Book Report: Rising Strong by Brené Brown - Part 1

​My name is Jennifer and I am a book nerd. {"Hi Jennifer!"} I always have been, always will be. So when an interest starts to consume my life, like creativity has, I want to read ALL THE BOOKS. I want to soak up all the information and learn everything there is to know about the subject. I found this awesome little section, Creativity & Intelligence, at Barnes & Noble that I hope to work my way through one day. The fact that this section even exists basically means I have my proof right there and I don't even need to write these book reports to explore how important creativity is for our lives. There is a whole section dedicated to it at Barnes & Noble so it must be true. But "Creativity & Intelligence" is kind of simplified, don't you think? So I am here to share my book reports with you monthly along with the wisdom I gather from them on the creative process and the importance of creativity in our lives.

This book, Rising Strong: The Reckoning, The Rumble, The Revolution by Brené Brown is not necessarily a book specifically about the creative process, although what I love about Brené is she seems to have this fondness for artists and the creative process and speaks to it a lot in her books. This book could be categorized in the self-help section of a bookstore and I am sure it often times is. But as I do with almost any book I read, or really anything I encounter these days, I relate it to the creative process. If you have not heard of Brené Brown, a quick and simplified version of her research and body of work is that she is someone who started out studying happiness and happy people and quickly pulled back the curtain to find that vulnerability is one of the most important key ingredients in the personalities of these happy people. She has gone on to become a vulnerability researcher and advocate and has written many books, including Daring Greatly about how to incorporate more vulnerability into your life.

This book, Rising Strong, is about when we do incorporate vulnerability into our life and by doing so, end up flat on our faces. Because vulnerability can lead to great things but sometimes it leads to failure before success, or just straight up failure altogether. This book explores what it takes to get your butt up, dust it off, and continue living your badass life. And in doing so, learning more about yourself, learning from your mistakes, and not letting the experience harden you so you can continue to live with vulnerability and ultimately happiness. She says, " While vulnerability is the birthplace of many of the fulfilling experience we long for - love, belonging, joy, creativity, and trust, to name a few - the process of regaining our emotional footing in the midst of struggle is where our courage is tested and our values are forged. Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness in our lives; it's the process that teaches us the most about who we are."

So it's right there, vulnerability is the birthplace for creativity. That may seem quite obvious, seeing as how scared many of us feel when we embark upon a creative endeavor. For me my fear of this vulnerability manifests a lot in procrastination. So how do we get past this vulnerability, learn how to accept curiosity and courage, so that vulnerability does not kill our creativity as it ultimately does time and time again in so many people. This is what this book explores and there are so many gems and pages that I dog-eared in this book that part of me feels I should just fill the rest of this report with all of the amazing quotes. But instead I want to attempt to really put meaning on this subject and look at it deeply from a creative standpoint.

Brené mentions that our culture and society are adverse to leaning into emotional discomfort. We often times discharge or dismiss it. We choose "certainty over curiosity, armor over vulnerability, and knowing over learning". That is why when the feeling of vulnerability pops up, a feeling that is in fact pretty uncomfortable, most of us dismiss it. That is why I procrastinate on creating because I find it so difficult to lean into that discomfort. Luckily for me I have trained myself to eventually get down and dirty with it but many people let it stop them in their tracks and they never even move past that place of, "This is scary and doesn't feel good. I think I will do it tomorrow. Or never."

To learn to lean into discomfort in order to enjoy "wholehearted living" as Brené calls it, we have to feel worthy. We have to have the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up every morning and go to bed every night thinking "I am enough" no matter what. I believe creativity can help give you this sense of worthiness, this connection and purpose. But first you have to realize that you must not let it define you if in fact what you create does not live up to your expectation. When this happens it is important to not say "I am a failure" but to still say "I'm enough" and again, lean into the discomfort of the fact that something did not turn out the way you wanted and that does not feel good. In Brené's process this is when the reckoning occurs. We recognize an emotion such as, "My painting does not look the way I wanted it to and that feels really shitty" and instead of dismissing it and writing it off as another of our many failures, get curious about that feeling. And I would even say within the creative process, get curious as to why the painting didn't turn out the way you wanted it to. Analyze both the painting and your emotions.

When we start to ask these questions and get honest with ourselves, this is when things can start to change, and this is called the rumble. You start realizing you are making stories up. You start realizing that this emotion of failure is not that you are a failure but that you just are in the process of still learning. You actually open yourself up to the learning process that is involved with creating. We may feel shame or blame or many other uncomfortable things, but if a friend of yours was to make a painting and maybe this friend was not an expert but had spent a few years taking art classes, wouldn't you be tender with them? You would realize that they are not an expert. You would realize that improvements have been made since the beginning. You would realize that there is still some room for growth in their current skills. And you would not want to shame or blame them in anyway. Why is it so hard for us to be this tender with ourselves? Well if we can learn to rumble with ourselves, we may be able to change the story we tell ourselves and actually be tender with ourselves.

What a huge difference that would make, don't you think? I love this quote from Brené: "The middle is messy but it's also where the magic happens." That of course relates to the rumbling but in the creative process as well, the middle is always super messy. To be honest, the middle is where I deal with most of my issues rather than the beginning. Either I start realizing everything isn't turning out the way I want it, or it's taking too long and I get anxious about that. I rumble about the difficulties of the process and the fact that I may have wasted time, energy, and money on something that is going to turn out terribly. Sometimes I even throw tantrums (my husband can attest). I could use a huge lesson in being tender with myself during this middle part of my creative process. But Brené is right, it is right here in the middle that I am able to learn from my mistakes and take mental note of how to change and improve next time. It is right here in the middle where I can change direction and get innovative and even stretch my creative muscle to make something that seems to be failing all of a sudden become a success. This is where we truly grow.

The one time I found myself to be exceptionally tender with myself was while I was creating my first weaving. I think it helped that it was a passion project that was just for me and my own creative pleasure. And I sat down with the simple goal of learning how to weave straight lines and a few shapes. My tension sucked, I'm not altogether sure I was doing everything right, some of my shapes turned out well while others turned out wonky, and my heddle was the funniest thing you ever saw. But I did learn a few things. I learned how to warp, how to weave for the most part, how to tie off and start a new yarn, how to take it off and finish the piece, how to tuck the extra yarns in the back. I also learned that in future weaves I want to learn to pay attention to tension and add a new skill such as creating tassles. Although my first weaving will never sell on Etsy and I may not even put it up in my house, it was a great lesson in being tender with myself during the messy middle and the learning processes of trying something new.

"Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it's having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome." Having no control over the outcome, isn't that creativity in a nutshell? Even though we may gain skill and become closer and closer to an expert, starting on a creative journey is just that...a journey. Every single time. And just like every journey, you may have a destination in mind but you have no idea if you will make it nor if that destination may change nor what kind of obstacles will come up along the way. In Part 2 of my report on Rising Strong I will get more into the importance of courageousness and curiosity, as well as the revolution that comes once we are able to rumble with our stories and our creative process. But to conclude this report, what I really want my readers to try is these three things:

1) Lean into the scariness and discomfort of creating and just start, and if possible start without too many expectations of yourself. Once you do it more and more, you will eventually have an easier time getting down and dirty with the uncomfortable feeling of vulnerability.

2) If you start getting frustrated in the middle or throwing a tantrum like I do, write down what it is that you are learning and what you would like to change. If you can change it now, do it. If you cannot, make sure to keep that list handy for next time so you can pay attention to those things or practice them.

3) Don't forget to be tender with yourself. You are doing a great job in just even trying. You are not a failure. You are learning, every day, and that is an awesome thing. And you are being courageous!

If you are in the San Luis Obispo area and would like to start leaning into that discomfort and work through your vulnerability to start creating, why not do so with a fun night with friends, tea, and in the comfort of your own home?

Sign up for one of my Craft & Tea parties here. It's a super fun and painless way to start being creative again.

#bookreport #creativity

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