Creative People: Fear Not

In my post, Why Are Creative People Afraid of Failure, I asked the question “Why?”

No one wants to fail; no one wants to feel like a failure. I argued we need to redefine failure; to see it as an opportunity, as a teaching and learning tool.

It made me think of what stops a creative person, the underlying fear, and it reminded me of a post I wrote almost 2 years ago and it is pertinent to follow on from last week’s post.

I’ve added it here with some amendments.

Something has crept into my thinking.

It’s like a bad song you hear on the radio and it burrows into your ear (anything cheesy will do: something from “The Sound of Music” or The Wiggles – yep, you’re humming something already). You start humming it in the shower, while you’re driving, and it somehow becomes the theme song during the most intimate moments with your partner.

And it’s starting to worry me. Something has happened and it’s affecting my writing.

I haven’t added to my novella in weeks. It gathers digital dust as it waits patiently for me to return. I have short stories waiting for me to send out, but I hesitate to click the “Submit” button.


What is this thing that haunts my writing?


Fear affects almost every creative person and almost every creative endeavour at some point. Whether you’re starting out or been creating for a long time. 

Fear is crippling and debilitating. It can cause a work in progress to stall, languishing in digital purgatory while it waits for you to get back to it.

Fear makes you question your ability and belief in your writing. You end up asking, “Why am I doing this? My work sucks greater than a vacuum cleaner.”

Fear makes you create excuses for not writing, to find some other activity to fill your time. Suddenly your socks and underwear drawer is tidied, labelled, alphabetised and colour-coded.

Fear distracts you with all manner of shiny things on the internet. 

Fear short changes your dreams. It gives you a Happy Meal (without the toy) when you asked for steak with the side order of chips and salad, and a strawberry milkshake.

Fear undermines the core of any creative endeavour.

Fear steals your creative flow.

What can you do about it?

Identify the fear.

Is it a fear of failure? A fear of being embarrassed or ridiculed because you’ve decided to write or paint or dance or make films?

Listen to the fear.

Hear what it has to say. Are the points justified?

Weigh up carefully what it says. Act upon good advice if it is warranted.

Then upside its head and give it a wedgie.

A creative life lived in fear is a travesty and accomplishes nothing.

Someone will say, “I want to be creative but I am afraid to start.”

Do not be afraid.

Defeat your fear through trust in yourself.

Trust in yourself – self belief is crucial. Do not doubt. He who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind (James 1:6). You create because it’s a compulsion, a drive, a passion.

Trust your planning – Know when you intend to create (write, painting, draw, sculpt, rehearse). Protect the time, and get it done. Writers: this also applies to your outlining: if you know where you are going, you have already joined the dots. All you’re then doing is colouring in between the line to make a pretty picture (you can, of course, colour outside the lines too).

Trust in the work – There is a difference in knowing if a piece of work is below par and letting the fear subvert a good work. If the work is good enough (drafted, edited, beta read, rewritten etc), trust in its ability to reach and engage an audience.

Final Thoughts

Fear manifests itself to each creative person in different ways. Some doubt, others procrastinate, some quit.

Turn the fear into a motivating factor. Let it become a driving force.

I have faced the fear. I am moving forward.

Turn your fear into excitement. It’s the same chemical in the brain; different interpretation.

Don’t let the fear defeat you.

When was the last time you faced up and confronted your fears, and won?



8 responses to “Creative People: Fear Not

  1. I have been thinking a lot about fear as I try to unravel why I can’t begin the second draft of my novel. I said that I was afraid, but when I burrowed under the word to try and find out exactly what it was I feared, there was nothing.

    Confused, I started to look at it all from a different angle. I know a lot of it is crap, I know it is riddled with plot holes and half baked characters (as is a first draft) and I know its going to require a lot of work to get it up to speed.

    When we were editing together it was the two of us against the 89K manuscript and roughly responsible for half of it. And there were lots of fun aspects to our editing adventures with Piper’s Reach.

    As a short story writer and an accidental author of a novella, the idea of six drafts of a 80K length novel is absolutely daunting. That’s what it took to get Elyora up to standard.

    What I ended up coming up with, after all his excavation, was the fact I was overwhelmed at what lay ahead, rather than afraid. I want to work smarter, not harder. So I’ve been kind of floundering as I try to get a grip on working smarter rather than harder and downsizing the manuscript into small faceable portions.

    So while I am still the hunter of a bunch of fears as an author, sometimes there is something else lurking below our default mechanism of fear, that isn’t actually fear itself.

    • But you are an excellent editor; practice what you preach. Do the reading and make notes; take it one pass at a time.
      I’ll wave the pom poms and put on the rah-rah skirt. YOU CAN DO IT!

  2. Pingback: I’m Not Afraid of my Big Bad Manuscript | 1000 Pieces of Blue Sky

  3. I just wrote an entire blog article on this!

    I don’t actually preach any of this stuff… I only hand over practical skills for looking at a manuscript and working with it. And a little about the psychological impact of focusing only on errors! I’ve never had to face up to the awe of an entire manuscript! (new stuff to add to editing booklet!)

    • The thing is, I KNOW YOU CAN DO IT!

      • Yeah… I suppose so. And I know I can do it too. I started of small today. Working backward by doing research and allowing myself to just wander through without any hard destinations.

        And already come up with some pretty awesome connections.

      • Commented on your post, too. Remember, there are people around you to midwife this project to completion.

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