The Secret to Creativity: Free Your Fear


I believe that the desire to create is innately rooted in each and every single one of us. Yet, why is it that some of us live creativity fulfilled, and others negate this basic instinct? The answer: fear.

Creating anything, a film, a novel, a painting, even a character, is freaking scary. When you create, you enter into a new realm, the unknown, which sets off your fear synapses. (Don’t worry, this is a totally healthy, human built-in back up machine that warns us of impending danger.) These same synapses fire when you have that gut instinct to not be alone with a guy, or when you feel like you shouldn’t be walking alone at night on Crenshaw below Jefferson. Totally healthy in life. Not necessarily in creation. Our brains just don’t know the difference.

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, she states, “The paradox that you need to comfortably inhabit, if you wish to live a contented creative life, goes something like this: ‘My creative expression must be the most important thing in the world to me (if I am to live artistically), and it also must not matter at all (if I am to live sanely).”

We put so much pressure on our creative expression. That pressure is rooted in your ego, in fear. We fear how it will be accepted by our peers, critics, and colleagues. We fear if it will succeed. But, when you break it down, what’s really the worst that could happen if you do create?

Before you answer that, let me put a major fear at bay: the fear of death.

Nobody’s going to die if your short film doesn’t succeed. No one. You may lose a bit of money. You may even lose a bit of pride because of a crappy review. But, unless it’s by your own hand (and it better not be, or I’ll be pissed), no one’s going to die because your film didn’t make it into Sundance. Sure, there are those handful of oppressive, totalitarian countries where people do risk their lives to express themselves creatively. But, in the good ol’ U.S. of A, and in most other countries, we simply don’t have that risk. As meaningful as our art is to us, and as important as creating art is to society, there truly are no risks except that to our own ego. In order to successfully create, you must let your ego take a pounding, and know that you’re gonna live through it.


However, Fear is a tricky little shiester. She also likes to play dress up. She dances around as the various “shoulds” of life. Like, “I really want to travel the world to film a docs-series about women’s rights in third world countries, but, my family says I should stay in school,” or “I really want to write my novel, but I should be taking care of my kids.” Now, I’m not saying you should forgo your responsibilities as a parent, whatsoever, or quit school to travel the world. However, just because you have kids, a spouse, a dog, a family, a day job, whatever, doesn’t mean your creativity should be sacrificed. We women, more often than men, “should” ourselves out of our creative dreams and out of opportunities.

Gilbert writes in Big Magic, “For most of human history, then, the vast majority of people have made their art in stolen moments, using scraps of borrowed time—and often using pilfered or discarded materials, to boot.” Don’t have time to write that novel because of your kids? Write it while they’re at school, or taking a nap, or watching an hour of TV. Maybe you have to wake up an hour earlier, or stay up an hour later to storyboard. Maybe you have to cut out an hour of Netflix binging to write your own TV pilot. Maybe instead of scrolling through social media, write your short story on your phone. I guarantee you can find thirty minutes to an hour, somewhere in your day, somehow, for the sake of your creativity. Don’t put your creativity on the back burner, claiming other responsibilities that you “should” do because of money, family, pride.

Twitter_logo_blueFear likes to dress up in your excuses.

You don’t even have to fear Fear. You just have to free it and recognize the various outfits Fear likes to rock (ego-bruising, excuses, humiliation, perfectionism). When you create, it’s like you’re going shopping with Fear. Imagine Fear like the mean girl friend who always wants to raid your closet. When you pull silken ideas from the racks of your right brain, she busts out of the dressing room in the same outfit. You both look good in the outfit, but, she claims only one of you can buy this. You know you look amazing cloaked in this creative idea. Instead of succumbing to Fear, letting her buy the perfectly outfitted idea and leaving you sullen and dress-less, let Fear know that you’re making the purchase. She can get the same outfit too, if she wants, but you’re not going to leave this store without your silken idea. It’s yours. When her opinion over whether or not you buy your creative outfit doesn’t matter to you, you’re free.

Go forth and strut into your creativity!