Creating art isn't for sissies or put another way, it’s not for the faint of heart. Sure, it’s got its charms, but at the same time, it’s fraught with some pretty powerful lows, lows powerful enough to compel some people to stop or not even start at all. Lows strong enough to give even the most accomplished artist a run for their money despite all their success. This is because the act of birthing something that never existed before brings with it certain cautions that can blindside or even overwhelm us if we aren't prepared. Indeed, when we bring something forth from our insides, something that's inherently deeply personal, we poke a sleeping tiger within us, one with a pesky, nagging voice that tries to hold us back. This slumbering beast is fear and we all have it, even the most skilled, famous artist ever. We’re human after all. So the trick isn’t about extinguishing that fear, it’s more about living with it, working around it, moving through it, and creating within it that’s the ace up our sleeve. How do we do this though? Well, brass tacks, it takes the antithesis to fear: love. Love for our muse, love for our efforts, love for the pieces we create, love for the sharing of our works, love for all of it, including ourselves. Elizabeth Gilbert would probably refer to it as "coming home." And from that love emerges courage. A whole lotta courage! Chin up, deep breath, eyes forwards, step forwards and all that. Steeled, resolved, blind courage. But how do we find that within ourselves when it can be so hard to muster? Well, we draw from our moxie, that’s how, the cousin to courage, that “darn the torpedoes” attitude that imbues us with cheek and a bit of recklessness. Because, truly, if there’s one thing fear cannot stop, it’s recklessness! Also birthed by love is another powerful ally in our pushback, good ol' curiosity, that inquisitive streak that draws us forwards in our investigations and creative explorations. Stoke those fires of interest then and you'll find that your fears will quickly take a back seat and pipe down. So find those partners within yourself and cultivate them so they grow wild and free because the more love, courage, moxie, and curiosity you have, the less sway fear has over you. But how do we do that?
Well, perhaps with insight into the nature of that beast, we can begin to see its weaknesses and falsehoods and once we finally do, it looses a lot of its bite force. Oh, it’ll still bite, don’t discount that, but its chomp will simply be a meager pinch and not the tearing trauma it once was. Every human soul wrestles with itself on some level, that's just the way of it, but we can manage it a little bit better with some insight. In this spirit then, let’s explore three big components of creative fear: Imposter syndrome, insecurity, and anxiety. With just a little bit of understanding here we can glean some big pay offs in our ongoing battle against fear.
We work so hard for our successes, don’t we? Long hours, study, earnest work, patience, diligence, concentration, sacrifice, angst…it just goes on and on. So when we finally strike it big and reach the top, it’s like a trumpeting of angels, it’s a tickertape parade, it’s the profound satisfaction of job well done, of having “arrived.” Right? Wrong. More times than not, what actually happens deep down is a lingering sense of being a fraud, a charlatan, an inadequate who doesn’t really deserve the kudos. It’s also a sense that you’ve fooled most people this time but soon that bubble will burst and the big reveal of what a huge joke of a phony you actually are will be obvious to the entire world and it’ll be humiliating, horrifying, and a complete disaster. This is imposter syndrome and to some degree, every successful artist has it. Why? Because it’s a very human response to the absurdity of success. It can be incredibly preposterous and unbelievable to win this proverbial lottery. Yes, we may have invested everything into our success — but plenty of other artists do who never get anywhere, right? So what’s so special about us? It can truly feel like a bubble about to pop because it seems to rely on intangible things that can blow apart at any moment. This is why being told, “Well, you worked so hard, you deserve your success!,” just doesn’t seem to satisfy so much, does it? If anything, it can make things worse. Honestly, so many other artists work even harder, are even more skilled, but who just never seem to win that elusive brass ring. So we don’t feel as deserving in comparison, do we? And that feeling busts past our proper sense of worth and accomplishment with such blithe ease, we can be left completely deflated and worried instead of proud and elated. If we aren’t careful then, some artists find imposter syndrome so debilitating, it can compel them to withdraw, to even stop creating all together! Now this is the disaster! Again, love, courage, moxie, and curiosity will be our saviors here: The love that compels us to create, the courage to continue despite the lingering sense of deceit, the moxie to embrace our success even when we feel we don’t deserve it, and the curiosity to see if we can continue the streak by topping ourselves. Instead then, allow imposter syndrome to morph into humility, a humbleness that instills a sense of gratitude and wonder at the bizarre circumstance of it all. Give yourself permission to enjoy the limelight with grace and generosity — so many others never get that privilege.
Most people are insecure. Heck, probably everyone is on some level about something. Being human has its built-in burdens. When it comes to arting though, a lack of confidence can be a particularly destructive thing. See, the thing is, inspiration is actually an extraordinarily fragile wisp, something supremely vulnerable to fear. So many people are struck by inspiration at some point in their lives but fail to follow through not for a lack of talent or access to materials, but because of a deep-seated insecurity about making it real in the first place. “I’m not good enough,” “I don’t have the talent,” “I just can’t do it,” "I'm not an artist," and a litany of other self-perceived deficiencies plague too many folks. So much art never gets born this way! But it doesn’t end there. Know it or not, even established artists can struggle with a lack of confidence on a daily basis. Many wildly famous performers struggle with crippling stage fright, for instance. The truth is though: This is normal. It’s normal and natural to question your abilities when faced with big goals and lofty ambitions. And the bigger the dream, the harder the questions. So again, the workaround isn’t to deny it, but to embrace it — take hold of your insecurities and start to pick them apart, start to see what generates them. Here, curiosity will be particularly helpful to you. Could it have been a callous comment directed to you as a child about your art? Could someone you admired have made a careless comment about what you created? Are you comparing yourself to others and thinking you come up short? Are you afraid of shame and ridicule? What’s getting in between your inspiration and your follow through? Here, too, courage and moxie can be assets because at some point, you'll just have to throw caution into the wind and jump in. Don’t let inspirations wither away! Chase after them, make them real out of sheer gumption and in spite of your fear. And here love can jump in to deliver a one-two punch because here's the thing: That inspiration came to you — and only you — out of all of history. Listen to it, follow where it leads, give it your whole heart and, absolutely, you’re going to surprise yourself in ways you never imagined! Do that enough times and you learn to hold confidence more firmly. Because that’s the thing — confidence isn’t only something someone just has. Confidence can also be learned, and learned by doing something over and over again so you become proficient at it. Learning and confidence are sisters. And in all actuality, confidence is overrated. All we really need is the willingness to keep going despite our insecurities. Stubbornness and resolve can be great fakes for confidence! So have the courage to keep going just one more step and find that moxie within yourself to fling yourself into the fray even when you’re questioning everything you’re doing. And always hold tightly onto the love you have swirling inside you for what you're doing because it can bust through any roadblock. Mix all that together and you've got a potent concoction because, above all, you’ve got to be willing to give yourself the chance to surprise yourself!
This brings us to our latent anxieties about arting, or more to the point, the fear of making mistakes, of not being perfect. The fact is that when we art though, we're going to fail. That’s inevitable. We're going to fail and fail a lot. We’re going to lose count of all our faceplants. But that’s not the gist of the matter, is it? Because what many people mistakenly assume is that a mistake is the end. Stop, it’s over! You screwed up! Game over! But, no! See, what they haven’t figured out yet is that a mistake isn’t the end — it’s the beginning. A mistake is the start of improvement, the prerequisite to success, the pathway to enlightenment! Absolutely, mistakes are learning itself. No artist ever created without making mistakes! No artist simply cranks out high caliber work without first earning it through a slew of missteps! We have to be pretty bad at something before we get pretty good at it! In fact, it’s the artists who make a ton of mistakes and learn from them who advance the fastest with the deepest understanding. And remember this: Whatever you make, you can unmake, and make again! You are the creator and destroyer here. Making corrections is perfectly fine as you go, too, there's nothing wrong with using your eraser! You never have to commit to the first attempts. Most art ever created goes through a series of revisions and refinements as it evolves, nothing unusual about that. Mistakes are simply part of the process of creation. So bring on the mistakes! Big ones, little ones, stupid ones, surprising ones, confusing ones…bring them all on! May they be glorious and grand! Every mistake we ever make will unlock our potential more and more. And know this: Every artist has a Bad Art Day and every artist creates bad art at some point. That’s all part of the learning process and the journey of discovery. In this light, bad art isn't a failure, it's a stepping stone. If anyone has a problem with that, well, that’s on them, not you. You got this! Because here, again, courage and moxie will serve you well — the courage to try again, always again, and the moxie to remember that all you’ve learned is just one more powerhouse in your arsenal! Curiosity lends a big helping hand, too, because you'll need that for troubleshooting, study, critique, and investigation. And, of course, love leads us by the gentle hand, always guiding us forwards. Just remember that you’re in control here so don’t let the fear of mistakes take it from you. Embrace your mistakes, rejoice in them, and soon that nagging fear will transform into even more curiosity. “How will I mess this up?” can really mean, “What amazing thing will I learn today?,” can’t it? Frame it that way and you’re well on your way! What's more, Brené Brown has a lot of sound advice for you when it comes to criticism, whether from other people or self-inflicted.
Art isn’t to be trifled with. It asks us to be monumentally vulnerable, and that's by no means an easy feat for anyone. So sure we can engage art on a whim, which is great and necessary from time to time, but if we're diving in deeper, it becomes a path, a Way. See, if we’re doing it conscientiously, we’re also learning, even about ourselves, at the same time we bring something new into reality. We create ourselves, too. Framing creativity in this way, as a framework for discovery, isn’t just a mere indulgence, it can be a necessity to root out those very things that hold us back. It’s what also stokes the fires of love, courage, moxie, and curiosity. Every inspiration may be the match, but unless that fire has fuel, it’s doomed to snuff out. So do yourself a favor — cut yourself some slack and allow yourself to be in love, be courageous, be cheeky, and be curious if just to create some art. Often what’s bad for fear is good for you. So give yourself a chance to surprise yourself! You have more to offer than you know, you’re more capable than you believe, and even if no one ever sees what you created, you’ll have the satisfaction of your own journey. Make arting less about creating for approval and more about creating for your own personal satisfaction and you’ll have found that fuel for your inspirational spark you can fan into a rampant blaze of empowerment. When faced with that wall of fire, your fears will back off, making room for the true gift of creativity — joy! And once you've tapped into your joy, it's over for fear. We may always bear our fears to some degree, of course, but joy is a stronger compulsion, one that also happens to feed love, courage, moxie, and curiosity in a positive feedback loop that drives us forwards in the best ways. So while fear may be the swirling storm around you, all that good stuff inside is the rocket fuel that propels you right through with a sonic boom. So it's not about stamping out our fears, it's about engineering a creative attitude that can create joyfully and purposefully in spite of them. Do that and you'll surge forwards with an unstoppable creative empowerment that'll carry you through every challenge! Don't you owe it to yourself to embrace what can bring you such enrichment? Don't let fear rob that from you because — yes — you are deserving of all the treasures arting has in store for you! Tap into your love, courage, moxie, and curiosity, and make those fears take a backseat because you have wonderful things to conjure up! So dial it up to eleven and pop that knob off with joyful abandon! You can be your own art hero!