A Year of Creative Courage

A Year of Creative Courage

2024 is going to be my Year of Creative Courage.

 

I regularly tell the story of how 10 years ago, when I found myself experiencing burnout and panic attacks, I took a month off work and got different people to set me different creative challenges to do each day. It was a fork in the road for me, a moment where I faced up to my inner perfectionist, chose my creativity instead and founded the business that I am now running successfully 10 years later.

 

Jo is standing next to a colleague who is sitting down. They are both about to launch paper planes. Jo is smiling.

Credit: Donna Ford Photography

That story is all true. But of course it’s not the whole picture.

 

Over the last 10 years things have changed significantly. That business now has 10 people in it. I got married. And I had 2 kids. So that infinite time to explore, to dream, to think about possibilities has significantly reduced. I am no longer in my early thirties wondering how life might turn out. I feel like I am right in the middle of how it’s turning out and it is HARD (alongside all the good stuff too).

 

As I’ve navigated the changes that life has brought me I’ve been so grateful for the groundwork I laid 10 years ago. I know I have been easier on myself as a mum, I have been better at talking about what's happening, running the company has brought me so much joy. I have also been more nurturing of others, more able and willing to switch my perspective and on the whole, that background anxiety I carried around for at least 2 decades has significantly quietened. 

 

But my day to day responsibilities feel like they have taken up a lot of the space I had in my head for creativity, and I feel detached from my body and instincts because I’ve neglected them.

 

Years of prioritising the needs of others, in a way that I feel has worked for a time, and has laid the groundwork of a culture of care at work and a loving family at home has left me feeling proud of everything that’s gone before, but unclear about what’s next. 

At this moment I feel called to return to my creativity. Anyone who knows me, knows I advocate for being able to squeeze creativity into the tiny moments, into the cracks of light, to embed it alongside the challenges of everyday life. And I still hold absolutely true to that. But for me the time has come when I have been topping up for so long I have forgotten what it's like to really fill up - to deep dive back into who I am, what I stand for, the essence of creativity for me.

 

Practicing creativity brings me courage, but it takes courage too. For me that’s the courage to say ‘My creativity is important. I am important. Nurturing my ideas matter.’ That taking time for myself doesn’t have to mean I think I am ‘more’ important than others. In fact, it means I will have the energy and ideas to continue championing others, to speak out loudly for what I believe in and to invest in an amazing team to support the realisation of their ideas. The little voice in my head saying ‘that’s selfish, pipe down, crack on, stay busy, that’s where you’re useful,’ is a hard one to ignore, but in order to keep going, I have to.

 

So I am choosing to ignore those thoughts and instead do what I need to do. For the whole of 2024 I will significantly reduce my client-facing delivery for 64 Million Artists. I will take a total of 4 months off, some as longer periods, some as short bursts. At least once a week for the year I will create boundaried time to go for a walk with, or do a creative challenge with, or have an uplifting conversation with someone who I admire, someone who pushes me out of my comfort zone, or someone I want to get to know. I will be courageous in asking people for this time, and in holding it, because I have to be; In service of the next 10 years.

 

I’ll talk and write about it a bit as I go along. Even though I might feel silly or tired or worthless or, of course, selfish. Creativity for courage, and courage for creativity. That’s my ambition for 2024. And of course I am starting with The January Challenge. So please join me, and let’s see what happens next…

Jo Hunter, Founder of 64 Million Artists

 

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