Creativity, Fear, and How to Live With Both

I don’t experience a tremendous amount of creative block—I always seem to find inspiration and ideas for my writing and art. I do, however, succumb to a lot of “self” block, which means I give up on my projects in favor of doing, well, nothing at all.

Self-block is sort of like sunblock. I use it when I’m afraid of where the work is going—in order to protect myself from experiencing the burn of failure. Unfortunately, there are side effects. Along with blocking failure, I also keep myself from basking in the joy of creativity. And, even worse, in that empty space of doing nothing, a host of other negative emotions take root, including guilt, anger, and sadness, because I wish I was being creative.

When I stop long enough to analyze the whole self-blocking mess, my logical brain sees it this way: I’m willing to give up creativity to avoid failure, but even when I am writing or art-making, that fear of failing continues to exist. Therefore, avoidance is futile, and giving up on creativity doesn’t really do much at all, except make me suffer more.

Hence, the solution. Stop wishing that the fear of failing will go away, and start doing the work.

In Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert says:

It isn’t always comfortable or easy—carrying your fear around with you on your great and ambitious road trip, I mean—but it’s always worth it, because if you can’t learn to travel comfortably alongside your fear, then you’ll never be able to go anywhere interesting or do anything interesting.

The truth is that none of us can stop fear completely, but we can beat it by staring in its ugly face, and creating anyway.

Take that, fear.