Creativity and Fear

Based on what I’ve read and heard over the years the single greatest obstacle to creativity is fear.

Not lack of talent, or lack of time or lack of inspiration.


creativity-illo-2Certainly I have spent a great many years struggling with that.  persuasively convincing myself that I shouldn’t even try because I won’t be any good.  That I’ll embarrass myself.  That people will laugh.  Or perhaps worse, they will shake their head in pity.

I also know the counter argument, which says that I shouldn’t focus on what others think, that I should create simply for my own joy and fulfillment.  While I intellectually understand and agree two things fight against  the idea.  First, because my “core creative”, the impulse at the center of who I am in creativity, is a performer.  There are few places in the world where I am more at home, more filled with joy and contentment than on stage.  I like, no, I LOVE being up in front of an audience.  I LOVE the feeling of drawing them into a story, of lifting them then gently lowering, of igniting their laughter, their emotion, and their understanding.   So to suddenly tell me that the audience isn’t really important goes against my creative core.  I am not built to grind away quietly in a corner.  It isn’t who I am.

Who I am creates the other problem.  Many years ago I went through a standard end of year performance evaluation.  Item after item was ticked off with highest marks.  Except one.  “Sets goals unreasonably high, expects too much of himself”.

Guilty as charged.

I have love/hate relationship with this part of my life. It’s a great support for the fear in me.  “Why do something if I can’t do it to the standard I expect?”  In my life I have been around all kinds of wonderful Creatives.   I’ll probably never be as good as any of them at any of the things they do.  One of my life long creeds has been “Good enough isn’t”.  I don’t want to settle.  So I push.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  My desire to go for my best, to never settle for good enough has brought me a lot of success in my life.  The danger is sacrificing the good for the perfect.  When I become focused on trying to “perfect” something I get intimidated.  I can let “not perfect” equal “sucks”.  Then  I let the fear win and I just walk away.

I tend to overlook (because I don’t want to work that hard) that there is always a process to learning.  That practice and repetition are of immense value in growing.  It’s okay to suck at the beginning.  The goal is to not suck at the end, even if it’s still not perfect.

Maybe I’m reaching an age where things become a little clearer.  Maybe I’m just dense and it’s taken this long to sink in.  It’s not a binary system.  Not perfection or suckage.  It’s finding MY place on the spectrum, pushing to whatever my abilities level is.  In doing that I fulfill the potential that is within me.  I become more complete, more rounded, more whole along the way.  Maybe not every part of my creative life is for the moment of communion with the audience.  Maybe some of it is just for me.

That might be okay.

We’re on a journey to find out.



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