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Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 12:22 pm | A Few Clouds 58º


Susan Ann Darley: Finding the Courage to Become Visible

Strive to 'be cool,' to stop playing it safe and to step out of the shadows

Exposure. “I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours — well, maybe.” Life and art, in order to be meaningful, require the courage to be vulnerable. To expose. To become visible.

Do you hide? I do. Far too often I catch myself playing it safe. I want to be cool like you appear to be. I want to hide behind my words and appear together — one column at a time.

But I’m not. I’m flawed. I sometimes wonder if I’m an imposter or a hypocrite as I give out advice I need to take myself.

Every week a blank sheet of paper and I have a stare-down. Right now the paper has the power. The words trickle out slowly. Artists refer to this as a creative block. I refer to it as torture. Where is my muse?

Whispering, no actually shouting, “Be real — cool doesn’t become you.” Good advice considering I’ve never been able to sustain cool. But I ask, “Where do I go from here?” My muse replies, “Write the next word.” OK.

Artists love to hide, cloistered in their studios and private worlds. “Come out! You must become visible if you want to market your art,” I’d tell my students. They’d cringe. “Place it in a small boutique on consignment.” They’d cringe more. The excuses would fly. “It’s not good enough. It will be rejected. It will never sell.”

Their art, their individual self-expression and the thought of exposure, keeps them running back to their convenient, comfortable and safe caves. Chased back by the monster of “less than.”

Then there are artists with big egos who love to be the center of attention. They have no problem being the star of the show. They’re cool. “Less than” has many personas.

Brene Brown, Ph.D., a research professor at the University of Houston, has spent the past 10 years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame. She says, “The need to ‘be cool’ is an emotional straight jacket.”

Of course. Cool doesn’t show feelings. Cool hides fears. Cool is intellectual. Most importantly, cool is the opposite of uncool — and who strives to be that?

Cool fries the soul of an artist. Cool fries the soul of all of us.

Imagine if D.C. politicians became uncool? Dropped their steely armor with their one-way “I’m right” demeanor? It happened for a split second when one of their own, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was tragically shot in the head. There was a glimpse of soul, a few heartbeats, then back to status quo.

But they can’t stop the movement that’s under way. The masses are rising. No longer will they remain invisible. Libya, Syria, Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia, Yemen. What gives a person the courage and vulnerability to walk into the path of a bullet? The desire for change. A better life. A better life for their children. The understanding that it takes courage and exposure to uproot ancient regimes that stifle individuality.

Playing for Change, an organization that’s dedicated to inspiring connections through music, has come out with a new video that gives global treatment to the classic Rolling Stones song “Gimme Shelter.” Its tag line is the Irish proverb, “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” The song lyrics, “If I don’t get some shelter, I’m going to fade way,” say it all.

Our vulnerability is our connection to one another. It is the shelter we long for and desire. It is the act of becoming visible.

As Courtney Martin, author of Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists, says, “We don’t want to save the world. We’re too smart to think we can. We want to live in it — flawed, fierce, loving, and humble.”

Susan Ann Darley is a creativity coach, writer and author. Through coaching and writing, she specializes in motivating people to use their talents and market their creative projects. She offers a free 30-minute coaching session. For more information, click here, e-mail her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call 805.845.3036.

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