Overcoming Fear as a Creative Block

"Thinking won't overcome fear, but action will." -- W. Clement Stone

Creativity is something that can feel delicate and fleeting at times, especially for those of us for whom it doesn’t come as second nature. While creativity flows freely from some people, for others, it can seem like a struggle to tap into the source to get the juices flowing.

It’s not just a matter of motivation or desire: sometimes fear can stand in our way. But what’s interesting is that fear can show up in a variety of ways, not just as “being scared” of something. If only it were that easy to identify. No, sadly, fear shows up wearing a variety of costumes and disguises. One of the best things you can do for yourself and your creative endeavors is to recognize fear in all its forms and work to overcome those roadblocks.

Below I’ve included a list of ways that fear can show up and stymie your creativity, along with ways to address and combat fear’s grip. While I’m sure this is not an all inclusive list, I do feel that it’s a extensive one, covering all the ways that I’ve noticed fear cropping up for me. If you’ve discovered another way in which fear shows up and blocks creativity, please let me know! I’m always looking for more ways to spot and name fear for what it really is.

Perfectionism—this is a big one. Perfectionism is fueled by the belief that you can’t move forward until everything is just so. It’s that feeling of having to have the right brushes, paints, set up, etc. before you can actually start painting. It’s the belief that you can’t just start something until you “know everything” or are “better educated” on a subject. This is fear showing up mostly in the form of procrastination. How to combat it? Just start. There will never be a perfect time. If you’re waiting for stuff to neatly fall into place, get ready to keep waiting. You can most effectively battle fear in the form of perfectionism by just starting your project and moving forward, despite the fact that situations or your knowledge levels aren’t “ideal.”

Control—Fear can be allowed to control our actions, which is quite dangerous. Not only in the rest of your life, but also allowing fear to control your creative actions isn’t something that’ll serve you. Just like perfectionism can stymie creative attempts, allowing fear to control you is another way in which you’ll never accomplish anything creatively. Take back the control from fear. Sure, your art or artistic endeavors may not be “great” at first, but so what? You have to start somewhere. The only way to get better and improve is to try. Try alone in the privacy of your bedroom or living room, if that’s where you want to start. The key to combatting the control fear has over you is to take action (surprise!). Move forward despite the fear. Break the gripping control that your fear has over you, and you’ll start to feel more free and also more creative as a result!

Being Scared—So of course fear can manifest itself as being scared: scared of rejection, ridicule, failure, etc. Really, I’m sure I could go on for days, but I know you already get my drift. As with the other things, don’t allow the fact that you’re scared of anything dissuade you from getting creative. Creativity is not a contest. There’s no pass or fail. There’s no win or lose. Really, the only time you lose out is when you allow fear to stop you from doing what you want to do. Take that fear and redirect it into creative action. Look the fear straight in the eye and do something anyway. Facing fear is the only way to get over being scared of something as harmless as trying something new or different. Fear can be healthy when it keeps you safe from actual harm, but when it merely serves to stop you from expanding yourself or pursuing something you desire, that’s when it’s time to TAKE ACTION! (I know you’re seeing the pattern here). Face your fear, conquer it, and you’ll live a better life as a result.

Self-doubt—Ah, our old friend self-doubt. Again, just another form of fear trying to get you to stay safe and not take any action. Fear acts as if our worst thoughts and beliefs will come true if we do anything different, bold, or daring: Oh no, you might die so don’t try that!  This makes sense when you’re faced with real danger, but most of the time, it doesn’t serve you. Self-doubt comes in when you start to believe or listen to the things that fear is telling you. It’s not that you shouldn’t have a healthy respect for your fear (you should), but you cannot allow fear to control you or your decision making process. Don’t allow fear to influence how you feel about yourself or what you want. You don’t have to be a Picasso or a Mozart. Few of us are. Believe in yourself, trust in your ability to know what you want and what’s best for you, and you’ll find what you’re looking for. Cast aside the doubt and do your art regardless. You are enough. Start to own that, and you’ll see how many beautiful things come as a result.

In closing, suffice it to say that action is the great killer of fear. At its core, the fear just wants you to be safe, but you have to realize when that approach doesn’t serve you. Most of the time, it does not, especially where your creative endeavors are concerned. Sure, you may be going out on a limb and taking a leap of faith, but that’s what following your desires and wants typically looks like. Face your fears. Laugh in the face of perfectionism. Take back control. Cast aside self-doubt. Taking action, regardless of not being 100% confident or sure of yourself and your creative abilities, is the best way to overcome fear and start living a creative life that serves you and fulfills you.