Book Review: ‘Creativity Takes Courage: Dare to Think Differently’

September 12, 2018 Updated: September 14, 2018

The maxim that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover applies to much more than just books, and I agree with it in most cases. But, ironically, I can’t apply it to books—at least not to “Creativity Takes Courage: Dare to Think Differently” by Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst. The design cover of a woman diving into bubbles and the provocative title immediately drew me in and promised a new approach to a subject that’s been covered exhaustively. I was not disappointed.

Sprinkled throughout the book are paper goodies: postcards, a daily project notebook, and a quietness diary. The goodies reinforce the authors’ idea that creativity and mindfulness are a perfect combination. This idea grew from their brainchild “Flow,” a Dutch magazine available in more than 20 countries worldwide (

The inclusion of the paper goodies makes you feel like you’ve purchased a handicraft book or self-help book, as you’re immediately presented with ways to interact creatively. In addition, the book includes questions to promote deeper thinking, which immediately engage you.  The abundant quotes add spice and support the authors’ viewpoints. If these quotes don’t inspire you, I’m not sure what could.

Each chapter is organized around one “dare.”

Dare to Fail

When we focus only on the finished product and forget about the learning that we must do to get there, we lose sight of the process. It is the act of creating that is important. Thus, we should dare to fail, an idea reinforced by referencing famous people who failed big before they succeeded.

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” —Paulo Coelho, author

Dare to Start

Just starting a new project can be a problem. But the book asks us to consider that we don’t have to finish a job all at once; we can start small and achieve our goal a little bit at a time. We shouldn’t think that creativity starts at some magical moment, but rather realize that the magical moments are found in the creative process.

“Life is a dance between making it happen and letting it happen.” —Arianna Huffington, journalist and entrepreneur

Dare to Sleep

The book stresses that the benefits of sleep have long been undervalued. But sleep is a key to creativity, an active process in which we come up with novel solutions to complex problems.

“Sleep is the brain’s housekeeper.” —Claire Sexton, scientist

Dare to Be Bored

Loafing and dawdling are active verbs and should be treated that way. Boredom gives you space for new ideas and is the driving engine for change. Without that yawning inner space, we can’t hear our deeper selves.

“The outside world is just so stimulating, always pulling at you and asking for attention. It makes you lose the connection to your inner self, your emotions, thoughts, and wishes.” —Jan Derksen, psychotherapist and professor of clinical psychology

Dare to Commit

A good way to commit to a project is to find a small, achievable target and break it down into simple daily tasks. This way, there will be a sense of accomplishment built right in.

“Happiness is the longing for repetition.” —Milan Kundera, Czech-born French writer

Dare to Try Something New

The way to self-development follows a path that makes you feel uncomfortable. Routines make daily life possible, but exploring new things will keep you sharp.

“Our brain is constantly growing new cells and creating connections.”  —Margriet Sitskoorn, neuropsychologist

Dare to Be a Kid

When you do something new, you become like a child again. The authors feel that as we get older, we lose the open view of the world and shut out the many possibilities in front of us. “Beginner’s mind” is a term Buddhists use to describe mental openness.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.” —Shunryu Suzuki, Soto Zen monk

Dare to Be Alone

We often see being alone as something negative. Some even believe that our existence is validated by the number of friends we have. Yet people can be alone without feeling alone. When we spend time alone, we have more space in our heads for new thoughts.

“The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone.” —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German writer and statesman

Dare to Go Offline

The problem with the internet, according to the book, is not our going online but the frequency of our doing so. There are many mindless moments online. In fact, we should realize that going offline is the true luxury.

“Quiet is peace. Tranquility. Quiet is turning down the volume knob on life. Silence is pushing the off button. Shutting it down. All of it.”  —Khaled Hosseini, novelist

Dare to Be Mindful

Practicing mindfulness helps to develop the ability to look and feel with all of one’s being. Mindfulness trains one to accept being in the here and now.

With mindfulness, “You become clearer in your thinking and can see all the things that are going on in your subconscious in sharper focus.” —Danny Penman, author of “Mindfulness for Creativity”

Dare to Nourish Yourself

The book encourages the reader to participate in mental and physical experiences that are new, unique, and/or different, with solo activities such as browsing in a bookstore, seeing a play, or attending lectures; or group events such as taking a knitting class, throwing a painting party, or having a night set aside for drawing with friends.

“Anything that’s new … helps to get you thinking out of the box.” —Danny Penman, author of “Mindfulness for Creativity”

Dare to Be Quiet

Being busy and rushing around puts one in flight mode and is not the best setting for creativity. Find quiet space by going to a retreat, journaling, doing meditation, coloring, and so on.

“Our greatest experiences are our quiet moments.” —Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher

Dare to Team Up

Having a creative partner means having another set of eyes and another perspective. It may provide the motivation to keep creating.

“Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” —Henry Ford, business magnate

One of the most delightful books on creativity I’ve run across, “Creativity Takes Courage: Dare to Think Differently” is a great starting point from which to dare yourself. Enjoy every minute of the process.

‘Creativity Takes Courage: Dare to Think Differently’
Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst
Workman Publishing Company
208 pages; hardcover, $21.95

Linda Wiegenfeld is a retired teacher with 45 years’ experience teaching literature to children.  She can be reached for comments or suggestions at