creativity takes courage {a lot of it!}

Do you know that feeling—when you can feel the shame creeping up your neck and into your cheeks? When you wish the ground would swallow you up? I know that feeling well.

Years ago, when I was beginning to make jewelry, I sent a couple samples to one of my favorite local boutiques. The shop was located near the beach and carried high end clothing, vintage décor and handmade jewelry. I followed up with a phone call and we scheduled a time to meet. The thought of having my handmade creations in her store was exhilarating. It was exciting and humbling. It was also terrifying.

I carefully chose some of my favorite creations–lots of necklaces and a few earrings. Each was piece was placed in an individual box and all of the boxes were gathered into a structured bag. On the day of our meeting, I loaded up my creations, found a parking space near the boutique and walked with trembling steps through the boutique door.

early designs lisa leonard

{early designs from 2008/2009}

Deep breath.

The owner smiled and welcomed me to her shop. We chatted about the beautiful weather outside and a new label she was carrying in her store. As we talked, I began to lay out each necklace side by side. As I laid out the handmade pieces, I felt like I was laying out my soul, baring some of my most vulnerable hopes and dreams.

She turned her attention from the conversation to the handmade jewelry in front of her. With the precision of a surgeon and the strong opinions of an experienced buyer, she began to separate the necklaces into two categories. She went through each piece and decided whether or not it suited her taste. I could feel her words cut through me.


With each ‘no’ my heart sunk a little lower and I wished the ground would swallow me up. With each ‘yes’ my hopes boosted slightly. I felt like a ping pong ball–she liked it, she hated it, she liked it, she hated it.

After a few very short minutes that felt like an eternity she counted the ‘yes’ necklaces, pulled out her checkbook and paid me for the pieces. I thanked her, packed up the reject necklaces, walked outside and got in my car. I drove down the street and pulled into a quiet parking spot. Then, like every strong and capable entrepreneur, I burst into tears. I felt humiliated. I felt rejected. I felt stupid. Who did I think I was making handmade jewelry? I was a failure.

But I could hear a little voice reminding me that this shop, a shop I loved, was carrying some of my handmade designs. Sure, she didn’t like every piece, but she liked some of them. She was carrying my designs. It was a success, not a failure. And even if she hadn’t bought one single necklace, that didn’t mean I was a failure either. It only meant the jewelry wasn’t her taste.

I was beginning to understand creativity requires courage. Sharing my creations with the world was a way of baring my soul. The jewelry was part of me. In a very real way, it was an expression of my heart.

Creativity is like hopping across a rocky stream, jumping from one stone to the next. Watching someone else do it is easy.  But as I took my first leap, my foot landed on a slightly unstable stone. Should I jump to the next stone or turn back? I could see the next stone, so I jumped. In order to get across the stream, I had to jump one stone at a time—sometimes changing course. I had to be brave.

Each step takes me further on my journey. Each step provides new opportunities, new insights, and new challenges. With each leap I am learning new ways of thinking that had never crossed my mind before. With each leap I am getting braver.

But how how do we find courage to leave the shore? How do we find the bravery to jump from one stone to the next?  I’ve found a few simple but profound strategies that work for me.

  1. I believe I am worthy and loved no matter what. My value isn’t determined by a successful jewelry business. I am enough. If I fail, I will still be loved. I will still be precious. I am surrounded by family and friends who treasure me just because I am ME. Even when I land on a shaky stone, I have a solid foundation. This gives me courage—so much courage!
  2. I separate my art from my soul–at least a bit. The work of my hands is a reflection of me, but it’s not ME. When someone doesn’t like my jewelry, that doesn’t mean they are rejecting me. It simply means they don’t like my jewelry. And that’s okay. But in the rare circumstance where they are rejecting me? Well, I go back to number one—I am worthy and loved no matter what.
  3. Failure is one of the best ways to learn. It’s impossible to succeed all of the time. If I’m able to look at a failure head on, knowing it doesn’t define me, I can learn from it, change a few things and forge ahead. Failure can be my friend.

Looking back, I can’t believe how far I’ve come. I never expected my little hobby jewelry business to blossom into something bigger. I never expected to have a team of talented, brilliant people work alongside me to make it flourish. I never expected to connect with women like you–amazing women who have a beautiful heart and a deep love for others. I can look back with gratitude and look forward with hope. Where will the next stone take me?

current designs lisa leonard

{some of my best sellers from the shop}

Have you jumped from the shore onto a stone? How how you found the courage to share your creativity with the world? I would love to hear your story!


  1. Lisa,

    I loved reading your story. Creativity really does take courage. A lot of courage.

    You are braver than you think, and I’m glad that you were brave enough to continue your journey!

    Thank you for sharing your talent and your heart with all of us. We are very lucky to have you!

    xo – kristi

  2. Wow! Thank you for this. I have an art room set up especially for me in my house by my husband and sons but rarely use it because I fear judgement and being vulnerable so much. I’m going to let it go. NOW. Good for you brave soul!!

  3. I loved this! What an encouragement. And I love jewelry that means something, especially if it tells a story. Yours surely does just that! Beautiful! I have recently lept from the shore and created a blog complete with a recipe challenge. It’s an unfamiliar stone and it isn’t what I want it to be yet, but I’m doing what I’ve long known I was supposed to do and I’m excited… And vulnerable. Kind of feels like running naked through my high school… But I’m loving the journey so far!

  4. I’ve been on that unstable rock many times, and sometimes I’ve leapt forward and sometimes I’ve stepped back but each time I’ve learned. I own one of your bracelets with the heart on the states of choice and I truly feel the warmth and love of my villages every time I wear it. You’ve built something wonderfully powerful in many many ways and I wish you continued forward stepping rock jumps!

  5. I found your blog about the time that you were creating those pieces from 2008-09. I was just starting to make jewelry and thinking about opening an Etsy shop. Your style fit well with my taste, and helped me realize that I needed to learn more than the basic putting-together of purchased components. I certainly haven’t had the success that you’ve enjoyed (which is okay for where I am in my life), but I feel like having you as one of my inspirations has helped me to grow as an artisan. Thank you!

  6. I’ve done this too! It’s interesting how we make it be about us and our lack! Maybe she only had a hundred dollars to spend that day!? I love the words of Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love) She says something like… Your job is to do your creative thing. It doesn’t matter how good it is, it doesn’t matter is thousands of others have done it before. Your job is just to do it, there’s only one you. It’s really none of your business what happens to it after that. (Loosely paraphrased). For me there’s a lot of freedom in that…disengaging from the outcome. You are amazing for putting yourself out into the world!

    1. This rings so true with me! I have recently taken a leap into theatre where I am a scenic set painter. With no formal training, I have waltzed my way into a world where my talent and skill are rewarded, affirmed, and encouraged. I utterly lose myself in my work–and at the same time, I find a version of me I had only had the courage to dream of long ago. It has taken a lot of work to reach this place of immense joy, yet I still battle with extreme doubt and fear that I am not good enough. My projects will be seen by hundreds or thousands of audience members–but will be disassembled, erased, painted over, or tossed into the set dock or dumpster when the show closes. My masterpieces are like poems written in the sand and washed away by the tides. I know that, and there is comfort in it. The impermanence of the sets allows me to detach from the finished product and focus on the process. It is so liberating! What I do does not allow me the leisure of procrastinating or scheduling other activities; I have firm deadlines of opening night and must clean up my paint cans and brushes and walk away at a designated hour to make room for the actors to do their thing. This has forced me to become more disciplined.
      I get to work as part of a team of massively creative individuals–and this also feeds my need for acceptance.
      This time around, I have been blessed with an added bonus of taking a role onstage as an actress. The current production in which I play a part is a story I believe in with my heart and soul. It is more that entertainment–much more.
      As a 30-something when I recognized my calling to the artistic life, I read about other creatives who found success later in life. That made me angry and resentful, because I wanted it NOW. Patience has paid off for me, and now, as my 60th birthday looms on the horizon, I have more energy and enthusiasm for life than I can remember.
      Take courage. Find your passion.

  7. Can you tell me how much your necklace that says I hold your heart in mine cost? Would love it my Dad passed away and would love it………thank you

  8. Wow. I thank you for your insight because as an artist I have been afraid to take the leap to the stone. You just made me feel a little braver.
    I WILL share my art and if people don’t like it it is their loss. I enjoy creating and that fills me with an inner peace. I do have a supportive and loving family and I will always keep that I need mind as I venture out to Mt he stone!

  9. Thank you, so much, for this article!! I’m sure you have had lots of jewelry artists commenting that, they too, have been or ARE in this same scenario. I’ve put my heart and soul into every piece I create and I am THRILLED when someone (any one!) can feel that and appreciate it. My style is not for everyone, and – SILLY ME! – I have heeded every suggestion from people that have NEVER purchased anything from. The result being that I have an excessive inventory of jewelry that range from one extreme to another! The lesson I am supposed to learn? You cannot please everyone no matter how hard you try! ;-D
    Thanks, again!!

  10. You just wrote my story. When I took this giant leap into the world of creativity after retiring from teaching, one of the best things I did was surround myself with people who believed in me and supported me as my common core. This special group is very dear to me, they see my new designs first, they share my successes with me.
    Thank you for the conversation.

  11. As a retired teacher who’s always loved to draw and now have time to pursue art, you’re 100% right! Creativity DOES take courage. In the 3 years since I retired I’ve joined a group of artists and have put my work up in local restaurants and other public places. It’s intimidating and scary but it’s the only way to grow and learn. Thanks for a wonderful article that speaks to the timid child in all of us!

  12. I can relate to this story.i retired 22 years ago but was still young enough to want to try a new adventure. I learned how to be a dog Groomer. Opened my own shop. Started out to be 3 day a week hobby. Some weeks busy then nothing for a month then only one dog. I too felt like turning back and not jump to next stone. I jumped, up’d my advertising and slowly business picked up to 5 days a week. I have recently cut back to four days. But I can honestly say ‘I love my job”. I have around 100 regular customers. Pretty good for a small rural area.

  13. This is the first blog piece I’ve read from you & I couldn’t have stumbled upon a better one! Some days, when the going is tough, I just need to remember that if the creator of the universe says I’m enough than I am enough! Thank you for writing this!

  14. I can so relate to this story. Creativity does take a lot of courage. It takes even more courage to overcome the fear of coming out of my comfort to share my designs with others. I also create handmade jewelry and work hard trying to get my designs out to others. I have to remind myself that God gave me the gifts and talent to do what I love so I have to trust that He will prosper my business too. So I keep on creating knowing that I am a success no matter what. My work does not define me, it is just a small piece of who i am. Thanks again for sharing your story. It helped remind me to stay courageous in my journey.

  15. I LOVED this!! It is SO true!! My art is my soul and the fear of rejection has held me back sometimes. But, little by little I am stepping out and not letting fear control me because I am not my art. I am me, my art is just a reflection of that!

  16. Lisa, thank you for the lovely post. Your work is beautiful. I just wanted to add the fact that the owner was also picking out what she felt would be a fit for her customers. As a longtime buyer for a department store I have seen so many things that I have personally loved but they weren’t a good fit for the clientele.Be blessed sweet girl!!

  17. Thanks for sharing Lisa. You shared your heart with the world. You spoke dire tly to me today. I tend to slip with I reach a wobble instead of jumping the rest of the way. Thank you for reminding me God is in control and when He opens the door, I need to jump on through.

  18. Girl your posts “rock” they really
    Do. Your best gift is being a lovely deep beautiful writer and sharer!! Your jewelry is lovely but it’s your hobby/ money maker! Your creativity is most beautiful in your writing!! I always love what you write!!!

  19. You need to write this for new grads! They need to hear this, because real world is harsh, but to keep going in it requires so much courage! Love your shop, just found it. Beautiful! I love your early work as well…esp. that red earring/necklace set. Do you sell anything like that anymore?

    Be blessed!

  20. My wife loved your name stamped ring for Mother’s Day…Thank you.

    I ordered them too large.

    If I send them to you can you resize them?

  21. Thanks for sharing Lisa Leonard – when I approach a new shop about my jewellery it is hard not to take it personally – but SO true – our worth is not determined by our value of sales – a great encouragement to all us fellow jewellery (jewelry) designers. Love from Northern Ireland jx

  22. Thank you for your story. I feel this every time I write my blog or speak about my story with others. It’s very personal. You’re right it’s difficult to not feel what others do or say but it shouldn’t define us. This is bravery at its finest. Again, thank you for your honesty, it’s refreshing! ?

  23. I am an artist and photographer and boy did this post make me tear up! I am a young mom and don’t know any other maker’s like myself in real life so I’m always wondering if I’m headed the right direction or not. It’s hard to be brave and put yourself and your ideas “out there”, especially without anyone to bounce ideas off! But something in me just won’t let me quit. So I carry on. I did a market two weeks ago and kept hearing that my art was “happy” and that felt like a thousand bucks!

    Thank-you for graciously sharing your journey with us. I’m a long-time follower 🙂

  24. Thanks for sharing this. As I was sitting on the couch crying already, having one of those days where you just are beating yourself up and hating on yourself, I was scrolling thru fb and saw your post. It’s a perfect reminder. And yet I don’t know why it’s so hard to remember that we are worthy and loved by the most important and amazing God of the universe. Sometimes it’s so hard to accept that and really believe it. Like today, when I’m feeling how I am because my body doesn’t function like its suppose to. Thank you for the beautiful positive reminder. I’ll try to focus on that instead of where I’m at in my head. I’ve always been such a fan of your beautiful work. Never stop creating and sharing parts of your soul with us. Thank you for putting yourself out there ?

  25. Thanks for sharing your courage story!! Creativity does require courage for sure, but it’s so worth the expression. Have you ever read Brene Brown? A lot of your thoughts remind me of the research that she has done!

    I love your jewelry, and at the same time, not every piece speaks to me either. But that’s actually what makes me love it even more. There are always pieces in each collection that I really love for my own style, but I like that there is enough diversity that I think… “Wow, that piece would look good on my friend. And that one would be a sweet, delicate one that my mom would like.” I like that I can see you, myself, and friends and family in your many creative designs! 🙂

  26. Lisa, it has been so fun watching your business grow!! I want you to know that I still have some of your original designs – shells and stones – and I wore one the other day and got 3 compliments!! Keep up the good work friend!

  27. Love your work it caught my eye first time I saw them so many unique pieces would love to have one of each. Have bought several pieces Love Them

  28. I’ve watched your business grow and I’ve seen you grow with it. You are amazing and inspiring. I am grateful God crossed our paths and I am blessed to call you friend. Janice

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