Fear and creativity are going to hang out together whether we like it or not. Should you waste your time fighting your fear? Should you try to get rid of it? OR should you allow fear to come along for the ride, but know you are going to create regardless?
Fear is one of the biggest creative blocks we struggle with because it wears so many different masks. (<< tweet that!)
I talk a lot about creative blocks here on the blog and on social media + my weekly newsletter, and fear is one of the biggest creative blocks we struggle with because it wears so many different masks. Fear is…
- Lack-of-inspiration blame
- Comparison disorder
We are afraid of…
- Not having another great idea
- Not having any great ideas
- Having too many ideas
- Criticism and judgment
- Sounding fake
- Not being taken seriously
Fear is a real issue beginning and seasoned creatives face, and sometimes, we face that fear on a daily basis.
You probably know by now I'm in love with Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. Recently, as I was flipping through my notes, I came across a quote that struck me:
"I've noticed that when people try to kill off their fear, they often end up inadvertently murdering their creativity in the process."
My initial reaction was to disagree. I never thought fear and creativity worked together; in my mind, they've always been enemies. Fear gets in the way, right? It stops us from being creative, doesn't it? When I think on my experiences with creative blocks, fear isn't someone I want hanging out with me. Fear is the reason I put off writing a book or creating a new eCourse. Fear is bad...isn't it?
Gilbert suggests fear doesn't like creativity because when we are engaged in the creative process there is "uncertain outcome" and "fear hates uncertain outcome." Okay...that makes sense. Maybe Gilbert knows what she's talking about?
When I sit down to write fiction each morning, there is always uncertain outcome. Yes, I have an idea of where the story should be heading, but I never know 100% where I'll end up. The same is true every time I paint or journal. Even when I crochet and know all the steps by heart, there's a chance I'll make a mistake. There's a chance I'll switch up the color of my yarn or pattern. Even now as I write this post—I have a shrewd idea of what I want to say, but the truth is anything can happen.
So yes, there IS always uncertainty when we create, and I think that's what makes it such a beautiful process. But you know, looking at it from this point of view, I can definitely see why fear and creativity don't get along.
Fear is a real issue creatives face, and sometimes, we face that fear on a daily basis. (<<< click here to tweet!)
Fear steps in when it thinks we need protecting. For example, criticism hurts. This post may not be perfect, and someone could be rude about that, so what fear does is say, "Don't publish this post! Are you kidding? It needs a lot more editing for sure. Maybe you should let it sit for a couple of weeks. And you know, that title you chose, well, it could be better." And we know how this story ends: I give into fear. I worry about the quality (perfectionism) of my post. I put off editing it (procrastination), and the post never gets shared. Sure, maybe fear did protect me, but it also shut me in a box without windows.
I don't know about you, but I think I'd rather be outside the box and risk making mistakes because at least I'll have an amazing view.
In Big Magic, Gilbert goes on to say she doesn't try to kill off her fear and she doesn't go to war against it either. Instead, she allows there to be room for fear when she creates, but she does not allow it to take control. To fear, Gilbert says:
"You're allowed to have a seat, and you're allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote."
I LOVE this! I'm not exaggerating when I say these few quotes from Big Magic have changed my perspective on fear. I CAN be creative and I CAN be afraid at the same time. And yes, YOU can you say you are creative even if you are afraid to create. Even if you do struggle to come up with new ideas. Even if you often find yourself lost and you're not sure what creative path to take next (and btw, if this is you, we definitely need to talk!).
So let's say we agree fear and creativity can coexist. Fear is still a creative block. Why? Because it still does try to stop us from creating. And ANYTHING that keeps us from creating is a creative block.
So what do we do?
Perhaps instead of fighting our fears, what we fight is fear STOPPING us from creating. We acknowledge, like Gilbert suggests, that fear is going to hang out every time we get ready to create. But. We. Create. Anyway.
- We write our blogs posts anyway
- We launch a new course anyway
- We finish writing chapter five anyway
- We put up pictures of our latest art piece anyway
- We tell people we have an awesome blog they should check out anyway
- We say, “Yes, I will create and upload a video on YouTube” anyway
ANYWAY. Even if we are afraid (and yeah, we’re going to be) we march forward regardless of this fear. We don’t let it stop us from creating. And we don’t get upset and scream and rage at our fears.
Because being upset about writer’s block or creative’s block wastes energy. There. I said it. It is a waste of your creative time. Getting angry or sad about your fear to create takes away MORE TIME that could have been used ON creating. So I want to challenge us (you + me): Let’s allow fear to hang out with creativity, but let’s not give him a vote. He doesn’t decide what, when, why, or how we create. He doesn’t get to decide when something is ready to be published. And he definitely is not allowed to take control of our creative processes.
What do you think? Do you feel you can let fear and creativity hang out together? Can you be creative even if you are afraid to create? Leave me a comment and tell me if you’re up for the challenge and how you're going to work with fear when you create.