Panic, fear, anxiety… nasty words and ugly feelings, aren’t they? Who needs to feel nervous, anxious, afraid? Creative people do.

Ask any writer, artist, musician or opera singer how they feel when they embark themselves in a new project, how they feel before their novel is launched,  their paintings showed in a gallery, or the curtain is raised in a theatre full of people. The words “relaxed and at peace with myself and the world” won’t cross their lips.

Anxiety and nervousness are simply part of the creative life, just as inspiration, or lack of ideas are. To become an artist, you’ll have to get a grip on your mind, control your fear, and don’t let it become panic.


In her book Playing Big, author Tara Mohr writes about two kinds of fear:

  • There’s panic, the irrational fear that comes from imagining the worst-case scenario. It’s what seizes you when you have to speak in public or that second before you hit the “publish” button and you’re afraid that nobody will like your post. Sometimes, it’s so strong that you feel like the horrified human in Edvard Munch’s The Scream
  • But then, there’s another kind of fear, the one that gives you butterflies in your stomach, the one that emerges from knowing that you’ve done your best, that you’re ready to share your story, your photograph, your illustrations or your music with the world. This kind of fear is a sure sign that you’re making progress, that you’re onto something big and meaningful.

Don’t be afraid of being afraid.

If you feel panic, know that we’re all wired to experience it. It’s a form of self-protection and we can change the way we react to it. (Now, I laugh at how anxious made me going to dance classes a year ago. I can’t dance much better now, but I’ve learnt to enjoy dancing!) But if you feel that creative anxiety, accept it fully, because is a sign that your goal is closer.

We don’t actually need to keep ourselves safe from every potential emotional risk. We actually need to take the emotional risk that come with sharing our voices and ideas more visibly and vulnerably. —Tara Mohr’s Play Big. 

Thanks to Marjolein Caljow for sharing the beautiful drawing that illustrates this post.



7 thoughts on “Panic…or the art of accepting fear

  1. Hey, I love this post! Thank you for your take on panic and how to assess the difference between “creative anxiety” and crippling fear. Both are emotional signals to us but the response appropriate for both is very different!

    I love also how you remind us “don’t be afraid of being afraid”!!!

    And that we don’t need to be afraid of taking every emotional risk, but that sometimes we actually need to take the emotional risk – and that there are specific things we can do to help ourselves manage this.

    I’ve heard often that in this day and age most of the panic, anxiety, and fear we experience is not linked to a real physical threat anymore but has more to do with a fear of feeling ie the “emotional risk” you talk of.

    I just love your terminology because when you put it like that – “emotional risk”, well risks can be managed right?!

    You’ve given me a whole new perspective with your supercool post. Thank you!!!


    1. Hi, thanks for your kind comments. It’s great to connect with someone’s thoughts and share perspectives. A win-win situation! And yes, that’s the idea because creative people often feel paralyzed by fears: of being laughed at, of being disliked or critizised, of not being good enough…while this just part and parcel of the process. It has to be accepted and managed.


    1. Thanks a lot for your comment. Being afraid is hard to deal with indeeed, but when you realize that is part of your creative life you usually stop fighting the feeling and relax. Muses love relaxed artists! 🙂


  2. Loved reading this piece on panic! So rightly said that inorder to become an artist one has to get a grip on the mind and control the fear. Its really all in the mind….if we can rest our minds and not allow thoughts control our minds we can be at ease and one with ourselves… It all depends on us how we overcome our fear and anxieties and emerge confident and be at peace!


    1. Hi Sanili, thanks a lot for commenting.
      In the end, it’s up to us to learn to control our minds, but it’s not easy. To our reptilian brain, panic is a form or protection (if you’re afraid of launching your novel, nobody will see it, and you won’t be embarrased, or suffer, if nobody likes it). That’s why I’d rather not fight against creative anxiety, but accept it and learn to live with it.
      You’re right, though, and we all should learn how to rest our minds. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes its so important to face feedbacks and criticism on any piece of work. These are the ingredients needed for us to grow and learn and keep enriching ourselves in the process. This acceptance of the negatives, the anxieties and the unseen fears can ultimately give way to a sense of creative poise!
    It was indeed a pleasure reading your post. Keep writing!

    Liked by 1 person

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