's really effective. Again, that leaks out; other people get the benefit of that.

On the other side, understanding the audience's perspective, and I'm using audience really loosely here, the other people who are impacted that I was talking about a moment ago. So, understanding what your need and following your desire is bringing to other people can lead to more impactful and more relatable, for want of a better word, creativity.

There are loads of ways in which we're seeing this happening now with the indie movement in the arts. We are seeing how people understand this and how they are engaging with their communities in new ways, understanding things and understanding what the audience needs.

Again, I spoke about virtuous loops. There's this virtuous loop where if you get into a positive engagement as an artist or a writer with your audience and they are feeding back what is working for them and you are incorporating that into your work and then feeding that back out, that can be a really amazingly wonderful feeling, and everybody is being cared for in the transaction in a really lovely way.

So, we hear a lot of negativity about social media, but we don't hear many people talking about this aspect of social media, which has grown up so much in the last number of years.

Of course, there's a horrible thing that can kick in the opposite of self-care, where you're just chasing the likes and chasing the opinion of others. Also, there's the hate and the criticism that can come in and disrupt that sort of virtuous circle. That exists too, I'm not saying it's not there, but what I'm saying is there is an opportunity to witness and see online some very virtuous circles where compassion and care of self and care of others is actually the energy that is turning that wheel, if you like.

So, I guess what I'm saying overall, before I finish on the creative value of compassion, is that I would really like to emphasize the symbiotic relationship between compassion for the self and compassion for others in fostering the most fulfilling possible creative journey. That's why I think compassion is one of the cardinal creative virtues, and I'd love you to reflect on your own creative processes and your own creative desires, what it is you're trying to achieve, what it is you're trying to make, and think about how integrating compassion into your process, into your creative intentions, just observing how that makes you feel and observing what effect that has on your creative energy and your creative experience.

Of course, as always, I'd love to hear about that. If any of you would like to share it, please do drop a comment anytime on the podcast or on the blog

Okay, so the next cardinal virtue, the third one. So, we've covered compassion and last time we covered commitment. So, the other one, the one I'd like to talk about now is celebration.

Celebration has different aspects to it. Creative celebration, I'm talking about. There is the joy of the creative process itself. There's acknowledging of milestones. There's embracing celebratory events when something is made, but there are lots of different aspects to celebration.

So, just to dive a little more deeply into that. There is first of all, and I think this is the most important aspect of celebration, is the joy of the actual creative process itself. The intrinsic pleasure that you derive from conscious creation and the fulfilment that you get from that.

So, again to stress, this isn't just about writing or painting or music, or the things that people define as creative activities. No, I'm talking about awareness of the creative process, and yes, it can be applied to all those things, but it can also be applied to other things.

So, just the engagement in the creative process itself, entering into the create state, the experience of flow moving through you, whether you're making a masterpiece or breakfast. Just enjoying the journey, awareness of the journey, being alive to the journey, being awake to the journey. Eyes wide open to what's happening, heart wide open to what's happening as it's happening.

And there's masses now of psychological research linking that sort of creative connection with the self, creative connection with the process, to happiness, being good health, all the good things. So, it's really important, and that's the most important aspect of it. It's not the only aspect of celebration, but I think it is the most important one.

Part of that is also recognising milestones along the way. So, you have the thing you want, that you're trying to create, that you're working to create, that you're bringing all of yourself to that process of conscious creation. Yes, there will be an end point and you realize I've got it, I've made it, I've done it, it's here. But along the way to that, there will be milestones, and one of the things we do at the Alliance of Independent Authors is our member milestones.

Sometimes those milestones are huge and they're really conspicuous achievements, but sometimes they don't seem to be so big, but they are still very big. They're really important. Every step counts. Whether it's a small step or a great big stride is not really the point, the point is celebrating the milestones as they happen.

There are really good sound creative reasons for doing that, because when you do, you reinforce your own creative motivation. You expand your own growth; from whatever it is you're creating. So, acknowledging progress is really important.

Again, it's about taking in other people. So much of what we do as conscious creators has to be done alone. It can only be done between us and ourselves. But then so much is also about sharing and bringing other people in, and writers are great at that. They're outstanding really in how they share and support each other and praise each other for their creative milestones. But all creatives, but also as creativists, we need the same thing.

We need to understand what we're doing, and we need to take others in. It may not be about having a supportive community around what it is you're trying to create, but it might be about having your family or your friends or a chosen friend or somebody who understands and who will celebrate with you. This is why we have book launches and launch parties for new works, gallery openings. We celebrate these creative achievements by gathering with friends or colleagues and people who get it, people who understand, and there's huge emotional and social benefits in celebrating in that way. So, if you're ever wondering, should I celebrate this? Should I have a launch, or should I not bother? Absolutely. The answer is yes, you should. You always should. It's really important.

There is also something, each stage has its finish and recognizing that there is that rise and fall in each stage of the process as it climbs all the way to the end goal. There's again a cyclical sort of nature to it. So, just gestures of recognition from other people, pats on the back, acknowledgement, all of that just feeds and fosters a better creative experience, which in turn generates more creative energy for the next part of whatever it is.

I would say, think about ways that you can make celebration a regular part of your creative process think about practical ways that you can integrate celebratory practices into your process, schedule regular reflection and celebration sessions, create rituals for particular milestones and personalize your celebration methods. It's got to be something that makes you feel good. So, a book launch might be your idea of hell. So, don't do that, obviously. Find the things that are most meaningful and joyful to you and ensure that they're the things you give yourself.

So, for you, it might be a walk in the woods or getting away on your own. It might not involve other people, and that's fine. What isn't fine is to neglect it, to not bother, to just go on to the next thing, to not realise what you have done. That's not fine. So, don't do that.

Finally, the overarching cardinal creative virtue is courage. The Courage to Create is the name of a brilliant book that I read many years ago by Rollo May. I encourage you all to read it. Very of its time, but also timeless in loads of ways.

Creativity requires courage. It's not an option. It's actually not an option. By definition, being creative requires a sort of mental and you might say moral strength to, first of all, take a leap, take a risk, put yourself out there, to venture into adventure, and then courage to persevere, to withstand the internal and external critics and fears, difficulties, denials, all the things that will come up for you because whenever you're creating something, you're moving and you're expanding and whenever you move or you expand, there is an alternative opposite energy that jumps up that wants to stop you and wants to protect you and wants you to fail, wants to protect you against the potential risks of failures and other things.

Also, there is that whole social self that we've learned that wants to put a cloak around our own authentic expression. So, courage is required on many fronts to break out of your comfort zone, to try new things, to challenge yourself, to change your habits, to go against norms. There are so many different aspects to this, and it doesn't matter how you're doing it.

We recognize it very clearly in the entrepreneur who's trying to set up a business. We can see it clearly there, but it's just as significant for a parent trying to make certain things happen within their family or a teacher who's implementing untested methods that they have a hunch about. Whatever it is, creativity, whenever we try it, we will feel tested. We will feel that alternative energy coming, and we will need to gather our courage to hold the place.

So first, the courage to start the blank page. Writers talk so much about the blank page. Painters talk about the empty canvas. It's a metaphor. It's a metaphor for that feeling you get when you're looking at nothing and you intend to create something.

Everybody, even people who've never written a word or never painted a thing, everybody knows that feeling because we're all experiencing it any time we want to consciously create anything in our lives.

So, one of the things you can do to help you gather your own courage is to look at other people and look at role models, people who have done it and are doing it in ways that speak to you.

I love biographies of artists lives and writers’ lives for that reason. I'm always looking and modelling ways in which they inspire me, the things that they have done, the way in which, you know, anything that underscores the courage that they have to take and that underscores the idea, the knowledge we have as creatives and creativists, that courage isn't about not being afraid. Courage is about being afraid, but acting despite the fear.

And anything you can see around you, gathering around you, enables you to do that. You need to bolster your creative courage. There are days where it's strong and it's up and that's fine. But there are days where it will fail you and you need ways to give yourself a boost so that you don't get stopped.

This particularly happens when criticism or failure comes in the door. “Failure” because in creative understanding, failure is an opportunity to change better, to understand more, to learn something. All of that is all to the good and it's absolutely true.

But we get feelings arise as a result of rejection or criticism or something going radically wrong and not going according to plan. So, how we integrate these feelings and how courage comes, not to deny the feelings, not to ride roughshod over them, but to actually take the rejection, take the failure, and turn them around so that they become opportunities for growth and improvement again.

So, every single inventor, every single artist and writer, talks about the multiple failures they had before they hit the wind, and courage that was needed all along the way. So, the courage to persevere, I think, is really very much what it's all about.

If you just stay there, of course, if the want disappears, I always say a want that melts away is as good as a want achieved. You don't have to ride on relentlessly and regardless to the end. If the want melts away, then you can let it go and you can move on to other things. But if you still want what you want, then just staying there, just coming back each time and doing the next thing that needs to be done, you need your courage for that sometimes. Especially when progress is slow or when outcomes become very uncertain, or you've just taken a knock.

And to believe, to keep on believing that resilience and sustained effort will pay off, and to believe it at the feeling level, courage is necessary.

Again, finding models, seeing people who, listening to their stories, realizing that there is almost never an overnight success. That success comes from that ability to draw on your courage time and time again.

Recognizing then, is the last thing I would say about courage. Recognizing the courage you've already displayed, and in the spirit of celebrating and understanding what's going on, which is both compassion and celebration, the other two cardinal virtues I was talking about today, then also recognizing and celebrating your courage.

Just in even listening to this podcast and having listened to hear, engaging with your own creativity at that level, that in itself takes courage. No matter how small an act may seem, if it keeps you on the creative pathway, you can look and see that courage is involved there somewhere. It's super important in the creative life.

So, I would just encourage you to embrace all of your creative potential with courage and to remember that every act of creation is a step towards a more fulfilling life, a more expressive life and a truer life.

So, I hope that discussion of the other three cardinal virtues was useful alongside the discussion about commitment last time.

Next time, I'm going to look at some practices and get very practical and look at some practices and some exercises that can foster the create state and get you in touch with your own very deep, very wide, very high and very expansive creative capacities. You're probably tapping into only a tiny level of what is actually there and available to you. I'm guessing that because we all are.

Yes, until then, have a great week and don't forget to go creative. Bye, bye.