Why does creating feel so difficult sometimes? Why does the fear of (or resistance to) creating come during certain moments and not during others?
These questions resonate with both acclaimed creators and those just wanting to begin creating. The fear, or resistance, appears in different ways, be it writer’s block, procrastination in illustrating your friend’s children’s book, or—if you’re like me—taking two years to open a set of beautiful new paintbrushes because you don’t want to “get them dirty.”
However it manifests, the problem is the same: we want to create and we’re not creating. Something is stopping us, and that thing is usually fear. When we’re about to create in a new way or push our creative limits, our fears take over, and suddenly creating doesn’t feel safe.
There are two questions you can ask yourself to help unblock your creative potential: (1) What are you fearing? (2) What are you trying to protect yourself from? By understanding and answering these questions, we can begin to change our relationship with fear.
Here are some of the common fears when it comes to creating:
- Fear of making mistakes
- Fear that your ideas are not good enough/original enough
- Fear of judgment or criticism from your family and friends
- Fear of wasting your time or looking stupid
- Fear of the creation waking something up inside of you and demanding change
These fears appear in our creative thoughts as:
- Waiting for the “perfect time”
- Comparing yourself to others, feeling defeated by not being good or the best
- Telling yourself it’s too late or you will never be good enough
- Viewing creativity as only a luxury outside of your work-life or other needs
- Viewing creativity as only a part of your work-life, and not something you can just enjoy
Bottom line: The perfect time happens the moment we decide to be bold and begin to create.
It’s important to understand when we’re feeling fear, what our fears are, what messages it sneaks into our brains, and how these thoughts are intimidating our creative drive. Once we identify this, we make it a little less scary. We change the narrative from “I suck…why can’t I do this?” to “Look how bossy my fear is being!” You’re not your fear and you don’t have to be ruled by it. After you see what your fear is and how it’s manifesting, it is your duty to take action.
In short: See your fear. Understand it. And start anyway.
It may feel like that’s a scuba-suit-in-shark-infested-waters solution, but it gets easier as you go. Fear will never go away completely, but we can change our relationship with it so it’s not such a burden to our creative energy.
Here are 5 ways to change your relationship with the fear of creativity:
1. Set Manageable Goals
Give yourself permission to start as slow as you need, but hold yourself accountable to those small goals. This may mean that your goal for one day is just to set out your easel, choose the recipe you will bake, or simply install the very expensive writing program you bought three months ago. Take one small step, get excited about that progress, and then continue to break the larger goal into smaller goals, smaller actions, and smaller successes.
2. Create Something Bad or Ugly (On Purpose!)
Take the pressure off yourself to do something great. Write the worst song lyrics you can think of, create the least funny cartoon possible, or make the ugliest hat you can crochet. Laugh at yourself, be surprised at how good or bad it actually is, and celebrate your victory of pushing past perfectionism.
3. Practice as a Part of the Process
Creating is not something with an end. While we might get end products, those products will always be a reflection of where we were in our creative process at that moment. In her book Mindset, Carol Dweck explains how to shift out of a fixed mindset and into a growth mindset. A growth mindset means viewing your potential and skill as things that can expand with practice, hard work, and learning.
We can apply this to how we think about the creative process. Unless you plan on only painting one canvas, designing only one website, or cooking only one meal, you will always be practicing and therefore always getting better than you are now. We can choose to see our creative efforts act as a living yearbook that tracks our growth.
4. Co-Exist with Fear, Invest in Curiosity
Creativity means being brave. You will have to continually do uncomfortable, overwhelming, or scary things if you want to create. If fear isn’t a part of our creative process, we stop trying new things, being bold, and taking risks. Accept that fear will be there, but don’t listen to it too much.
Focus on your curiosity to help you find the courage to start. What is exciting or interesting about this for you? What could you do to innovate the craft? Questions help to build a plan in the face of creative fear. We must decide to invest in a life that is “driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear,” so we can live a life of “creative living” as New York Times Best Selling Author Elizabeth Gilbert writes in Big Magic.
5. Give Yourself the Chance to Edit
As one of the greatest choreographers of our time, Twyla Tharp, says in her book The Creative Habit, “In many ways, the creative act is editing.” If you’re not giving yourself the chance to start, you’re not giving yourself the chance to edit. Editing is where you learn how to refine and perfect your craft. With “editing” comes the opportunity to refine, learn, and discover new aspects of yourself and your creative endeavors. Get something made so you can edit it and learn from it!
No matter how stuck you may feel, getting through your creative block is possible. Fear doesn’t have to block our creativity. Instead, it can teach us how to nurture our creative souls, challenge us to learn more, and inspire us to be braver. Don’t overthink, just pick somewhere to start and go!
Written by Cassandra Green
Cassandra Green is a life coach, with a background in theatre and film. She helps clients accomplish big goals while increasing their daily happiness and satisfaction. Cassandra is also the founder of the coaching subscription box CoachCrate, featured on Forbes, OprahMag.com, and BuzzFeed. Learn more about Cassandra’s work and CoachCrate at www.coachcrate.com or follow her on Instagram.