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Fear : Creativity's Clumsy Companion

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

Alright, so this Tuesday is a little different. Instead of featuring a person who is bravely exploring their creative landscapes, I decided to feature Fear. That's right, fear.

Why? Because this little bugger is worth investigating, and I would even argue, worth befriending. Let's explore why:

There are a lot of things that can get in between us and our creative endeavors. Work, children, chores, indecision, lack of resources, lack of inspiration, physical limitations, illness, sorrow, Instagram, get it. Pretty much anything can be an excuse, or very valid reason, not to create. The most common obstacle, however, and the most insidious one is fear.

Fear is a remarkable beast. Fear is not only a slimy salesman that lives in your own head, it is also a very helpful resource for avoiding risk. Fear keeps us safe, until fear keeps us stuck. Confusing huh? For sure.

So how do we determine if fear is keeping us safe or keeping us stuck, especially around our creativity? How do we know when to push through, when to pause, when to recalibrate, when to say no, when to say hell no, and when to get to work?

The answer is... well, I don't have the answer, not for you anyway. Only you have that answer because you live in your skin, in your mind, and within the kaleidoscope of your past experiences, traumas, adventures, and joys. What I can say, however, is that fear is not the enemy. In fact, I believe it is actually creativity's clumsy companion. Let me explain.

What if we reframed fear from something to avoid, demonize or judge, to something that needs a bit more space to express and calm itself. Like a lot of space. In my case, like a ton, like all of the space, all of the time. Fear is an anxious horse in a small stall, bucking and railing against the walls of the barn. When fear acts up, you have two choices - you can either tranquilize the horse, or give it a bigger pasture. My preferred forms of tranquilization are over work, over eating, perfectionism, social mediaing, control, perseveration and catastrophizing.

When I let my fear have more space, however, that is when the magic happens. That is when I drop into the sensation of my body, bring softness to the edges, and take back the rains. Fear is a powerful horse, even a beautiful horse, but a horse not fit for riding.

If fear was your friend, you'll likely find it hard to be around them, and you might even take pity on them. They might mean well (trying to keep you safe), but they end up making messes (offending, avoiding, breaking, stealing). They show up to the party late with a fire hose convinced the whole place will burn, miss the bus because they couldn't decide what to wear and were sure that everyone on the bus would judge them. They hide their true self from the world because showing up with vulnerability and humor is simply unimaginable. They are sure they are not enough, that they will never be enough, and that everyone is somehow better and more worthy of love. And they definitely don't create anything because... well, what will people think!?

Awe, fear. Its a lonely dark place you dwell. Kinda feel bad for you, really.

Creativity on the other hand is blast to be around. Exhausting at times, sure, but a hell of a party starter. Where fear hides, creativity shows up. Creativity eats a bowl of courage for breakfast, and slugs down a glass of curiosity. Creativity shows up to the party late with a tutu, a boom box, and a set of body paint. Creativity spray paints the bus rainbow because everything deserves more color. Creativity has the hard conversation, stands up for injustice, asks why. Creativity heals.

So how could these two seemingly opposite forces be connected? Are they really companions? Yes! They for sure are my friends.

Any time I create something, fear is also in the room. Always. Even if just a fleck of fear, just a glimmer of fear, just an eyelash's width of fear...its always there. What an I afraid of? Oh, mama mia, let me count the ways: Fear of not creating something worth creating, fear of not being able to create the thing I want to create, fear or being judged, fear of being paralyzed by fear, fear of seeming self-centered, fear of never getting to the laundry, fear of never being able to create something like the thing I'm currently creating again and the list goes la la la on and on. Fear shows up. All. The. Time.

So, part of living a creative life is feeling, facing and befriending fear. It just is. It's ok to be afraid, in fact it is utterly natural and healthy. Creativity vitality is here for us, right behind the clumsy, anxious horse of fear. It's our job to create a bigger pasture, widen our gaze, zoom out, allow it to be known, to calm itself, to express itself. When we do this, we are able to access that which we were born to explore - our creative desires, curiosities and genius.

There are few people that speak their creative truth with more zest, clarity, honesty and power than the one and only Elizabeth Gilbert. Big Magic is her account of living a creative life beyond fear and its bananas beautiful. She reads from her book here, and it makes me want to get up and dance every time I listen to it:

So when we create, fear will show up, again and again - without grace, invitation or even a reason. It will show up in all of its clumsy tactless wiggly persistence. In fact, if you're feeling fear around your creative work, you know you're doing it right (if there is such a thing). Fear and creativity are wombmates, companions, and maybe even friends.

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