Discover more from Chronic Creativity
7 Ways Fear Kept Me from Creating
Unboxing Chronic Creativity - 8 min read
Fear is a controlling force in my life.
When I was young, it kept me from connecting with friends. In high school and college, it hindered my French horn playing skills. I pulled away from doing solos and shied away from practicing within someone’s hearing distance. After college, it held me in survival mode much longer than I needed to be.
It robbed me of joy, but it kept me safe.
For a while, I was okay with this. However, I noticed others were busy living and thriving while I wasn’t. I’d always loved adventures as a kid. I’d explore weird, wooded areas in my city. I’d run away from imaginary bad guys in my yard. Yet my life looked nothing like an adventure.
Heck, I didn’t even splurge on any fancy coffees for years.
In the summers, with some extra cash from not paying for a heating bill, I’d go to a few farmer’s markets and county fairs. Besides that, I remained tightly packed in my 1-bedroom apartment.
I wasn’t really living.
It took me over a year of therapy and facing my fears to unravel what held me back. It’s an odd amalgamation. In short, I’d get myself in loops of pressuring myself to do something so much that I’d be too afraid. I’d convince myself not to create because it seemed too risky.
Fear is sneaky.
Here are 7 ways fear may trick you out of creating.
1. Fear tells you your creativity is too risky.
We’ve all heard the whole “starving artist” trope. Parents don’t want their kids to starve. So sometimes, not so graciously, they will push their little darlings away from all the things they love the most.
Art is suddenly something to only do in your spare time.
You’re told to pour into everything else: your job. Then, when you finally have time, you’ll be tired. Fear can use “you need to rest” as an excuse.
You absolutely need rest. You’re probably not getting enough. But fear’s “you need to rest” excuse forgets that creating can be a form of rest. When it pops up this way, it’s telling you it’s too risky to make that thing because you’ll burn yourself out.
Once again, this is a delicate balance you may never figure out.
However, know two things. One, sometimes your creativity will fill your cup. Two, you can always stop your project if you feel too tired. We’ll all make mistakes. The bed is waiting if you miscalculated.
2. Fear tells you it’ll take too long to get there, then make sure it does.
When I was young, I thought a year to draft a novel was too long. I’d start trying to min/max my writing schedule to get out as much as possible so it wouldn’t take too long. Then I’d burn out with my 1,500+ word count on top of school, band, and other responsibilities.
I grew older and began to look at time differently. Drafting can take roughly 9 months with a relatively low word count. I can assume a year, including the blocked moments. I’m happy.
Yet, I still don’t write. Why?
Because I know so much of the process is redoing, rewriting, and editing what you have. The famous author once said, “Writing is 99% editing and 1% writing.” I know less about how to apply plot structure and dislike redoing large chunks.
Learning how to use plot structure and deal with redoing bits takes time. Fear tells me, once again, that it will take years to perfect. Then I’m back at square one. As soon as something goes awry, I edit the outline. I don’t make progress on my story.
3. Fear tells you that you’re too important.
This one usually ties into a lack of boundaries and people-pleasing. You believe that others need your help. Without it, they’d be lost. This sounds egotistical, even in the circumstances that it’s true. But if you relate to this example, you probably have this sort of thinking.
Perhaps you were asked to do something. It’s not something you’re particularly excited about, but something you can do. Yet a few months in, you find it draining.
However, you don’t quit.
Everyone compliments you on what you do. You’re a godsend. Perhaps the friend who asked if you could join would feel betrayed by your quitting. At least that’s what you think.
So you stay because you’re afraid of what will happen if you don’t.
A replacement may be hard to find for what you’re doing. But if the responsibility drains you, it may be good to leave. There’s a reason a replacement is hard to find, after all.
4. Fear tells you creativity isn’t a necessity, and necessities come first.
Relationships, chores, work — these are important and time-consuming. Chores keep us busy with menial tasks. They can teach us the value of small things. They can also take hours of your time, especially if you have kids. Dishes pile up. Kids are screaming at each other. Your partner is just as worn out as you due to work or the kids.
Work takes 8 hours, without factoring in commute or unpaid lunch. Coworkers interrupt you. Your boss or authority figure may be demanding. Maybe it’s dealing with customers all day that zaps you. Maybe it’s being outside on your feet for nine hours in a row.
Either way, all three take time and energy away from you.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. However, these things can be used for evil when they become excuses. Dishes may need to be done, but they could wait an hour for a writing session. Work is important. But breaks can be used to write 100 words, crochet a small donut, or draw little doodles.
Relationships, by far, are the most important of these things. Yet, even then, sometimes we need to carve time away from our loved ones to create. This isn’t because we hate them. Having time to ourselves also doesn’t mean we’re actively being neglectful in our relationships.
5. Fear tells you that you don’t have enough time.
It says you need to do x, y, & z first. When time opens up, you’ll prioritize everything else (see step three) or have you believe there’s nothing you could cut out of your life.
Once you remove phone games, mindless scrolling, and binging your favorite shows, you have much more time in the day. You’re suddenly able to read a quick Bible verse, meditate 5 minutes, or write 250 words once you remove
I’m not saying you remove these entirely. I’m saying there’s more time than fear tells you. You’ll probably be happier to step back from those once in a while, even if not to create.
6. Fear tells you that you’ll never be good enough.
One thing my fear likes to do is tell me there’s no way I’ll ever become good enough. It’s called a fixed mindset, believing what’s true now will always be true. This mindset ignores learning. Instead, it focuses on everything you lack and amplifies it.
Sure, you could do gesture drawings for 30 days to better understand how to draw people. You could write a short story everyday for thirty days to practice story structure. Instead of writing a poems to have enough for a small book, you listen to fear. It says you’ll never be good enough.
As I progress in my art business, fear says I’ve already made many mistakes. It’d be easier to start over. Or, better yet, that I should quit. It’ll keep you from even starting this way.
7. Fear will trap you with crazy makers.
Julia Cameron writes about “crazy makers” in her book The Artist’s Way.
These people drag creatives into creating things to satiate their own needs. Movie directors will drag actors and/or animators into making their next best movie. The victims will be doing the things they love: acting, animating, writing, etc.
However, the person in charge will be unrelenting in their needs, a perfectionist at best. As a result, they drain the creatives around them and keep them in an unfruitful loop.
The creators will stay there as they believe they’re too important to the task (see step 3). Maybe they’re unable to start their real dreams but are still able to be able to be creative in other mediums (like actors learning they love writing the story more than acting it out).
In other cases, crazy makers will be unusually harsh critics and editors. Unable to fulfill their creative needs, they lash out at others trying. Crazy makers, in short, either drag you into their ideas (creative fields or not) or drag you down too far to create.
As a result, you find crazy makers everywhere. They want to get things done. They may not even be bad ideas. But they’ll make sure you’re caught up in doing things for them that you can’t do anything for yourself.
I hope these help you recognize where fear hinders your life. I hope not all of them. Even if that’s the case, know you can work through them! I’ve dealt with all and still do.
Next week, I will flesh out a few simple ways to manage these fears. I may leave the crazy maker one for its own post. There’s a lot to unpack with them. I’ll also have a small surprise for you because *drum roll*
I’m turning 29 next week!
Do you want to guess what it is? I’d love to see any theories in the comments below.
With that said, I wish you a calm and happy week,
SUBSCRIBE TO UNBOXING CROHNIC CREATIVITY
A weekly newsletter about re-finding creativity while facing big, very real monsters in our head and bodies.