Curate your heart out: on taking risks and being choosy.

When I chose to be an art history major at Brown I thought I’d be a museum curator. I loved the idea of getting to pick and choose what was featured in the galleries. The thought of having the power to choose new and different creative voices, as well as to honor classics, sounded deeply satisfying.

Somewhere along my four-year journey at college, though, I realized that getting a job and working within an existing museum system probably wasn’t going to work for me. I found out that the art world has a lot of politics and that being a curator would mean a lot more than choosing which paintings got hung on the wall and in what order.

Here’s what has to say about what it means to curate:

cu·rate [v. kyoo-reyt]

to pull together, sift through, and select for presentation, as music or Web site content

(Full disclosure: I looked it up in my copy of The American Century Dictionary that I’ve had since high school and the definition was unsatisfactory so I had to head online.)

Even though I’ve never worked at a museum, nor have I ever applied for a job at one, I still became a curator.

There’s this virtual land called and you and I hang out there together sometimes. From time to time we meet in the nearby lands of Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, and sometimes, when we’re lucky, our meetings are in person instead of virtual (like yesterday when I was interviewed for a podcast live in my home — in person rocks).

And the beautiful thing about having a virtual kingdom is that I get to pick and choose who and what gets featured. I get to scan the vast array of who and what is out there and then talk about what I find interesting. I get to share the people who turn me on and make my heart go pitter-patter. I get to sift through the vast array of thoughts in my head and feelings in my heart and publish what feels the most important.

I get to curate.

It’s awesome. So much more awesome than what I imagined being a museum curator entailed.

Is there risk involved in being the chooser, the person who decides which ideas and voices to highlight?

Yeah. Big time. (See my post from the other day, about rumpling feathers, for more on this.)

Because there are people out there who don’t agree with the ideas that get published here.

Just like there are only so many walls in a gallery, there are only so many Glimpse TV episodes or blog posts. And featuring every perspective, inspiration, and person who’s doing work worth featuring is humanly impossible.

So, in putting our own stuff out in the world and in curating all the ideas and people and projects and news out there, we risk disappointing people. We risk offending them. We risk being misunderstood.

Or, perhaps I should even say that when we put our stuff out there and curate, we are guaranteed to disappoint, offend, and be misunderstood.

And the fear of those things is real. I feel it every time I press publish, pick up a microphone, or answer an interview question.

The tumultuous edge we walk when we’re afraid and we show up anyway is where all the best stuff happens. (Tweet it!)

It’s where art is made.

We are all artists. We are all curators. Your art will sometimes not be chosen, or curated, by others but the good news is that we live in a time when we can all be our own curators and choose ourselves.

You don’t have to wait for someone else to find your art breathtaking in order for it to be shared.

There will never be a time when it doesn’t feel risky to put your stuff out there. And there will never be a time when it doesn’t feel uncomfortable to make bold choices and curate like you mean it.

Just do it anyway. Because the world needs your voice, your choices, and your art.

If you have something to say (which I believe everyone does), then create a space to share.

Start a blog.

Record a podcast.

Post on Instagram.

Decorate a wall.

Grab a microphone.

Fly your freak flag. Choose what turns you on. Put your stuff out there.

The risks are real — just as real as the rewards.



  • Kate, this is so important–and you know what I’ve discovered, sometimes to my great surprise? When you offer what you’ve got with your whole heart, people aren’t just inspired by what you’re doing–they’re inspired by your ENTHUSIASM.

    I took drumming lessons a while back (Indian tablas–they’re amazing). I was most definitely a novice, but I loved playing so much that I’d drum for people at the drop of a hat. This included a few actual performances, which were scary as hell at first…but once I got out there and started playing, I enjoyed it so much. People loved listening, with the most common reaction being, “You were having so much FUN up there, it really delighted me!”

    So many of us are still trying to be those “cool kids” from back at school. We mask our fear of vulnerability by acting all blasé and nonchalant about everything. But I’ve learned that when you risk looking honestly excited by something, it’s almost as though you’re giving others permission to take down their own internal walls…because when you get right down to it, we ALL want to be moved by life. Whether we want to admit it or not. :)

    • Kate

      Oh Michelle – what a fabulous comment. “When you risk looking honestly excited by something, it’s almost as though you’re giving others permission to take down their own internal walls…because when you get right down to it, we ALL want to be moved by life.” Profound and beautiful. Thank you for that. That one nourished me deeply.

  • Thanks Kate!! Needed this one today.

  • I’ve always believed more in following my fears than following my passion. The net is more growth and less ego (sometimes).

    • Kate

      Ooooh. That’s juicy. Following our fears instead of our passion. Super smart, just like you and your awesome Canadian slippers :)

  • Kyria

    Hi Kate,
    Thank you for sharing. Just what I needed to hear today. I have been thinking of starting a blog but don’t know where to start. I’m going to google that now.
    I enjoy getting your emails and Financial Freedom Friday videos.
    Thanks again for all you bring to my life.

  • No risks. No rewards. I taught my kids long ago to check the source when someone made a comment to or about them. If the source wasn’t someone who had earned their trust then it held much less weight than if it came from someone who cares for them. Keep flying your freak flag Kate! I know I appreciate it.

  • Kate, thank you for being a curator.
    I appreciate your VOICE.
    I so resonated with this blog…boy did I!
    I AM getting ready to show up in a bigger way and it does feel risky. I’m shaking as I write this.
    You see…I have been giving soul-connecting sessions, which I love, and I know it is time to step up and move my giving to a higher level,(whew, yes I’m doing it). So dear Kate, I thank you for being YOU and sharing who you are with the world. May all that you share come back to you in buckets of blessings.
    In deep appreciation,

  • Ruth

    What fabulous timing, Kate! Thank you! That was just the encouragement I needed.

  • I couldnt agree more Kate. I started a blog a hile back and started putting my poetry and thoughts on it. No-one probably ever sees it but I feel better getting my ponderings of my chest. I’ve considered putting some of my photographs with my poetry/ponderings but have not figured out how to do that yet. I love to create be it with a medium, paint, words, musical notes, camera or just renovate. But getting any of it out there, not so much. I agree I find a release when I have posted the stuff on my blog though.


  • Kate, I just have to tell you that you and your Mom are seriously my role models! Thank you for being who you are….such a bright and warm light in this beautiful world!

    Blessings to you and yours. <3

    ~Danielle :)

  • Oh, you have such divine timing! Thank you for sharing this today. I will keep you updated on where walking on the edge is taking me!

  • Great post Kate! When I was a teen I had this t-shirt that said “If you are not living on the edge you are taking up too much space.” For so long I had interpreted it to be referring to the same edge for all of us. As if we all need to be climbing Everest to be fearless, and not a ‘waste of space’. I’ve been exploring the memes that pervade our culture that are spreading fear/self-doubt and it has become clear that we all have different edges. You can be at your learning edge, your creating edge, your curiosity edge, your relating edge, etc. – separately or at the same time and this is truly what makes us grow. It doesn’t have to ‘look’ certain way to be an edge. Also, that quote (from a US mountaineer) has an important 2nd part I only learned recently: “You never conquer a mountain. Mountains can’t be conquered; you conquer yourself.”

    This really touches on your #moneylove approach to add more value in the world as well. One of the ways to add value is to curate your world and share it with others. Starting to curate posts on Tumblr recently has made me feel great in a multitude of ways. This post has inspired me to start a dedicated blog to expand on my storytelling.

  • Kate Northrup, I love it when you say: you don’t have to wait for someone else to find your art breathtaking in order for it to be shared. I adore that statement in so many ways-thank you for sharing your Art with us all.

    As a visual artist, I deeply believe that it is my soul’s work to express beauty and to share that in my Art–with the divine wish that others see beauty in and through my work, too. I love to take this concept even deeper and say: All life is Art: unveil yourself, your being, your spirit, and your life as a masterpiece of Art.

  • Artist – Singer! It’s so cool to say that out loud. “I’m a singer”, my voice has improved as a result of gaining confidence….and rehearsing, of course! And, I am realizing a shift in my Money-Love Story. Thank you for that! I SO appreciate all you give. Curate On! and keep ruffling feathers!

  • Kate,
    I really LOVE this post. It is so true-that the more authentic our voice, the more polarizing our message is. I just put out my brand new 2014 offerings and can totally relate to the moment before you hit “Send” to your list. I was nervous about being judged and so damn proud and excited to stand by my mission at the same time.

    Thanks for being a shining example of just being YOU even if it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

    Much Love and Blessings,

  • Beth

    I have an art education degree and once applied at an art museum in my early twenties, wanting the same things that you did! I never considered that I now curate my own life and I love that description of it so much! I felt like you were writing this post just for me! I am so excited for your class to start next week. It’s given me hope for more exciting things to come … especially when I had just felt like I had already explored all of my possibilities. Your positivity is contagious! xo

  • LADY KATE! I’m a little more than half way through the book and have experienced HUGE shifts!
    The short version: I’m a visual artist whose had my business for 18 years! Your book encouraged me to get really focused and also to get OK with being a little uncomfortable. Well…here’s a few AMAZING occurrences: I’m half way completely out of debt, have a BIG private commission, and a gallery owner from Los Angeles is flying out to Denver to buy some of my work! The lightness I feel and the immense amount of appreciation I have for this change is priceless. ROCK ON KATE! Thank you!

  • Curate your heart out:
    it is morning here in the Netherlands amd your mail is in the inbox. let me tell you it is magnificant, empowering and very real!
    keep going, I am inspired.

    thank you so much!!!!!

    Ronald Keulen

  • I love this blog Kate, just what I needed to hear today. It’s good to know I’m not the only one and thank you for constantly being inspirational.

  • Christina

    Based on the post date I am a little late reading this…but in reality my timing is perfect! I really needed this today–thank you so much! I am on the cusp of launching my blog, and feeling frustrated by the technical side; you have reminded me how much it means to me to do this, to go ahead and push past the fear (I think some of the delays I have experienced are based in the fear of failure) and just get it done. And let the curating begin!

  • Katrina

    I’m staring at the WordPress site – what the “top bloggers” have been writing about – and my stomach has butterflies. Big, “don’t you dare publish anything you’ll regret later” butterflies. Heck, I don’t even wanna publish this comment!

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