Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous or a threat and likely to cause pain.
Pretty scary, isn’t it?
So what does this have to do with being creative?
Fear can be the main thing that stops you from taking risks, trying new things and, most of all, failing (aka-learning). Taking risks requires courage. The courage to imagine, innovate and explore.
Fear of failure shows up most days in everyone at some point.
Sometimes fear is there to protect you, kind of like wearing a seat belt. You may not even remember the time before people would "buckle up for safety." For so many of us this habit started years ago and became ingrained as the laws changed and whole advertising campaigns were devoted to this concept. Remember the “Crash Test Dummies?” You learned that in the event of a crash your life could be saved by this strap of fabric and metal. Your fear of failure (an accident) created a habit to keep you safe.
But that fear didn’t keep you from driving that 5,000 pound machine did it?
As artists, writers, and entrepreneurs we face fears everyday. Our work requires us to be constantly vulnerable to the outside world. We're afraid of failure, rejection and ridicule. Some days it's easy and other days we feel like those dummies being propelled through windshields into walls.
And sometimes we let our fears paralyze us as if we were suddenly sitting in a car without putting on seatbelts. As artists we may have gathered our supplies and ideas in preparation to make something new but then we can't take our foot off the brakes. Immobility feels safer. If we don't try to make something, we won't fail. Yet those creative desires are still burning inside waiting for that car to start again. We want to go somewhere, but also be safe.
But can you be safe in the creative process and courageously innovative at the same time?
Yes, in fact, some of the best work I've ever made was a product of just that kind of paradox. I became confident in my tools & techniques, I developed a wonderful critique system established with artists I respected. I was willing to fail repeatedly only to adapt until the final version felt complete. My inner demons were constantly chattering in my ear. But I chose to ignore them.
Remember - the thoughts in your head telling you to be afraid are just some weird beliefs you've developed (or accepted) over the years. But those thoughts aren't the truth! They're just your inner fears trying to protect you.
Here are the 7 Biggest Fears about creativity I’ve found that have stopped me and so many of my clients:
I don’t know where to start.
You sit down to create and look at all your options. You have paper, pens, pencils, markers, paints, glue, etc. but no ideas. So you rearrange your work area, go get a cup of tea, do the breakfast dishes, check your messages, basically you get “squirreled” or distracted by your lack of direction.
This is because you’re afraid to start. You haven’t developed a system to get relaxed, get focused and just begin. Pick up a marker, paintbrush or pencil and just do it!
I should be doing _______, instead of ________.
This fear is based on the idea that creating stuff is frivolous. Time spent in your right brain isn’t justified. It takes time away from more productive tasks like mowing the lawn or cleaning the bathroom.
But you’re actually “shoulding” all over yourself. You may be stuck in the belief that your creative projects aren’t valid or important and you fear you’re not being productive enough.
This is where time blocking can be a game changer. Schedule your creative time focus work each and everyday. Don't worry, you can wipe down counters later.
I’m stuck. I don’t know what to do next!
This fear can stop even the most experienced creatives dead in their tracks. Am I finished? What if I add this? What’s wrong with this composition?
First of all this fear is easily relieved by reaching out for help. In other words, don't be afraid to ask questions. Whether it’s through a video or book about the technique or talking to a knowledgeable teacher, or peer, this is an effective way to take your work to the next level. One word of caution - be careful asking friends or family who aren’t experienced in creativity development. They’ll either give you a “oh it’s beautiful” or “why don’t you. . . “
Just take a step forward. Keep at it. Participate in critiques or creative groups. Soon you’ll develop your own ability to analyze your work.
I can't waste my time on frivolous things like
art and writing.
Time is never wasted when you unlock the right and most creative side of your brain. Exercising that muscle is a the way to unlock your imagination to solve all kinds of complex problems in your life and business.
Consider your creative time to be as essential as good nutrition, exercise and sleep. You need your right brain powered up, especially during tricky times like these!
I’m not as good as ____________.
Fill in the blank. Your answer could range from Leonardo da Vinci to Bob Ross to your cousin “Sheila who is really talented.” Let go of comparing yourself to others. You are you. Your creations are yours. Until you let go of perfectionism and self doubt you’ll never be fully free to create.
You are good enough. In fact you are the awesomest version of yourself because you keep trying to learn!
I’m just going to fail!
My only response is so what? It’s not the end of the world. If your ability to create art was the only thing keeping us from mass destruction I might think differently.
In my opinion, failure is one of the best ways to learn. Even if all you learn is what not to do next time. You learn how to fix things. You get inspired to try different approaches. So just do it, make a mess, do it again and fail elegantly.
What if I’m actually good?
Yes, this actually can be a fear stopping you from creating. Say, for instance, you go to a class and learn to make a beautiful painting. The instructor is impressed. You enter your piece into an art show and it wins a ribbon. You are thrilled beyond belief. Everyone pats you on your back and you feel amazing. Yet for some bizarre reason you're terrified, again.
The next day you sit down to paint and the blank canvas mocks you. “I don’t know what to do,” you say to yourself. You’re tempted to walk away because you don’t believe you can create the same award winning painting again.
So don’t try to create that painting. Just create something. Beautiful, good, mediocre or just ridiculously bad. Don’t worry about the product. Just enjoy the process.
And if you continue to practice your craft with joy you won’t need any more ribbons.
What fear stands in your way?
What risks are you willing to take in your creative life?
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