Fear & Creativity: Why You Need Both

Do you ever let fear talk you out of doing something you're longing to do?  Yes?  Well...join the club!  I think we all fall into this trap, right?  For some, this happens routinely, but for others, it's more of an occasional road block.

Well, it my sound counter-intuitive, but if you rely on creativity as a means to do bigger and better things in your life, you need to have a healthy dose of fear to fuel that creativity and today, I'm going to explain why!

Yesterday, I gave a bit of a recap of my weekend in Salt Lake City at the Click Away photography conference for women.  I mentioned that Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love was the opening/keynote speaker on the first day.  I wasn't sure what to expect since I did not particularly like the movie Eat, Pray, Love (in her defense, I have not read the book).

Well...let's just say I was floored!  She is an amazing speaker and very inspirational.  If you ever get the chance to hear her speak....grab a cup of coffee, a notebook and pen, settle in and be ready to be inspired!  If you listen closely, you will take away a few nuggets that will change your life (for the better!).

Elizabeth Gilbert at the podium giving her dynamic speech!

Elizabeth Gilbert at the podium giving her dynamic speech!

Elizabeth's Message

She spoke for a little over an hour and held our attention the entire time.  Considering this started at 8:30 in the morning and everyone was still tired from their travels, this was quite an accomplishment and really speaks to the power of her message!  

The main focus of her speech was on the topic of how fear and creativitiy are married.  I'm obviously, not going to repeat her speech, but some things she said really resonated with me and it's been knocking around in my brain for the past few days and I really wanted to talk about it.

I tend to fall into the camp where, yes, fear sometimes stands in the way of me going after something I want.  But, fortunately, as I've gotten older, this happens less and less.  I think part of that is just growing up, but I also think it's partly learning to have confidence in yourself and not giving two beans what others think about you!  

But....in spite of that, sometimes fear still stops me in my tracks.  You know what I'm talking about, right?  That annoying little voice in your head that is telling you that you can't do it, or you'll make a fool of yourself, or somebody (everybody?) won't like you, blah, blah, blah.  Tell me I'm not the only one that hears this not-always-welcome 'friend'!

The thing about letting fear stop you is that you let it win...you let your fears win.  That's just not cool!  And, you shouldn't be okay with that.

We get one shot at this life and only so many spins around the sun.  I bet if I asked you, no one would want to have regrets on their death bed.  That's the overwhelming inspiration behind living your dreams and coming up with some awesome, cool bucket list, right?  

But, how many of us actually chase those dreams with wild abandonment?  How many times do we start, then falter because of that 'not-always-welcome' friend in our head telling us that we can't do it?  Probably more times than we care to admit.  

For those of us that are creative, we're faced with this fear every time we pursue our creative passion.  Part of being creative is putting a piece of yourself into that passion.  Sharing that with the world (or even your best friend!) can be scary!

Elizabeth pointed out that you can't have creativity without fear.  If you try to kill the fear, you kill the creativity.  She went on to tell a story about how she embraces the fear and when starting a new project she has a conversation with fear and tells it that it can come along for the ride, but it doesn't get to make any decisions.  She and creativity get to make the decisions, but not fear.  Fear can have a voice, but it cannot have a vote.  I'm going to repeat that...fear can have a voice, but it cannot have a vote.

That really hit home with me and just hearing her phrase it like this made me realize that it's crazy to let fear make decisions for me!!  I'm a big believer in trying something and learning from it if you fail.  You learn more when you fail than when you succeed.  However, even being a big believer, I give into fear more often that I like and I'm ready to turn that on it's heels and make some changes.  Just going through the process of acknowledging the fear and telling it where to go and establishing that YOU will be making the decision, not fear, shifts the power and gives you that extra boost of confidence to ignore fear and take that next step forward.

As women, we tend to aim for perfection.  Elizabeth pointed out perfection is just a form of self-hate.  Let go of perfection and embrace the imperfection.  Give yourself permission to be perfectly imperfect!  Past generations have worked so hard to get women where they are today and we have choices and opportunities our mothers and grandmothers couldn't even dream about.  As Elizabeth so wisely told us...don't let your fear (i.e. YOU) be what stands in the way of you accomplishing your dreams.

Pretty powerful stuff, right?

My Story

On Saturday, I had an opportunity to put this idea into play and I want to share my experience with you.  As I mentioned yesterday, I'm pretty passionate about photography.  I'm reading about it every day...I'm shooting every day...I'm studying other peoples work everyday...(you get the picture).  I love street photography, but the one area that I am very weak is taking out my camera in public when I'm alone (hello introvert!).  I can tell myself over and over again that nobody pays attentions or cares if I'm taking photos (which is very true!).  But, despite being pumped up and excited to get some photos, my fear wins out every single time and I end up leaving my camera in my bag.  Then, when I get home, I'm incredibly disappointed in myself.

For most of my time in Salt Lake City, I was walking around with other photographers, so taking photos didn't faze me and I was clicking right and left!  On Saturday, we had an excursion to Park City, Utah.  I didn't really know anyone else going, so I was walking around on my own.  I was completely okay with that and was excited to have the chance to go at my own pace and take photos of whatever I wanted!  Yay!  But, as I walked around, I noticed all the people milling about and my old pal, Fear, let herself out of her room to come out and play.

As I walked and walked, I couldn't bring myself to pull out my camera.  I knew I'd be disappointed if I didn't take any photos, but Fear was relentless.  I felt myself cave and settle and tell myself it'd be okay if I didn't get any images. I definitely had plenty from the rest of the trip.  But, then, I remembered Elizabeth's speech.  As I'm walking up Main Street, I'm having this conversation in my head (thankfully no one could hear that!).  I acknowledged the fear and said it was okay to voice the fear, but I would not make a decision based on it.  Just that statement to myself made me feel more powerful!  I then told myself that I had to take five photos (different scenes).  I could stop after that if I still felt uncomfortable, but I had to take five.  If nothing else, I'd go home with at least a few shots.  Guess what happened...I took MORE than five shots!  Once I got a few under my belt, my self consciousness and fear went away.

I'm very excited about that!! Now, I have an exercise I can rely on when I find myself in a similar situation again (and I KNOW it'll happen again!).  I was rather happy with how that turned out and even more excited about having heard that speech two days prior.

What's the point of all of this?  Well...you'll never get rid of fear.  It's part of who we are, and in some cases, it can save our lives (for example, if you happen to encounter a bear on your stroll through the woods, Creativity will encourage you to get about 10 feet from the bear to get an awesome photo, but Fear will be screaming at you to get the heck out of dodge!  That would be the time to actually let Fear make the call!).  But in most cases, it just gets in the way of us living our lives.  So, the point is to figure out how to manage fear and step around it when it's being a bit irrational.

So friends...your turn...what is one fear that hits you over and over that you'd love to conquer?