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Courage is something creatives grapple with on a daily basis. Taking a leap, putting yourself out there, choosing the path less traveled: no one said it was easy! How can we worry less—and leap more?
Jamila Rizvi is someone who knows how to leap. In 2017, Jamila was one of the Weekly Review’s top ten young rising stars in Melbourne. And no wonder: she’s a columnist for News Limited; a radio host; a commentator on such shows as Today, ABC News Breakfast and Q&A; a published author (of Not Just Lucky, published by Penguin, and an anthology of letters called The Motherhood to be released this year); even an ambassador for CARE Australia. And that’s just the short version.
We asked Jamila for her thoughts and advice about being courageous. Here’s what she had to say.
In your upcoming event ‘Tea with Jam and Clare’, you and Clare Bowditch will celebrate creativity and courage. Why did you decide to focus on these themes?
Creativity is at the heart of what both Clare and I do. While many of us foolishly associate creativity only with the arts, the truth is creativity lies at the center of all that is beautiful and all that is innovative. And yet, as powerful and glorious as creativity is, many of us fear we’re not made for it, that we can’t do it, that it’s not for us. It takes courage to be creative, but if we’re able to find and harness that courage? That’s where brilliance begins.
You have pursued many creative ventures, from writing to television. Which venture has taken the most courage?
Both Clare and I have pursued creativity in many ventures: Clare in the more classical realms of music, performance, and more recently in writing, and myself in journalism, business and yes, government policy. The truth is that creativity is important and relevant to every sphere of work and human endeavour. For me, the venture that required the most courage was leaving the safety and financial security of full-time work for the independence of freelancing.
Have you ever taken a creative risk that failed?
Oh so many times! Creativity requires risks and also requires of us the courage to get it disastrously wrong and begin again. This sounds rather roundabout, but for me the biggest failures have come from not taking creative risks. They’ve come from being afraid to take the leap and trust my instincts and let creativity take its course. Creativity is stifled by a fear of ‘what others may think’ and that’s where my failures tend to eventuate.
How do you gear yourself up to take a creative risk?
I am not an impulsive person; I am a natural planner. However, I tend to spend a long time thinking about a creative risk or a new endeavour before I begin. I think, and think, and think and think again—and often appear disastrously unproductive. But when I do take action at the end of it I am decisive and fast.
In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert says that although fear is something all creatives must learn to live with—that it will always be ‘in the backseat’ of our car—the important thing is to not let it drive (or touch the road maps, suggest detours, fiddle with the temperature or touch the radio). Do you find this a helpful way to think about dealing with fear?
I found Elizabeth Gilbert’s book tremendously helpful in this regard. Sometimes we can get so caught up in our own heads that it inhibits the purity of a creative idea. It stifles it, suffocates it and eventually, it kills it. The key is to just ‘do the thing’. There always comes a point when the planning or thinking or worrying comes to an end and you Get. On. With. It. Never let the fear of being less-than-perfect stop you from doing what’s important.
How can you tell if fear is simply ‘fear of failure’ versus a gut instinct that should be listened to?
I write about fear of failure in my book, Not Just Lucky. I think it’s always important to determine the genuine cause of fear because for most of us, fear of failure is actually fear of public failure; we fear failing in the eyes of others. If we were allowed to fail quietly and privately then we probably wouldn’t be fussed. Ultimately you have to ask yourself: is the opinion of others more important than the creative work you want to do? Probably not…
Do you have people you rely on for support when considering a creative risk?
Clare and I certainly rely on one another because we’re close friends as well as professional collaborators. I always use my husband as the commonsense check and my father as the strategic check. They reign in my freewheeling creativity and excitement when necessary. They also know me better than anyone else, so I trust their judgment implicitly. Often they help create a framework I can use to analyse a decision, or point out the flaws in my logic or plan.
What is the next big creative risk you have planned for 2018?
We launch Tea with Jam and Clare in March and I have high hopes that this won’t be a one-off event but the start of something extremely special.
Is there something you would love to do but haven’t quite got the courage?
I would love to write fiction. I’ll let you know when—or if—I ever tackle that fear.
Any final words of advice for readers struggling with fear about taking a creative leap?
Stop worrying about what other people might think. Nobody is paying as close attention to you as you are, so do what makes you happy.
Jamila Rizvi’s new event series with Clare Bowditch—Tea with Jam and Clare—launches on Tuesday 20 March at the Melbourne Town Hall, with special guest Zoë Foster Blake. Tickets are available at trybooking.com. For your chance to win a double pass, pop over to the CWC Instagram and/or Facebook accounts!
Julie Mazur Tribe is the CWC blog editor and a book-publishing consultant who loves working with authors, books, and creative ideas. She can be found at BrooklynBookStudio.com and on Instagram at @brooklynbookstudio.