Creating may often include anxiety and other sorts of fear. We need to develop courage and learn how to deal with these feelings to be more fully creative.
Photographer Annie Leibovitz has talked about some of her self-limiting fears:
“I am finally doing pictures for myself… I realized that I am my own worst enemy.
“I’m the one, who by doing what I think other people want from me, who has held myself back… haven’t let myself grow or listened enough to my own voice. It’s so important to listen to your own voice.”
From book: Women, Creativity, and the Arts.
[Image: Photographer Annie Leibovitz and her assistant Robert Bean, standing on one of the eight gargoyles atop the Chrysler Building. Photo from article Gaga Over a Gargoyle, Smithsonian magazine, February 2008.]
“Art work is ordinary work, but it takes courage to embrace that work.”
That is a quote from the book “Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking” by two artists: David Bayles and Ted Orland.
They also point out, “Artists become veteran artists only by making peace not just with themselves, but with a huge range of issues.”
Fear is a simple label for a variety of experiences from mild discomfort to terror, and its more intense forms like anxiety can be limiting or destructive.
But fear is an experience we all have at times, even artists and other people who are acknowledged and accomplished.
Psychologist Robert Maurer notes, “You publish your first novel, does that make fear go away? No.
“So your skill at being able to nourish yourself and give yourself permission to make mistakes and learn from them is your single greatest attribute as an artist and as a human being.”
He also declares, “Fear is good. We view fear as a disease. It’s not a disease.”
From my article Developing creativity: Fear is not a disease.
Actor and teacher Jeffrey Tambor describes how fear can impact presence and creativity, and how to shift our experience of it:
“We are all fear-based creatures. And fear can be the great killer.
“It kills your original impulses, your creativity, and it kills desire.
“Rather than deny fear, we have to find new ways of dealing with it. We actually have to dance with it, so to speak.”
From my Inner Actor site post Jeffrey Tambor on using fear.
[Photo from his Facebook page.]
Mistakes and Messes
In a previous online class How to Create Fearlessly, psychologist and creativity coach Eric Maisel provided strategies to help people create more freely and effectively.
One of ‘The Top 10 Big Ideas’ of the class:
“All day long we’re supposed to get things right: pay our bills, pick up our kids, and so on. It is very hard to move from this everyday mindset to a creative mindset where huge mistakes and messes are permitted and even welcomed.
“You may understand in your mind that the creative process comes with mistakes and messes but you must accept this truth in your body!”
Another point Dr. Eric Maisel addresses:
“The reality of process is that not everything you create will turn out well. You must accept this reality and learn the necessary dance of attachment and detachment.
“Maintain your dreams, desires, and ambitions for your creative work while at the same time accepting that only a percentage of what you attempt will prove successful!”
In this video, Maisel talks about those ideas, and about shifting our mindset.
He describes a strategy which he details in his book “Ten Zen Seconds: Twelve Incantations for Purpose, Power and Calm.”
You can also read more about the calming technique in my interview with him: Ten Zen Seconds for Purpose, Power and Calm.
Related article: Eric Maisel on anxiety and developing creativity.
Eric Maisel talks about moving from an everyday mindset of “getting things right” to a creative mindset “where huge mistakes and messes are permitted and even welcomed.”
His books include:
But many of us tend to be perfectionists or at least perfectionistic – which can help drive excellence, but may also support anxiety and creative constriction.
Psychologist Stephen A. Diamond notes “Were it not for perfectionism, we would be in short supply of all those myriad human activities we deem extraordinary, excellent, outstanding or great in quality.”
But in his Psych Central article “Perfectionism: Adaptation or Pathology?”, Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. notes, “Somewhere on a continuum between normality and pathology there is a point at which the behavior results in functional impairment.”
Read more in my post Too Much Perfectionism.
Coach and author Barbara Sher has a helpful perspective on this:
“One problem I run into with a lot of Scanners [multitalented people] is perfectionism, which means ‘I want to do something so well that nobody will criticize me.’
“That’s all it means. When you say ‘I’m my own worst critic,’ that’s not true; I mean you may be now, but you learned it; nobody was born criticizing themselves. Walk to a crib, when the baby knows how to talk, and say, How bad do you feel about yourself, Sugar?”
See related video in post Barbara Sher on Scanners and Resistance.
So one of the ways to be more freely expressive and creatively brave is to learn when striving to be “perfect” helps your work, and when it increases your anxiety and self-criticism too much.
Fear of failure
Belief change mentor and author Morty Lefkoe writes:
“Because so many people fear failure it is often considered to be human nature. I disagree.
“Yes, it is common, but this fear is not inherent in being a human being…In order to understand why a fear of failure is so common you first need to understand the cause of the fear.
“The primary cause is three beliefs:
* ‘Mistakes and failure are bad,’
* ‘If I make a mistake or fail I’ll be rejected’ and
* ‘What makes me good enough or important is having people think well of me.’
“These three beliefs—which most children form in childhood—necessarily lead to a fear of failure.”
He also notes the conditioning process that fear gets “associated with failure, in other words, you are conditioned to automatically feel fear when one fails or even thinks one might fail.”
From his post “What’s Really Behind The Fear Of Taking Action… And What You Can Do About It” December 3, 2013, on mortylefkoe.com.
See full video and learn more about how to change self-limiting beliefs, in article: Negative emotions – How do we create them?
You can eliminate a self-limiting belief free using his Lefkoe Method at ReCreate Your Life.
In his book The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle, Steven Pressfield writes about a number of challenges we may face as creative people, including our fear of “discovering that we are more than we think we are. More than our parents/children/teachers think we are.
“We fear that we actually possess the talent that our still, small voice tells us. That we actually have the guts, the perseverance, the capacity.”
Getting on the path toward making a creative project may bring up this kind of “fear of success” for some people. Another challenge to be more courageous. So just go ahead and create.
Some related resources
Article: Being Bold To Be Creative.
Online class: How to Create Fearlessly with Dr. Eric Maisel – one of many classes on personal development for subscribers to the Academy for Optimal Living.
Book: Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative, by Eric Maisel
Addresses challenges including: “The sheer hardness of thinking, as evidenced by how hard it is to grasp the plot of the novel you’re writing, produce a breakthrough in your scientific field, or see enough moves ahead in chess… The surprising self-unfriendliness of a good mind: a mind that involves itself in personal inquisitions, torrents of self-recriminations, repetitive brooding, and other painful self-reprisals.”
Book: Present Perfect: A Mindfulness Approach to Letting Go of Perfectionism and the Need for Control, by Pavel G. Somov.
List of Barbara Sher books.
Online course: Making Dreams Happen with Barbara Sher, Barbara Winter, Valerie Young and other successful entrepreneurs – “Whether you dream of starting your own import-export business… writing a best-selling novel… owning a dude ranch… working with kids… helping underprivileged families… whatever your passion… you’ll learn how to harness that vision… and build a life around it that not only provides you a living… but feeds your spirit, too.”
Article: Are you a scanner personality? Maybe all you need is a good enough job. – Barbara Sher writes about and leads retreats for Scanners – “also known as renaissance men and women, eclectic experts, happy amateurs and delighted dilettantes.” She notes they do not generally follow a linear career path, but may flourish with a series of jobs that are “good enough” to provide a living without being toxic.
Emotional Health Resources
Meditation programs, biofeedback devices, stress relief products
YouTube / Mental Health – Emotional Health videos
Facebook / Emotional Health and Creativity videos
Anxiety Relief Solutions site
Mor related articles