How to take risks and be authentic with your writing and creativity

A person standing on a high cliff looking out over the ocean

Photo by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos

Many creative people find it difficult to write and create honest work from their own experiences because they’re afraid to be vulnerable and show their inner thoughts and sensitive history.

I believe the best creativity comes from real life and the most authentic stories come from true experiences. It’s our job as creatives to tap into our courage and shine a light on our stories and our raw experiences for our readers and audiences.

How do you take risks, be courageous, and be unafraid to show your raw self with your writing and creativity? How do you develop creative courage?


I’m a creative and media consultant, writer, editor, and musician, and I’ve successfully run my creative agency for almost nine years. Prior to that, I worked in digital media as a web producer and copywriter. Then, I had a wild and rewarding career as a songwriter, recording artist, and international touring musician.

I’ve been a creative since I was very young, and I enjoy pushing the limits of creativity. I was an award-winning classical pianist as a child and a garage rock singer as a teenager in Minnesota. After leaving the Midwest, I was a spoken word performer and rock singer in Seattle, a dance club DJ in Europe, an editor for an art and literature magazine in Prague, and an editor for a poetry journal in San Francisco.

After wearing many hats and having multiple creative careers, I decided to combine my various skills and help other creatives be successful. I’m still a creative myself and I always intend to be. Writing and storytelling are what I truly love, and I’m grateful to be valued and paid for the creative work I do.


When I work with my clients, I use my own experience as a creative myself. I use my failures often more than my successes because I want to help people make the best decisions. I make recommendations by explaining what I did wrong, and I did a lot of things wrong. Thankfully, I also did some things right.

One of the things I believe I did correctly from an early age was to develop my work with creative courage and vulnerability.


What Do I Mean by Creativity and Being a Creative?

Many professionals refer to themselves as creatives because creating and producing things is how we make our living. But I believe everyone creates, which makes everyone a creative whether they know it or not.

As a writer, you might write fiction or nonfiction. You might be a screenwriter, novelist, playwright, journalist, or poet. You might write in several genres: humor, horror, erotica, memoir, fantasy, romance, suspense, thriller, self-help, personal transformation, or science fiction. You may write articles, stories, novels, listicles, or e-newsletters.

As a writer, you probably have multiple creative outlets that include more than writing words. That might be making music, visual art, or doing performances. You might write words or songs. You may paint or take photographs. You may make films or videos. You might dance, cook, sculpt, bake, or weave. Most creatives have more than one form of creativity.

Creativity in my definition includes every single thing you produce.

Whatever it is that you produce, I believe your personal experience is what will drive your best creativity. For me, as both a writer and musician, my best-received work has often been my most honest and brave. That’s what I encourage you to tap into: your creative courage and your ability to be creatively vulnerable.

A red-headed woman deep in thought about creativity

Photo by Ben White

Creative Courage

When I work with my clients and when I develop my own work, I use models all the time. I call them aspirational and inspirational models.

Aspirational models are creatives you aspire to be like. They are your creative heroes and they often work in your field. I believe in a cycle of heroism. If you aspire to become like your heroes, then you, in turn, can become a hero that others aspire to be.

Inspirational models are others who inspire you to develop your work. They might be from any field but they light your creative fire. It might be a musician who makes you want to write great fiction or a photographer who inspires your screenplays.

To develop creative courage and authenticity, begin by thinking about one of your models. Think about the stories, books, or other work they’ve produced that you aspire to be as good at producing. Or think of work they’ve created that inspired you. It might be poems, short stories, or artwork that motivates and sparks your desire to make your own.

Did those inspirational stories and work come from a courageous place? Do they show an aspect of their lives that is awe-inspiring, painfully raw, or extraordinarily risky? Is their work deeply dark, hilariously tragicomic, or both?

If so, this is a model for your own creative fearlessness. These are the writers and creatives you look up to; they’re aspirational because you want to be like them. They may also be inspirational because they make you want to be an incredible storyteller or artist yourself.

Now, what is something about you that feels risky? What is something that very few people or no one knows about you?

If you have a story to tell that you’re afraid of telling, it may be the best story, poem, song, or script you have. It’s your job to find the courage to tell that story. How?


Creative Vulnerability

People can tell when you’re being dishonest. They can tell when you’re making something up that you know nothing about. Most readers can see and feel if you really know and have experienced what you’re writing about. Audiences can see through your mask.

Vulnerability combines with courage in an integral way to help you tell an authentic, honest story. No one has lived your life except you. Your story is completely unique and genuine to only you, and it can become an extraordinary piece of creativity if you open yourself up and tell it honestly.

How can you be raw, transparent, authentic, and honest with your work? How can you be direct and tell your readers and audience who you are without hiding behind a veneer?