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Nuance: Courage v Bravery

This battle has raged on among linguists for time untold - and today I am weighing in with no linguistic expertise or knowledge, but in keeping with this month’s mantra of strength in softness, softness in strength, to paraphrase, I want to explore the nuance of similar ideas or concepts from the lens of creativity. I also happen to love words and writing, who knew!, and love the idea that even when we use synonyms there is nuance wrapped up in them.

I want to stress that this is my own musing and opinion and not true definitions or a stark divide of what is ‘correct’. As previously stated there is such nuance in language and understanding - this is simply my take, which may be a hot take depending on where you stand, but as always, I want to invite discussion and stimulate ideas.

Let’s first examine the nuance of both courage and bravery.

Bravery and courage are often used interchangeably, but I believe they each have unique connotations that bring a richness to them that is overlooked when they are used as simple synonyms for each other.

Bravery, in my world, is an act of overcoming or facing an external foe, fear or circumstance, often with a recklessness or disregard for danger or cost incurred. The connotation of bravery is recklessness. It is the classic standing up for the little guy, leading the charge in the face of a foe, and doing something in the face of fear with no thought to yourself, but only for others.

Courage is far softer, but to me, that makes it stronger in a sense. Courage is a quiet acceptance of vulnerability and fear, and facing those insecurities and fears with dignity and honesty. Courage is showing up to battle, knowing the risk is high and the reward of freedom. It is standing with fear in your heart and standing your ground anyway. The connotation of courage is thoughtfulness. It is confronting yourself and circumstances from a place of compassion and understanding.

In creativity I believe we need to be both brave and courageous.

Courage is necessary for creativity to take the first step. To create we must first embrace our vulnerability and face the fear of possibility. Courage rises up in the creative to do something new, innovative and personal. Putting ourselves into our creations, exploring ourselves through our creativity is what takes courage. Facing ourselves and our insecurities and our faults and dreams; they can be hard to see, difficult to accept, but in doing so we grow to express the human condition in new ways, in honesty. Sharing our work, sharing those pieces of ourselves takes courage’ expressing what we feel, how we see the world can be terrifying. Committing to your creativity in a world where it is not valued as highly as other paths in life is a courageous choice. Travelling the road less travelled, breaking from traditional notions of work and productivity, to revel in delight and the miracle of creating is a choice creatives make each and every day. That choice takes resolve, acceptance and understanding.

When dealing with bravery in creativity, I think of boldness. To make without restraint, to put your work out there for the world to see and endure opinions beyond your control requires bravery. Recklessness often has a negative connotation of being thoughtless and dangerous, but recklessness in creativity is about delighting in creative abandon, creating without barriers. To be creative in an organic way, completely as you like, without apology, taking up space. Bravery in creativity is being unabashed about claiming the title of creative, to take it, to own it, and not wait for someone else to pick you or tell you you are valid as a creator, that you are worthy of the mantle. Being brave with your creativity is being bold; bold in what you create and how you create. It is being reckless in your joy and desire to engage with your creativity in whatever craft you choose to practice. Bravery is necessary in the creative process to deal with the outside influences and perspectives that you, the creative, will encounter by living the creative life and sharing your creativity with society at large. Create with reckless abandon, share your creations with boldness, and encounter the world with bravery in your creativity.

Although the concepts of bravery and courage are similar, I believe they have their nuanced differences. However, both have a place in the creative life and are essential bookends in the creative process. Courage to take the first step and bravery to follow through and face the world as a creative individual.

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