Wild Words . . . Photos & Fine Art

Co-creating by heart with sandy cathcart through writers helps and art info, focusing on all things wild.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What is the Meaning of Courage?

The last couple of days we’ve talked about whether courage is an accident or not and about not mistaking foolishness for courage. Perhaps it’s time we put a definition on courage.

Webster Collegiate defines courage as, “mental or moral strength to venture and persevere or withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”

The meaning seems to get washed out a bit when you try to use synonyms. But a further meaning to explain the difference between tenacity and courage is also interesting, “Mettle, spirit, resolution, tenacity mean mental or moral strength to resist opposition, danger, or hardship. Courage implies firmness of mind and will in the face of danger or extreme difficulty (the courage to support unpopular causes).”

Webster goes on to explain the differences even further, but I like that “firmness of mind.” It’s the kind of courage it takes to stick it out as a writer, or photographer, or painter. It also helps us face opposition. Yet it comes from the same place as the courage to face danger.

Today, here’s an exercise I learned from Lauraine Snelling. I teach it to all my students.

Power of Ten Brainstorming:

Get out a sheet of paper and number one to ten, leaving a blank line between each number. Then set the timer for two minutes and start writing. Write whatever thoughts come to your mind regarding courage. The idea is to fill in all ten lines. You can write a word, a line, or a paragraph, but you MUST fill in all ten lines. Do you think I’m repeating myself? I am.

You will probably get six or seven without much difficulty. Then your mind may go suddenly blank. If that happens, make yourself write whatever comes to mind, even if it’s something silly like, “I don’t know why I’m doing this silly exercise.” You may discover some real gems by the time you get to ten.

This exercise is a way of turning the editor off. I’ve been teaching writing for many years to all ages, including grade school, high school, college, and at writers conferences. Children through middle school are the very most creative; still pretty good at it through high school, then it starts going down hill after that—not for everyone, of course, but generally speaking.

Why is that?

I believe it’s because we’ve learned how to write properly. In other words, we’ve turned on the editor. And boy howdy! Once that editor is on, it’s sooooo hard to turn it off. I had to get off the computer for a year and write by longhand in order to loosen up and let the creative side have a chance.

To prove my point a bit further, I’ve never had to teach anyone to turn the creative side off.

“Fine,” you say, “so forget all the grammar stuff, already. I’ll just write!”

Ah, but there’s the rub. A lack of good grammar skills will limit your creativity. So, go ahead and learn the editor stuff, but keep exercising that creator side as well, and your toes will curl and you'll kiss the sky—see the awesome post on Mike Duran's site called, “Wringing Words.”

So, if you do the Power of Ten Brainstorm, and you fill in all the lines, give yourself a gold star. You are still in touch with the creative side. But if you didn’t fill in all the lines, don’t despair. Just be aware that you need to get back in touch with the creative juices. Repeating this exercise often will help stir up your creativity, especially at the beginning of your writing or art time.

If you artists are thinking there’s nothing here for you, think again. This exercise will get you in touch with the creative side no matter what venue.

After you come up with your ten words or phrases regarding courage, then take a few minutes to look them over and think about what you have. If you need more help, take one of the good words or phrases and do another Power of Ten Brainstorming with it. Then look that list over. When you finally have some ideas, give yourself two minutes to write your own definition of courage. That may be all you need, but go ahead! Take more time if you need, and edit and polish until you have something good.

I would love it if you would share your definition on the comment section of this web site. Or you can always e-mail me if you prefer.

Have fun!


At 12:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay. Here's my list of ten. I'll do the rest later.

1. Brave
2. Braveheart
3. Hero
4. Savior
5. Fear
6. Strength
7. The youn man standing in front of the tank in Tenenman Square.
8. Pain
9. Determination
10. Do or die—no turning back.

At 3:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Cor," Latin for "heart." Encouragement and discouragement both derive from "cor." So courage is having heart and to en-courage is to give someone a heart boosts. To dis-courage is to take it away, deprive them.
Hmmm, something to think about.

At 8:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

021706 Class last night was inspiring.
Prior to class I wrote this in response to reading your blog.
Courage is closely linked to faith.
If you do not have faith, you can't have courage.
Courage is fear overcome by faith-filled action.
If you have no fear, it's not courage.
If you have no faith, there's no reason for courage.
In His Service, Elle Bea

At 12:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Courage is standing up for what God has taught you to believe in. Courage is continuing, day in and day out the same routine, providing for a family, and setting dreams aside until later. Courage is never letting go of hope even when it seems to be waning. Courage is being brave for your child when you long to be the child again. Courage is finding joy in each moment though the moment doesn't include blatant adventure. Courage is attempting to live every day even when that rush of adrenaline rarely comes. Courage is our Saviour and how He continues to reveal to us what He has done.

At 12:07 PM, Blogger Sandy Cathcart said...

Ahhhhh, these words on courage are a great encouragement to me, and written so beautifully. Thanks for sharing!


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