In case you don’t know, I write novels and short stories, and share my thoughts on reading alongside this.
I also support lifelong learners, practical dreamers and wild creatives to move from overwhelmed, burnt out and anxious about being ‘realistic’ to actually completing the inspiring life project they feel pulled towards with confidence and energy.
Recently, I read a book about Bravery. A lot of my mentorship and coaching focuses on building resilience and understanding the depth of our own courage. Some people call this bravery.
See the link? Grand. Let’s discuss.
I recently read ‘Bare Naked Bravery’ by Emily Ann Peterson.
It was a good read: well-written, clear, with enough common-sense examples but also some slightly more technical terminology to keep my inner-scholar excited. I found myself taking notes in a google document, scribbling down thoughts in between reading sessions as ideas percolated in my mind, and highlighting the kindle edition on my phone.
So rather than keep the swirl of thoughts in my head, especially with so many notes of my own, I figured it was a sensible thing to share and see what others think.
This is not designed to be an articulate, scholarly article on the book, but rather a few snippets that I feel could be worth exploring more as human beings. If you have thoughts, please do share them below!
In the book, Emily talks about the following aspects:
Understanding why we do things, and doing things often can both aid the doing of that thing.
This is definitely a key process for my work: I believe that if we understand our motivation, why something matters, which steps to take and get momentum going, then we’re more likely to move forward and feel clear about our direction.
Taking regular small steps forward is more effective, long-term, than a few short bursts of high-action. At least with the types of steps required for strength and courage.
When creatives begin to work with me on their inner pull, we tend to focus on building that sense of understanding for this very reason: if we know why we do things, how we best work and, especially when things go wrong, what’s likely to trip us up, we can prepare for and manage those obstacles.
Novelty and blank pages. Emily describes creativity as flowing freely when there is a sense of space and impermanence to it.
Her examples focus on daily writings such as Julia Cameron’s “morning pages”, but also speaks of the impermanence of deleting/destroying those words. When I reflect upon my own daily pages and journalling over the years; I find a layer of fear. I don’t want to lose a hidden gem.
When I write my novels and short stories, I do follow the great advice to “kill your darlings:” I remove aspects in editing which do not serve the story, no matter how much I love a particular character or turn of phrase.
However, I don’t delete them forever. I don’t delete them at all.
I move them to an ‘off-cuts’ file which I skim through every October as I piece together a new idea for NaNoWriMo. The idea of losing something which, at the time may feel mundane, but could one day be the missing jigsaw piece – I won’t risk it.
And this is not a concept I had ever questioned. The same is true of my novel ‘drafts.’ I have rarely gone back to drafts 5 and 6 of my 30+ versions of Planes Shifter. However, I own those files and will not delete them. It’s just not something that had even crossed my mind.
Equally, although it now has, I can openly say it’s not an option for me at this time.
But it does make me wonder what I’m afraid of or what it is that makes this such a non-negotiable.
In one chapter, Emily writes that an event “eventually caused the internal structure of my worldview to crumble into dust.”
I have experienced mental health difficulties, and I have to say that reading this sentence send a shiver along my spine. But it also pulled a warmth up into my chest.
In that moment, I see the words and I know she and I have been through something that has some kind of overlap; some resemblance. And we have both come out of it with this focus on courage and bravery. I just call mine resilience and strength.
“What’s on the other side of this feat of bravery?”
A key theme throughout this book is that of ‘discomfort’ being ‘worth it.’ What’s on the other side of this is as good a question as any to really focus on doing difficult things that may reward us later.
This was another phrase that lit up my inner fire. It reminds me of a meme in a group about weight loss which states:
Being overweight is hard.
Choose your hard.”
Discomfort is okay. It’s part of life. it’s allowed. Would I rather feel discomfort and small/weak/trapped, or feel discomfort but strong in my conviction?
If there’s going to be discomfort anyway, I want to pick the path which feels most ‘worth it.’ It’s something to consider.
“We practice to make things easier.”
Emily mentioned some of the science of repetition here, and that made my inner scholar grin. Essentially, repetition of any task builds myelin around the synapses required to do that task. The more myelin there is, the easier it is to repeat that task, thought, or behaviour.
It’s a smoother path to travel, like a well-worn path instead of a bramble-filled forest. This is just the fact of practice, and yet the idea of ‘practising bravery’ hadn’t quite occurred to me. Definitely got me thinking about how to use creativity and constraints differently in my life.
“Creating helps a lot. By taking the time to connect your physical feelings with your emotions in a mindful way, that is expression too.”
It was so interesting reading through this book and seeing many of my own teachings within. it does at least suggest some truth to our methods; that two unrelated people have found the same methods to work.
Journalling is a therapy tool I’ve only recently come to truly value, but even beyond that, my Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy training (evidence-based practise) links emotions, their physical sensations and behaviours together. Affecting one will always affect the others.
Expression of those feelings, whether through brave acts, doodling on a post-it note or using words is always going to build up that mindful creativity. And thus build up the foundation for bravery.
“Somewhere within the discomfort, I can always find my bravery.“
Fear is temporary. Discomfort is temporary. Overwhelm is temporary.
Behind those feelings, if you look for it, you will find “bravery waiting and able to remind me why I chose to say yes.”
I talk a lot about motivation in my mentorship work. Without motivation and the energy to act, despite how we feel about that requirement, we often won’t progress.
Bravery is definitely a part of that process, because making that choice to act, in spite of fear or overwhelm; despite knowing it will feel uncomfortable… that is what motivation can fuel us to complete. And doing that action in spite of those difficulties, is bravery in action.
“Sharing experiences, built on vulnerability, imagination, and improvisation, is what really builds bravery.”
Bravery is not lack of fear. It is not forcing your way through with gritted teeth. Nor is it trying to fix things half-heartedly without understanding what caused the break. No amount of ritual and boundaries, as Emily puts it builds bravery.