Saturday, June 13, 2009









Fear and Art: How to be fearful and creative.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes, fear swoops into my mind, my studio, my life and knocks me off my feet. I don’t like it. Not one bit.

What do I do? I get out my boxing gloves and try to beat it into submission. The only problem with that is, I wind up beating myself up and I’m tired of the bruises. Or I run, as fast as I can, trying to get away. I get busy, busy, busy with email, chores around the house, running errands. The problem with that is, the fear follows me anyway.


What I’ve come to find out is that fear and creativity seem to go hand in hand. I’m not the only one who feels the terror of the creative life and what’s even weirder is that it doesn’t seem to matter if you’ve just had a success or a failure with your art. The fear is there anyway. Add this ridiculous economic roller coaster ride we’ve all been on lately and no wonder many of us feel the need to put our heads between our knees.

Ok, so what can I do about it? I know I don’t want to feel this way anymore…maybe I can’t eliminate fear entirely, but surely, there’s a better way. So I went in search of answers although there are many out there, I wanted to ask the people in the trenches, artists and writers how they deal with the fear. This is what I found out.

My friend, Patrick, says when the terror gets him, he goes out into his garden and sits for a while. When his heart rate slows down, he goes back into the studio and works. My writer friend, Susan, uses acceptance to pull her through the fear and back onto the page. Laurel takes a walk in the park. Janice goes out and works in her garden. Michael feels the fear and moves on.

I moved on, too. This week, when my life felt like a ride on Space Mountain, I went into the studio anyway. I got out the clay and pushed it around for awhile. Then I cut out a piece of screening and pushed it around, too. I layered yellow, ochre, white and black on my owl and lion masks. Today, I cut and rolled aluminum into lilies and leaves. Even though there was music playing, it was quiet and peaceful. The 'fear' roller coaster ride stopped. Finally.

I didn’t have to fight or flee. I just had to show up, get out my clay, metal and paint. How simple is that? The way out of my fear is to create.

How do you deal with your fear? Leave a comment, so we can all help each other.

I saw this on youtube. Author, Elizabeth Gilbert, talks about anxiety and “A different way to think about creative genius.” It helped me. Give it a listen and let me know if it helps you.




6 comments:

susanjtweit said...

Getting out your art tools and creating your way out of fear is a powerful way to deal with it! Good for you. Have you read the book "Fear and Art"? I don't remember the author, but Richard read it and found it really interesting.

I write through whatever comes. Writing is my way to sort through what the universe delivers and to "hear" my inner voice. Words are soothing, words are powerful, words are healing, words are therapeutic. Sometimes they're even beautiful!

Susan GT said...

Susan,
I love that you 'write through' whatever comes. Does that mean that you just let it all out onto the page, all the fears and thoughts that pop up?

Your words are powerful and healing, I loved your book, Walking Nature Home. It was also a beautiful book to read.

Patrick Gracewood said...

Susan, I've read it years ago, but obviously it's time to reread ART and Fear: Obversations on the Perils and Rewards of Art Making.

I think fear is an innate part of the artmaking process. No matter how many carvings I make, the initial phase brings up so much. "Why am I attacking this log?" There's so much physical resistance in carving or so much nothing with a blank page or canvas.

And that creative fear is very different from the marketing fear of Gotta sell this. Teasing apart the threads is important because they require different stratagies.

When I'm down, I'll put on Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George" as theme music. "Look I made a hat, where there never was a hat!"

Susan GT said...

Patrick,
Right you are...fear and the creative process do go hand in hand. Especially, as we use our hand to make that first mark, first cut, first bend. Music helps me, too. There's nothing like an uplifting piece of jazz, rock or a lyric to help me move my hands deeper into my art and away from fear.

Yes. Again, keeping the lines between making and marketing apart is so, so important. Creation has to come first. Always.

Susan

eden Maxwell said...

Fear of what? Do fear and creation belong in the same sentence, the same thought? It's one thing to feel the edge of the unknown, not taking the gift for granted; it's another thing to succumb to over-thinking, mindless ego, and believing one's own BS.

In their book, Art & Fear, David Bayles and Ted Orland write: “The difference between acceptance and approval is subtle, but distinct. Acceptance means having your work counted as the real thing; approval means having people like it.” In one case, an artist might do well with public approval, but critical acclaim eludes him; or the reverse might be the case. However, critical acceptance is no guarantee of success with the public either. Let’s fine-tune this point a bit more: As I have confronted the core questions in this (An Artist Empowered) book, I know the quality and value of my work without having to consult an outside authority. Of course, I am interested in the perceptions of those whom I respect, and even then I defer to the clarity of my intuition. As far as other commentary about my work is concerned, whether yea or nay, I catalog it as being strictly arbitrary.

Susan GT said...

Eden,
Sounds like you have a strong sense of your art and yourself and have dealt with the fear in a positive way. Good for you.

The fear I'm referring to, isn't about my creation or my work but a reaction to the uncertainy in my life right now.