Reflections on Rollo May’s “The Courage to Create”

Bremer Acosta
2 min readJul 2, 2023
  1. Art is a struggle against death. Artists hope that their work will be great enough to last beyond their temporary existence.
  2. Original art is rebellious. It is a challenge to the unspoken assumptions of a society.
  3. An artist needs not only the skill to create but the moral courage to do so. They will be pressured to surrender their freedom and conform to the groups around them.
  4. Rebels who were condemned as outcasts in one age may be celebrated as geniuses in another. Yet many unknown artists have been destroyed by society before their potential was ever realized.
  5. Artists grapple with chaos. Through that chaos emerges forms that were not there previously. They “bring into being” an idea, an inner vision, a state, which expands their consciousness. They actualize themselves through the creative process. Making art is a reward in itself. It is an expression of authenticity, of becoming. Artists are not only manipulating the symbols of their mediums. They are discovering the complexities within themselves.
  6. Through the act of creation, artists become more intimately aware of their world. They do not seek to merely intellectualize about life and death. They reveal the underlying truth of the times that they are living in.
  7. Dogmatists are threatened by the creative freedom of the artist. That is because new ideas are dangerous. Art can upset the order of dominant institutions. It can expose nonsensical traditions, teach the youth to question the authority of their elders, and inspire the powerless into taking action.
  8. Intolerant societies seek to control artists. They want to smother the creative impulse before it can grow. Eccentric ideas are filtered out. Citizens are taught to hold acceptable opinions in a narrow ideological framework. When artists are censored and imprisoned, when they are restricted into superficial roles, that is a sign of sickness.
  9. After an intense creative effort, the artist will feel drained. Straining too much for a result will often lead to a mental blockage. It is better to take some time to relax. Insights will come when there is no rush. During these periods, the artist will not worry about their projects. They will be receptive, open, trusting the workings of their unconscious.
  10. People seek out meaningful patterns, even when there are none. They look for significance in randomness. They impose their need for order on disorder. When they engage with art, they not only interpret its purpose and value. They are filling in the gaps with their assumptions and biases. What is not present is completed by imagination.

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