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The Courage to Create

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  2,099 ratings  ·  161 reviews
What if imagination and art are not, as many of us might think, the frosting on life but the fountainhead of human experience? What if our logic and science derive from art forms, rather than the other way around? In this trenchant volume, Rollo May helps all of us find those creative impulses that, once liberated, offer new possibilities for achievement. A renowned ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published March 17th 1994 by W. W. Norton Company (first published August 6th 1975)
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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Morgan Blackledge
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Rollo May (1909-1994) was an American psychologist who, alongside Carl Rogers and Viktor Frankl helped create and popularize humanistic and existential psychotherapy.

May was also an artist and particularly focused on the psychology and phenomenology of creativity and the creative process.

May describes the creative process as laboring at the edge of knowing, and then pausing in mindfull receptivity to the insights and epiphany that emerge from the embodied unconscious.

I’m assuming that everyone
Ted Mallory
Aug 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Good stuff. Challenging. May asserts that artists, writers, poets, etc. need to genuinely encounter, or engage with the world which they are interpreting in their art.

I'm still mulling over his chapters on the Oracle of Delphi. I THINK that what he was getting at is that artists make new discoveries and create new things with the help of myths and symbols already available to us in our cultures and in the collective unconsciousness.

May does a fantastic job of recommending that rather than
Jeffrey Howard
Rollo May is wise and inspiring. The Courage to Create makes me long for a time when psychology was richer, full of life, and fed so much more by the humanities and mythology as compared to the sterile, narrow-minded field we have today. He retorts "I do not use this term myth in the common present-day deteriorated meaning of 'falsehood.' This is an error that could be committed only by a society that has become so inebriated with adding up empirical facts that it seals off the deeper wisdom of ...more
Mar 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: business
This book started off so promising for me -- I found myself getting sucked in to May's descriptions of the types of courage that exist — be they physical, social, moral or creative. His detailings of the creative process in Chapter Two I found equally fascinating....and yet, half-way through this slim novel, I started to struggle with the themes and lose focus. In fairness, I was attempting to read this when I was dog-tired, at home with extended family in between the trials of visitations and a ...more
Aug 23, 2012 rated it liked it
thought-provoking, quick read. wonderful historic analysis of the process of creativity written by an academic philosopher and doctor of psychology. covers psycho-analytic theory, Nietzsche, Dionysus. author argues that creative thought is essential for successful living, but only if it is transcended into action. ideas and concepts may be preceded or followed then by logic, stating that this initially is the most anxiety-ridden path to tread and so it requires a commitment to the process along ...more
May 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
(page 15) "We need a new type of physical courage that will neither run rampant in violence nor require our assertion of ego-centric power over other people. I propose a new form of courage of the body: the use of body not for the development of muscle men, but for the cultivation of sensitivity. It will be, as Nietzsche remarked,a learning to think with the body. It will be a valuing of the body as the means of empathy with others, as expression of self as think of beauty and as a rich source ...more
Apr 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Not my favorite work by May. Like Alan Watt's The Wisdom of Insecurity, this book trails off into a rant about how awesome artists and art is, but without any substance or meat to really link art and mental health. No one needs to read both these books, as they are too similar, although this is the slightly better of the two.

Update: having read a little Tillich and Carl Rogers' Dialogues, I wish I had the patience and time to look this over again. I now understand that May was at the center of
May 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: for-the-spirit
This is actually an excellent and small (thus manageable) book, but it is heavy psychological reading, very scholarly in tone. While I need to ponder it further, the basic themes are pushing against conformity, and living authentically and intentionally. Rollo May is an American existentialist philosopher who was very influential in the 1950s - 1970s.
Sarah Heady
Jun 08, 2008 rated it it was ok
This book is incredibly dated (1975), talking waaaay too much about the Russians and having a very traditional psychoanalytic, heteronormative outlook. I found it sort of grating, but there are a few very interesting theoretical pieces about the creative process. You can skim over it in 2 days, easy.
Kirtida Gautam
Apr 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: chakra-5
"Artists pursue meaninglessness until they can force it to mean."
The Courage To Create is one of the best books I have read this year. Like many of the great books that enter in my life at a particular moment of my individual journey, this book came to me during a timely moment of creation.
I am struggling to write #Book3YinYang. The major struggle is not about the creativity itself, it's to understand the "creative" as the subjective and objective entity.
For the first time, when I started
I'm not sure I fully locked in to reading this book, which took longer than I expected. I felt myself forcing my brain to focus--perhaps because the organization felt a bit strange to me. I wanted to connect and I flagged plenty of passages for discussion, and I'm looking forward to the fellow Loft mentees chatting about this slim book.

One of my favorite quotes:

"What genuine painters do is to reveal the underlying psychological and spiritual conditions of their relationship to their world; thus
Guille Petit
Jun 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
This book is incredible. It's very short; but, it is not something one should read in an afternoon. Rollo May talks about his own insights and thoughts about creativity, it's sources, inspiration,... , and all that from a rather humanistic/existentialist or neoanalytic psychological perspective. He uses great examples from his practice and his daily life that really help creating a mental image of what ever he is describing. I must have read this book a million times, and I'll keep on reading it ...more
Amir Hossein Fassihi
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A classic book that contains a lot of time-less wisdom. Rollo May's existential point of view towards creativity and art is very interesting. Why should creative people be courageous and the analysis of the anxiety inherent in creation is the main theme of this book.
The book is written in a straightforward and easy to read fashion, however, the concepts are very deep and this is a book that I will have to return to a few more times.
This was the first book I read by Rollo May, will for sure plan
Aleksandr Voinov
May 29, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: creative-writing
A series of lectures on creativity. Published in 1975, with the spirit of the times, it now comes across as somewhat dated. It was well written, though, and kept me interested. It also shed a totally new - for me - light on the Prometheus myth, which for me was worth the price of admission.
Nov 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Take a journey through psychology, psychotherapy and mythology and discover what courage and process of creation really are. Rollo May offers an interesting perspective on these topics and challenges some of the classical psychoanalytical views on music, art and every type of creative thinking. Definitely a book worth reading more than once. 4.5
Like Man's Search For Himself, it's not possible to forget it was written 70 years ago, but here he describes the components of creative work in a way that makes me wish I had always had it broken down like that. One of the components, the Encounter, is used to describe the experience I have when I'm obsessed with some idea or another. The joy it can bring, the way i'm compelled to do these things even though they have no practical use, and the way it feels to be immersed in something. i ...more
Sherry (sethurner)
Oct 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
"All my life I have been haunted by the fascinating questions of creativity."

This slender volume, first published in 1975, is actually a series of lectures that psychologist Rollo May delivered on the various aspects of imagination and creativity in people's lives. The lectures are "The Courage to Create", "The Nature of Creativity', "Creativity and the Unconscious", "Creativity and Encounter", "The Delphic Oracle as Therapist", "On the Limits of Creativity", and "Passion for Form." May is an
May 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: psychology majors
Shelves: writing, non-fiction
On the cover it says things like "how can we acquire creative courage?", "How can creative power make your life richer and more satisfying?", but I really didn't get much out of the book. Yes, it is a psychology textbook, but I guess my expectation on the subject matter was different when I started reading it. The beginning of it was truly interesting, no doubt. There were tons of quotes and references that I even highlighted cause I thought they were inspiring or intriguing. But overall I felt ...more
Sep 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
May believed that "something occurs in the creative working of the imagination that is more fundamental-but more puzzling-than we have assumed in contemporary psychology." Being labeled as unscientific..taking us away from reality...imagination and art were often looked at as the frosting of life rather than solid food.
"What if imagination and art are not frosting at all, but the fountainhead of human experience?"
Art creates form out of chaos. "The creative process is the expression of this
Feb 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a clear and wise look at creativity and rings true to my own experience as a writer and with what I have heard other writers and artists say about how they work. I'd heard about this book and was glad to read it. May reverses the previously wide-held view that art comes from neurosis or some psychological problem; instead, he says, it is the healthy and normal response and production of people who are (meant to be) artists. It's always a joy to read ideas presented in clear language, ...more
Jan 09, 2011 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
The two chapters I read of this book were good and offered me a lot of quotes that relate to both writing/ creating and to life in general (what requires courage-- intimacy, social, moral, physical, creative)
1) encounter
2) intensity
3) encounter interrelating with world
Jan 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I first read this book when I was 19 or 20, and it is marked and dog eared from regular re-reading every couple of years. When my creative spirit seems a little thirsty, this book offers a refreshing drink. Short and quick to read.
Sep 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
An interesting account of how the more interesting people that we come into contact in our daily lives and those that we learn about through the media, use their creativity to solve problems and produce outcomes that we can appreciate.
Jul 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Very well written, excellent perspective, much food for thought. I've read it more than once.
Jul 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
A highly fascinating book, for the most part.
Danielle Durkin
Apr 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A relevant inquiry into the nature of creativity and the particular kind of "joy" the artist/writer/scientist feels with the intense engagement in the courage required to live in it. And more.
Ai-Ling Louie
Jun 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Feel like this is out of date now that brain research has advanced.
Allison Berry
Mar 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
This is the fourth time I have read this short book. It is loaded with little gems that have stuck with me for many years. I highly recommend this one or any book by Rollo May.
Jeffrey Martin
Sep 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
A great read for anyone looking to start just about anything.
May 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Excellent. May's discussion of the unconscious' role in the formation of new ideas and/or revelations is well-articulated and extremely compelling...
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Rollo May (April 21, 1909 – October 22, 1994) was an American existential psychologist. He authored the influential book Love and Will during 1969.

Although he is often associated with humanistic psychology, his philosophy was influenced strongly by existentialist philosophy. May was a close friend of the theologian Paul Tillich. His works include Love and Will and The Courage to Create, the latter
“Intimacy requires courage because risk is inescapable. We cannot know at the outset how the relationship will affect us. Like a chemical mixture, if one of us is changed, both of us will be. Will we grow in self-actualization, or will it destroy us? The one thing we can be certain of is that if we let ourselves fully into the relationship for good or evil, we will not come out unaffected.” 227 likes
“The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one. Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt, but in spite of doubt. (p. 21)” 128 likes
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