Creativity Information

Fear & Creativity

My fears are most powerful when they're simmering just under the surface of my awareness. I'm resistant to a new idea, I'm defensive about holding on to my old ways, I feel excited and panicked at the same time - these are sure-fire signs that there's some fear under there.

Shining a spotlight on my fear has been the best (and only) way to get to the other side of it.

"Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love" - Ranier Maria Rilke

My fear is there for a good reason - to protect me. If I can have compassion for my fear, and understand what it's looking for, I'll be more ready to let it go.

I've been thinking about how fear and creativity often go hand in hand. As creative artists, what is our fear looking for? What does it think it's protecting us from? In exploring these questions I decided to brush up on Abraham Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs".

Abraham Maslow suggested that all human beings have the same basic needs, and that we spend our lives striving to meet them. His famous hierarchy of needs explains that at the basest level we need protection from the elements, food, water and other physiological needs.

Then, we need to feel safety and security within our family, our home and in our place in the world around us. We need to feel that we fit in and understand where we fit in and how everything works.

Next, we need to feel love and belonging - that we're accepted and appreciated.

We need to feel competent and masterful and that we're being recognized for our talents.

Finally, when all of those needs are met, we strive for the "top" level, "Self-Actualization" - to really live up to our highest potential, to feel a oneness with God, the universe and all of our fellow travelers on this Earth.

For some of us, long after the needs HAVE been met, we still fear losing them and having to meet them all over again.

Maybe that's why creating our art can evoke so much fear. Creativity is a direct form of self-actualization. When you're feeling fear about putting your creative ideas into motion, which of Maslow's needs are you concerned about meeting or losing?

* If I commit fully to my art then I won't be able to support myself financially - I could lose everything and be penniless and homeless

* If I put my creations out into the world, people may not like them - that means they won't like me, they may laugh at me, I won't fit in

* If no one likes my work, I won't fit in. No one loves, understands or knows me. I'm not fulfilling a need in the world - no one needs me. I'm not serving a purpose.

* If I try to create, I could make a mistake. I'll feel stupid and no one will like me.

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong. - Joseph Chilton Pearce

* If I go another year without trying to get my creative projects off the ground, I may never break free of my limitations, and I may live the rest of my life with unrealized potential. I may die with my creativity still inside of me.

Even the fear of death is nothing compared to the fear of not having lived authentically and fully. - Frances Moore Lappe

Have I missed any? Probably. Of course each of us have our own unique fears - and these are more universal ones that relate to Maslow's hierarchy of needs and to our creative hopes and dreams.

A well-known acronym for fear is: FEAR = False evidence appearing real

In other words, even though what we're fearful of seems very real to us, it's usually something we've made up in our heads, as opposed to something we're facing in physical form. Studies on the stress hormone cortisol show that our bodies react to our thoughts regardless of what is actually in front of us. Our fears feel VERY real. And??they're not.

SARK, author of Make Your Creative Dreams Real suggests you to try this acronym on instead:

Fill yourself up creatively - Julia Cameron advocates something similar with her "Artists's Date" assignment in The Artist's Way. What sparks your creativity? A long drive in the country? Making a vegetable soup? Meditation? Prayer?

Explore what stops you - looking at your own unique methods of self-sabotage is a cornerstone of the Everyday Self-Care Workbook (, and of my upcoming book just for creative artists.

Accelerate movement - Do something, anything, to combat the inertia of staying still. SARK advocates "micro movements" that take anywhere from 5 seconds to 5 minutes to complete. Those micro movements are the building blocks for our creative dreams and most importantly, get us moving!!

Repeat - luckily for us, this process continues as long as we're up for it!

Courage is fear that has said its prayers. - Dorothy Bernard

(c) Copyright 2005, Genuine Coaching Services.

Linda Dessau, the Self-Care Coach, helps artists enhance their creativity by addressing their unique self-care issues. To receive her free monthly newsletter, "Everyday Artist", subscribe at

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