When fear ruins your creativity

I would like to pull out a few lines from a quote from one of my favourite books of all time – Big Magic.

“Dearest Fear : Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand that you’ll be joining us because you always do….Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I am about to do something interesting – There is plenty of room for all of us – But understand this : Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way”.

This is an important idea, because fear kills more ideas than anything else ever has.

Your creativity could be expressed through art, doodling, music, photography, writing or even drama. As a creator, an artist or a writer, you will feel fear regarding your work and your creative process. Your fears could range from your fear of being judged, to the fear of being humiliated, the fear of not being “good enough”, the fear of failure and so on

It’s an idea Gilbert explores in her ted talk here:

There are ways to overcome fear and regain your creativity. There is a whole lot of advice online, but here are some that I hope resonates with you.

Treat your work like an experiment instead of a failed project

When you look at a project that you have failed, you need to step back and look at your definition of “failure”. It does not have to be a failed project. Instead it can be a failed experiment. This change in perspective makes a whole world of difference. Experiments give you scope for error. Experiments are meant to undergo trial and error. An experiment allows you to look what what part of the process failed, go back to the experiment, change the parameters and try again. Experiments give you space to try and fail without the pressure and commitment. Your paintings are an experiment, your writing is an experiment, your music is an experiment.


Create and then analyse (John Cage)

What John Cage is asking us to do is to stop being the artist and editor at the same time. These are two different jobs that need to be done individually. By editing and creating at the same time, you are preventing your idea from growing and developing. His advice is simple – First, to simply focus on creating. Finish creating. The edit. Then create some more. Then edit again till you get the version you want.

John Cage : https://cdn8.openculture.com/2018/07/19213327/cage-rules2.jpg


Have fun during the creative process

Your creative work and art is a reflection of your yourself and more importantly a reflection of your emotions. If you are scared, nervous, stressed or creating art simply for the sake of it – it will show in your work. The emotion you work with while writing or painting or engaging in a creative project will reach the audience. If an artist has fun or is passionate about their work, it shows in their creative process and eventually in their final product.

Have fun in your creative process.


Acknowledge your fears

Actually write down what you are afraid of. Look at this list and see which of these fears are actually rational and which of them fears are crazy or irrational.

  • Fear of being judged? People are usually busy with their own lives and don’t have the time to criticize your work.
  • Fear of not being good enough ? No one ever is in the start. It only comes through practice and patience.
  • Afraid that your work is not important enough? You won’t know until you try.

Do it anyway

Fear is going to be a part of your creative process, right from the very start. Might as well deal with it and get on with your work. The easiest way to get over your fear is to face it and deal with it. Anytime your fear comes up – store it away – and go ahead with your creative work.

An important and courageous piece of advice that comes to mind when I look at the fears related to my creative work is to “Feel the fear and do it anyway “ – Susan Jeffers

It’s a slightly harsh piece of advice – but I say go for it.


Go and look for ideas

Actively look for ideas and jot them down. Ideas don’t always necessarily come to you when you sit down to write or create, hence having a place to start from helps mitgate a few fears.

As part of your creative journey, you owe it to your creative process to actually go and look for ideas. This means making time in your week dedicating to looking for and pursing ideas. This means looking at places where you can find ideas. There are so many ways you can look for ideas – books, content online, taking long walks, listening to podcasts. How you get ideas is a personal process for you to go discover.


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