Putting ourselves out there, particularly with our creative work is scary for all of us. Perhaps it’s because when we are being creative – and I’m using the word very loosely to include any form of self-expression – we are completely vulnerable and leave ourselves open a world of criticism.
But should we let that stop us? It’s something I feel passionately about: how fear and creativity interrelate, how we move past the former to get to the latter and why it truly matters.
There are plenty of good reasons to be fearful. There are hundreds of reasons not to “do the thing”, whatever that thing is. But since there is only one you, it’s not only a disservice to others who don’t get to experience a piece of who you are through whatever it is you’re drawn to do, but more importantly, it’s a disservice to your real self, who once again takes a back seat to fear and stays quietly in the corner.
The unfortunate thing is, when you do put yourself out there, no-one can say it will always work out well. Often, the very things we fear do in fact become a reality.
Susan Jeffers, author of the best-selling classic Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, wrote: “It took many, many rejections before my first book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, was finally accepted by a publisher. The worst rejection I ever got was that ‘Lady Di could be bicycling nude down the street giving this book away and nobody would read it.’”
People can be thoughtless jerks, can’t they? She persisted, and the book, first published in 1987, sold 15 million copies in 100 countries.
Of course, most of the time the payoff from pushing through fear isn’t quite that fantastic, at least not outwardly so. Mostly, we “do the thing” and enjoy it, and step into ourselves a little more with our fears going unfounded. Other times, we “do the thing” and our worst fears are realised, which we then discover weren’t that bad after all.
Pushing through her fear of public speaking, my favourite live Tedx Talk was by a woman who spoke about saying “yes” to life. While her voice shook with nerves, she shared her thoughts behind the amazing art she creates for a living– how she started out, and why it’s so important to her. It was a simple story (which is often better) and it was her own. No-one else could have told it. I’m so glad she didn’t let the nerves stop her because when people speak from their truth, you walk away with a piece of them etched on your soul.
I’ve had my own fears realised heaps of times, but quite notably a couple of months ago at a speaking event. Towards the end, just before it was my turn to speak (as previously arranged), the organiser’s buddy decided he had something to say. He whispered in the organiser’s ear that he wanted to speak, and I was bumped off the list! I was sitting there thinking, “Is this for real?”
And it was! After his friend spoke, the organiser then declared the event over, since he needed to be somewhere, and started packing the equipment away. Shocked by the rudeness of it all, I said, “That’s OK, I don’t need a microphone”. I got up and spoke anyway, to an audience who had half already left. The other half, who was just about to walk out the door, kindly came back and listened.
I could have chosen to see it as proof that I don’t matter, or that I shouldn’t push myself out of my comfort zone again, but I chose to see it as something else and get on with it. For me, it just coaxes my true self out further, who says: “Nup, not having that.” I continue to do the things I want to do, while realising the importance of associating with more professionally-minded people!
When it comes to fear, pushing past it takes dedication and practice. The only people who claim to be completely fearless and never insecure are liars or psychopaths. You may even know a few.
No-one is exactly like you. The beauty in creativity and “doing the thing” is not only the piece of yourself you are sharing with the world, which is a really big deal, but also the fact that you are stepping into more of who you really are, away from the corner while fear loosens its grip a little.