Artist Therapy: Fear

Artist Therapy Posts: Where we face the feels all artists struggle with.

You want to know why you don’t get things done? Behind the procrastination, the laziness, the insecurity…you know what the root of it all leads to?

Fear.

Fear of failure, mostly. Plus a bit of fear of embarrassment. Fear of vulnerability. Fear of ridicule. Fear of disappointment.

But you’re thinking about it all wrong. Fear is not your enemy. Fear is a healthy response. Fear keeps you cautious. Fear makes you careful. Fear makes you dig into the details and make sure you’ve got your ducks in a row. People think you have to be fearless to be creative, to make art, but that’s not true. No one wants to actually be 100% fearless. It’s a medical condition that can be pretty fatal. You need some fear. Fear can be a fantastic motivator, for example. How many writers, poets, and artists, have been driven to create out of a response to their fear of death? Fear is good, in proper doses. Fear should be a little angel on your shoulder making you look both ways before you cross the street. The problem, as with many things, comes when fear takes the drivers seat. Then you accomplish nothing because all you see is fear.

I’ll tell you something else, fear is not only your friend, it is your green flag. It is your sign that you are doing something right. If you are not creating to the edge of your ability, then you are too comfortable. Fear happens when you are pushing the envelope. You shouldn’t stop pushing until you feel that telltale surge of fear in your gut. (Don’t take my word for it, listen to Bowie.)

What you want to be is not fearless, but brave. Fearlessness is a lack of comprehending fear – a lack of very useful caution. Bravery is knowing your fears, listening to their warnings, then proceeding anyway. 

As Elizabeth Gilbert writes, you’ll find that the less you fight your fear, the less it will fight back. Don’t waste all your energy trying to exorcise it.  Acknowledge it, listen to it’s warnings, then decide what you’re going to do despite it.

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15 thoughts on “Artist Therapy: Fear

    • Great thoughts all around. Particularly like the observation that fear means you’re out on the frontier, not stuck in your comfort zone. Thanks!

      • Absolutely. Bowie is a great person to look at for creating right on the edge of fear. Of course, he went over the edge a few times, and hopefully we can all walk the edge a little shy of drug addictions and nervous breakdowns, but reading his biography is fascinating especially for this topic.

  1. Lauren,
    Great topic. Are you familiar with the book “Art & Fear” by David Bayles and Ted Orland? I picked it up a few years ago, and its a really good read anyone doing art will appreciate the tone and the sense of humor.

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