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.