5 lessons on fear I learned from my creative heroes
Your palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There's vomit on your sweater already, mom's spaghetti
You’re nervous, but on the surface you look calm and ready…
(thank you Eminem for teaching me about fear as an anxsy youth and Google for help reciting these)
Vulnerability doesn’t exist without it. Courage can’t exist without it. If you live a creative life, which I bet ya do since you’re reading this, you know this feeling. It exists below the surface, sometimes you can hide it, most times you push through it but sometimes you feel paralyzed by fear.
I’m scared a lot, and I’m scared of a lot. People. Public speaking. The unknown. Sharks. Losing the ones I love. Saying yes to things that are bigger than me (hellllo imposter syndrome).
Yet, others applaud me a lot for being brave - and I guess despite being afraid of a lot, I am brave.
I say yes to things that scare me. I get rejected. I get pushed down. I make beautiful things. I make shit things. I do it all over again. And fear is along for the whole damn ride.
I’m constantly in a relationship with my fear. I’m aware when she shows up, and when she holds me back. I’m aware that she is often created by fictional stories that I make up.
I’ve learned a lot about fear from my creative heroes, and it’s wisdom that anyone on a creative journey should have. I turn to this wisdom when fear is paralyzing, and I’m hoping you will resonate with it, too.
1. “Your fear is the most boring thing about you!” - Elizabeth Gilbert
My first intro to fear + creativity was in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book on creative magic: Big Magic (a must read for everyone). Liz, explains your fear looks the same as mine and everyone else's - it is not unique to you, and you should never “cherish it.”
Her teachings remind me that fear is smaller than me, and it is smaller than you. You and I make it out to be this big thing and we look to it for permission to pursue our dreams. Right? It doesn't belong in the decision making seat, but it will always be along for the ride.
As Liz so beautifully writes in Big Magic, “[Fear], you’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote.”
2. “Fear is loud, but it is not the boss of us. Love is the boss of us.” - Glennon Doyle (Twitter)
Glennon’s book Untamed changed the way I view femininity and power in our society, and I've been hooked to her teachings since.
She has taught me that as women we are built to fear the world. We are built to apologize for taking up space. We are built to fear uncertainty and stick to what’s certain (which in reality is nothing).
Her teachings empower me to love myself unconditionally and be a warrior, rather than a victim, of my creative journey.
3. “We need new and unusual experiences to think differently” - Scott Barry Kaufman (Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind)
Scott references an Alan Watts quote, which moved me: “By replacing fear of the unknown with curiosity we open ourselves up to an infinite stream of possibility. We can let fear rule our lives or we can become childlike with curiosity, pushing our boundaries, leaping out of our comfort zones, and accepting what life puts before us.”
You are capable of incredible things, that push you beyond what you believe is possible. When you visualize your fear as child-like abundant curiosity with no limits - the curiosity that inspired you to imagine fictional worlds and play as a child - you will believe that anything is possible.
4. “Shit. I recognize this. This is fear right now.” - Brene Brown
There is no way to talk about fear without referencing the vulnerability guru (and my creative mama) Brene Brown. Her Podcast episode on FFTs (first fucking time) normalizes the discomfort and fear that shows up when you say yes to something new.
Brene explains in this short video, the best leaders in the world as the ones that understand that leadership and innovation do not come without fear and vulnerability.
As a creative, you are always embarking on something new. Whether you’re painting on canvas for the first time, writing your first (or 80th) poem, teaching kids how to create art for their walls, trying a watercolor portrait, again, normalizing your fear is the first step in showing up.
You will feel discomfort (mom's spaghetti) and anxiety and resistance, and you, my friend are capable of hard things.
5. “Fear is often an indicator that we are onto something brilliant or new... something that will rock our world or the worlds of other people" - Lisa Congdon (Find your Artistic Voice)
I had to channel my fire goddess when said yes to being a muralist on a huge (600 sq foot) public art project in the heart of RiNo (Denver's art distract) and everything about this project is new. I'm going into it without attachment to the outcome, and using Lisa's wisdom to remind me that I am onto something brilliant, whatever that may be!
When you say yes to something new that scares the sh*t out of you, it's in some way going to change your world and the world of others forever. Whether you learn a new skill, make a new connection or realize that is not the work you want to do, saying yes to your fear will take you to places unknown.
I hope these words of wisdom gave you what you needed today, dear one. Journal prompts below to keep the inner dialogue going. Comment below to chat about what shows up for you.
Journal promptsHow do you feel about fear after reading this?
Where in your life can you be more playful?
How can you let fear fuel your creative practice, today?
When is the last time you said yes to something that scared you to bits? What did that thing lead you to? What did you learn?
Imagine fear as a person. What would you say to him/her/they?