I teach a workshop on the relationship between shame and writing. One of the primary texts I used in my research was John Bradshaw’s Healing the Shame that Binds You. While this book has been consulted by many self-helpers for recovery from shame, it also contains some¬† insights into our psyche that inform and liberate our creativity.

A healthy sense of shame (humility), Bradshaw says, is basically knowing that we don’t know it all. When we think that we know things, our creativity shuts down. Creativity takes curiosity, and curiosity takes courage — after all, who knows where the unknown will take us? However, the three C’s alone aren’t enough, says Bradshaw:

A person with humility shame is open to new discovery and learning….When a person with curiosity and interest has discipline available to him [or her], [s]he has the right formula for creativity. The world is full of people with good ideas and fantasies that never come to fruition because they don’t have disciplined limits.

If you’re having trouble finishing a project or getting it started, it may help to ask yourself where you need more push. Do you need more courage to ask the hard questions and inquire further? Or do you really need more discipline in your creative life?¬† Or perhaps, is it possible you’ve lost interest in the project because you know it so well that your curiosity has waned and you really need to explore those aspects that are still a mystery to you?


One thought on “An approach to creative success

  1. Marya. When you can, would you please send me the reading list for this course. It sounds absolutely fascinating. I know you’ve been working on this topic for some time, and it sounds like you’re really pushing into radical new areas.

    I’m a little surprised to see that Bradshaw equates shame with humility, since these things seem very different to me. I’ve always thought one comes from the public and the other is a tactic for relating to a public. On the other hand, I think I understand what you say here about. I’ve told my students for years that any writing — really, anything that’s worth doing: bodybuilding, for example — takes that precious blend of arrogance (I can change my body; I can write about Dante) and humility (Oh, shit! It’s my BODY; Oh, shit! It’s Dante!) before you can really dig in to the task.

    This is a lovely post, my friend. Like everything you write. . .

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