There are days when I’m getting ready to start a creative project—especially something really meaningful to me—and I feel so fearfully panicked that I have to give myself a pep talk by literally KICKING the air in front of me and speaking my fears aloud—an exercise commonly suggested in energy therapy.
As I kick, I say things like: “I’m releasing the fear that ideas won’t come.” “I’m releasing the fear that I’m not talented enough.” “I’m releasing the fear that it will look stupid.” I’m releasing the fear that I’m wasting my time.” etc . . . .
There’s something about physically and emotionally giving the fear a voice that takes the power away and helps me see through it, therefore helping me move through it.
Fear is hardwired in our brains and is a necessary part of our lives because it protects us. Don’t talk to that stranger. Drive down another road. Stay away from that dog. Don’t touch the hot stove.
In our modern world we don’t need fear to protect us from uncertain outcomes the way it was needed in ancient times, but I think those the fear-based messages are still there, especially when we consider doing something creative.
When it comes to creativity, we can mentally thank fear for warning us, analyze its validity, and then kick it aside because realistically–no one is going to die and probably not get seriously hurt if we pull out a box of craft supplies or paint and get messy. (Unless we’re talking about sharp scissors and hot glue guns, and then of course, use judgement!).
But that doesn’t mean the creative fear we feel isn’t daunting or even paralyzing.
If fear is stopping you from living a creative life, here are three ways to help kick it aside:
Overcome Creative Fear: Start Small.
Starting small and mastering the tiniest thing with the most loving and forgiving audience is a great confidence booster! When the fear of creative success starts to burn and become paralyzing, I try to take a step back from insecurity by doing something creative with my kids.
To my kids, I’m the best artist, chef, dancer, singer, and storyteller in the world. (And here’s a secret: your kids feel the same way about you!)
So stop saying you can’t draw a stick figure! Just start small. Make some playdough and sculpt, follow some how-to-draw instructions and rock those stick figures, dance around the living room, color your own coloring pages, “create” giggles by telling a joke.
Kids don’t place standards and limitations the way adults do and so creating with them and for them is a great place to start and takes away the pressure of achieving perfection.
When we engage in creativity with our kids, we encourage their own creativity while becoming more creatively confident ourselves.
Overcome Creative Fear: Create First. Edit Last.
When starting a project with kids there are two things I often say:
- No idea is a bad one. First, just let your brain “throw up” on the page.
- Choose an idea and create a “sloppy copy.” Editing comes later.
I think fear talks us out of trying a lot of things because our minds try to jump to the end by analyzing and editing too soon. Ok, ok, so not EVERY idea will turn out to be a good one. But how will you know unless you first explore it?
The first step in the creative process should be to brainstorm (“throw up on the page”). Consider all possibilities and don’t let fear talk you out of anything. Every idea starts as a good one.
After brainstorming, choose an idea and create your “sloppy copy.” In this second step of the creative process your painting will suck, your crocheting will be crooked, and your business idea may flop. But failure is how we get better and there is nothing wrong with being wrong.
My first several attempts at creating felt board figures are embarrassing. But I didn’t begin creating with the intent to share or sell–I started small, just wanting to make something interactive to use when telling my kids stories. As I continued to create “sloppy copies” (and oh, they were!) my skills organically improved and have led to business opportunities I never imagined.
This doesn’t mean creating first and editing last is a magical solution—I have to talk myself out of the fears every time I pull out the tub of felt scraps! But allowing ourselves to create first and edit last, does reduce the fear so the ideas can develop and creativity can grow.
Overcome Creative Fear: Just Start.
Every.single.time I pull out the felt to make a new story set, sketch some clip art, or get ready for a project (with my kids, classroom, for a blog post, or just for my own creative pleasure) that little nagging voice of fear pops up and whispers things like:
“But it’s soooo messy.”
“What if it doesn’t turn out as cute as I’m imagining?”
“Someone else is more qualified to teach this.”
“What if they hate it?”
“What if nobody pins it?”
“That idea has already been done.”
And for a long time I let those fears speak louder than my creative ideas because being creative is vulnerable and pulls out deep-rooted insecurities. It felt easier to keep those ideas in my head where they could stay pretty and perfectly pinteresting!
But deep within is an innate thirst to create and so I allow myself to take a minute (but just a minute!) to voice the fears and physically and mentally “kick” them aside. And then, I just get started.
In the beginning, it’s more important to start than to feel confident. Taking action by starting will eventually trump the fear and make things happen. But only through starting will we begin to grow and become more confident and less fearful.
Fear Doesn’t Have to Make Our Decisions
Every day we’re faced with opportunities and challenges that require our creativity–from what to make for dinner and how to get the kids excited about chores to other more involved and life-changing decisions. But with or without the fear that accompanies, life still moves forward.
So why not kick the paralyzing fears aside, take a deep breath, and allow yourself to move forward with confident creativity? Yes, creativity takes courage. But our fear doesn’t have to be the one to make the creative decisions.