Creativity isn’t a simple thing. Sure, some people have more of a knack for it than others, but for the most part it takes years of effort to hone whatever creative skills that we might have. To quote the words of French artist Henri Matisse, “Creativity takes courage.” It’s not easy to think outside the box and do something that’s never been done before, and it’s even harder to throw your work out in the open for the whole world to see. What if they hate it? What if you get negative feedback? What if you’re disregarded by society because what you made is just too different to be accepted?
Don’t think this ever actually happens? Think about this:
Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian physician, made ripples in the 1800’s for proposing a controversial new idea that completely shook up the world of medicine. After observing that the death rate in a local hospital was outlandishly high, Semmelweis discovered that doctors were moving throughout the wards tending to both live and deceased patients one after another. He theorized that bacteria was being transferred from patient to patient in this way, causing the death rate in the hospital to skyrocket. His outlandish solution? Make doctors wash their hands in between patients.
CRAZY, right? Well, the other doctors thought so too. Semmelweis was mocked, ridiculed, and largely ignored by the majority of the medical community. After suffering the blatant rejection of his contemporaries, he was soon dismissed from the hospital, moved to Budapest in an attempt to evade ridicule, and was eventually committed to an insane asylum by those who believed that he was losing his mind (including his own wife). He died 14 days later.
Wow. Great story, huh? I know.
But my point is this: If Semmelweis had backed down when his supposedly crazy idea was met with backlash, countless people would have died as a result. He was not afraid of failure, and instead retaliated by staying strong in his convictions, denouncing those who rejected his solution as murderers through inaction. He kept pushing because he knew that his ideas made a difference, and in the end his idea saved lives. To him, this is what was really important.
Having a different answer than what most of society accepts as normal can be really difficult. Going against the grain is often a painful process, but ultimately it’s a worthwhile one. Semmelweis gave up all that he had for this one thing that he believed in, and the whole of society gained from it. We are often scared to pursue outlandish concepts, and our fear of rejection causes us to miss out on amazing opportunities.
So how can we fix this? How can we attain the courage to allow ourselves to face what we fear most; rejection?
Don’t be afraid of failure. If you have an idea, explore the options. Allow yourself the freedom to fail. Don’t constrain your thoughts just because they ponder things outside what is considered the norm. And yes, sometimes your ideas won’t be met with open arms at first. Sometimes they may crash and burn. Sometimes you won’t live to see the effect that your ideas have on society, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not important. We’ve been instilled with creative capacities for a reason, and stifling these abilities prevents us from reaching our full potential, as well as depriving the world of a possible improvement.
Failure is always a possibility, but living in fear of it is no way to live your life. Follow your convictions, take time to consider new things, raise questions, enjoy the outcome. Be free to fail. The world will be better for it.