What are you afraid of in your creative pursuits? Other people’s judgment? Not living up to your own standards? Of not being better now than you were six months ago, or even worse?
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I know what it’s like to have fear hold me back from doing something. I was a classic awkward middle school boy, too unsure of himself to have many friends or reach out to other kids. Some of that even continues today. Nowadays, it really comes out in my work life when I hold myself back from doing even simple things like talking on the phone to someone I don’t know.
One recent area of my life where fear is affecting me is with this podcast. Half of the episodes are these tips and tricks type of shows, and the other half are long form interviews. So to find guests to be on a podcast, you have to reach out and email them or call them or just somehow get in touch.
But I still have a lot of that awkward 12 year old inside me, the part of me that doesn’t want to intrude on others or be a burden on their time, that doesn’t want to hear the word “no”. So I just avoid it entirely by not asking anyone I’m not sure will say yes. Obviously that’s a huge impediment on my creativity and on this show because I want to find guests that are not just interesting, but have something to teach you about overcoming roadblocks in your work.
Another way that fear may hold you back is through judgement. If you’re a more externally motivated person, you may be afraid of what other people think of your work, and even if you’re more internally motivated, you can feel this too. It sure feels good when other people tell you nice things about the work you’ve done, how cool it is, but it can just take one person with a negative comment to make you feel like trash. So why even open yourself up to that?
Another person’s judgement you might fear is your own, especially if you’re an internally motivated person. What if you don’t live up to the expectations that you’ve set for yourself? What if you look back and you see that your best work came from six months or a year ago, and nothing you’ve made since then measures up? That feeling can make it tough to keep creating, especially with the kind of positive mindset that helps you produce really cool stuff.
The answer to fear is courage. Not that you stop being afraid of creating, but that you’re determined and disciplined to do it in spite of being afraid. You know you love to make stuff – like graphics, blog posts, podcast episodes – and you love to show it to the world. You even know that other people need to see the content you create so they can be encouraged, informed, and moved to take action. You need to show it to the world just to express what’s inside of you, to get it out and release it.
That’s the kind of motivation you need to tap into so you can be courageous. Your work has value, it needs to be created by you because no one else can write the way you do, or design or speak or see the world the way you do. Being creative is inherently courageous, and continuing to be creative is continuing to be brave.
Courage doesn’t have to be something that comes naturally to you to be able to use it; you can develop courage in yourself. You can try something new every day will give you confidence in yourself. Maybe this is adding a new tool to your set, like a new lens for photographers, a drawing tablet for illustrators, or a probing question for interviewers. Building up your personal knowledge base can give you strength to push through fear.
You can also develop courage by making the decision to just do the thing you’re afraid of and accepting that the outcome might not be perfect. Don’t do it half-heartedly, because then you’re just becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. You still have to put in your best work to the project to give it the best chance to succeed. You do want to make cool, useful stuff for others, right? That takes discipline and effort, so be disciplined and give it effort.
Even so, your creation might not come out as well as you wanted it, and it may not be received as joyously by others as you’ve hoped. That’s okay. It’s disappointing, but it’s not the end of the world. You still have room to grow, which is great, because it means you have the opportunity to become a better creator and a better person. You are probably a lot more afraid of how badly your project will turn out than you need to be. You don’t need to live up to your fear.
Courage is the antidote to fear, not because it’s the opposite of being afraid, but because you acknowledge being afraid and you’re determined to do it anyway. Being creative is being brave.
I’m Dylan, helping you break down your creative barriers, so you can Live Life Creative.
- I’d love to hear from you, what was a time fear was holding you back, and how’d you overcome it?
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