embracing fear

fear and creativity

My question over this year is “fear or faith?” So it was inevitable that for our book club, Amanda, Elaine and I chose Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic.  Which has the subtitle, Creative Living Beyond Fear. And it comes of absolutely no surprise to me that when I draw up the schedule “courage” is the first post I have to write.

And of course, this post comes right at a time of great paralysis in the writing of my book.

I am afraid. And as Gilbert says fear’s main purpose is to cause us to stop.

… everyone’s song of fear has the same tedious lyric: “STOP, STOP, STOP, STOP!

I am afraid, because I have never done this before. I am afraid because I actually don’t even know what the book will look like. I am afraid because I know my writing skills aren’t where I wish they would be. I am afraid that someone will realise I’m unqualified for this job, and oust me saying “you’re not really a writer”.

I am afraid. And so I stop.

My approach to fear in my creativity is to stop, and the fear will go away. But the creativity goes away too.

If I had lived like this in all areas of my life, I would never have learned to ride a bike. I would never have travelled alone, and I would never taken the risk of having children.

All of these activities have a component of fear involved. I had to decide that the outcome of a child of my own, a bike ride and a trip overseas were worth the fear.

Gilbert’s strategy is not to let the fear stop her. Neither is it to go to war against the fear. She acknowledges that fear will always be present in creative endeavours, so she takes control and assigns fear a spot on the journey.

When I was giving birth to my first daughter, it was a public holiday and I did not have my regular doctor. This new doctor’s advice as the contractions came upon me was to “get angry”.

When my second daughter arrived, my regular doctor was thankfully present.  His advice to me was totally different, “use the pain”.

I found this advice much more useful. I used the pain in each contraction to push my little girl out into the world, rather than fighting it. I had to accept it was present anyway. It wasn’t going away, so I had to assign it a job to do.

In the creative process I believe fear is like this, too. It is present, it is not going away. So I need to find a way to use it, assign a place for it, and then carry on with my journey.

The question I am asking myself is how can I “use the fear?”

Join me for the journey,


Big Magic Discussion Question:

Has fear stopped your creativity? How do you allow fear to come on the creative journey with you, without giving it control?

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8 thoughts on “embracing fear

  1. That’s such a great analogy in the difference between the two birth stories. There are so many angry artists out there, frustrated, smashing their thoughts around. Rather than channelling our fear and pain and allowing the depth of emotion to compel us towards new opportunities. What am I afraid of? People not liking me. It’s my total hiccup. People are my love. And people are my nemesis. Love you writer friend. Can’t wait for the day when we have wine together at your book launch. And we will do a little happy dance on top of fears head.

    1. Oh a happy dance on fear’s head, I’m up for that! It is interesting how our nemesis is often also our passion. Maybe that’s what Gilbert is getting at when she says we need to find a spot for our fear?! Love you back writer friend xx

  2. Using the pain is a great example. I love it. I also love your honesty in sharing your fear. Beautifully written. Have no fear—you ARE qualified! xxx

  3. My fear is that I may be wasting time – I am very aware of how precious the years are and want to spend them wisely. That’s just it though, whenever I have a moment to myself or some spare time, art and nature study is what I daydream about.
    Creative pursuits take a great deal of our time to develop, make mistakes, learn, create more … if only we can take out the anxiety about the end result and the emphasis of it having to ‘be’ something important and meaningful to everyone else.

    1. I so understand that fear of wasting time, mine and everyone else’s. But that has to be balanced with doing what makes me happy. If I can just be in the moment and enjoy the act of creating that gives me so much peace and happiness. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there Vicki, we need to take out the anxiety about the end result and just enjoy the process. Thanks for adding your wise words to this conversation.

  4. Love all your beautiful wisdom, ladies! ~ I am only coming (back) into my creativity now, at age 61, after having believed that there was no time for my own creativity, unless it was shared, facilitated to others or for the teaching and use of others, mainly our children… ~ I love reading your wise words! Thank you very much for sharing. 🙂

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