Long before I was publishing articles for the world to read, I wrote in a private document. I did this for more than a year. There were a variety of reasons and excuses that I used to rationalize why I wasn’t sharing my writing with others, but in many ways it boiled down to fear.
Here’s what I didn’t realize at the time: fear isn’t something that must be avoided. It is not an indicator that you’re doing things wrong. Fear is simply a cost that all artists have to pay on the way to doing meaningful work.
Obviously, not everything that is thought or written or created needs to be shared. In our age, where everyone has a voice and a platform, there is a lot of noise created.
However, if you have a story inside of you, I think you should share it. If you have an idea that you’d like to create, I think you should build it. If you have a dream that would make the world a slightly better place, then I think it’s your responsibility to deliver it to the rest of us. But it won’t be easy. All artists deal with fears, self-doubts, questions, and a roller coaster ride of emotions.
With that in mind, here are six passages from famous authors, actors, and artists on how to overcome fear and unleash your creativity.
“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.
Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates the strength of Resistance. Therefore, the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul.”
–Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
In the beginning, it is more important to start than it is to succeed. It is only through starting that we reveal the opportunity for growth.
What we need to do is say, “What’s the smallest, tiniest thing that I can master and what’s the scariest thing I can do in front of the smallest number of people that can teach me how to dance with the fear?” Once we get good at that, we just realize that it’s not fatal. And it’s not intellectually realize – we’ve lived something that wasn’t fatal. And that idea is what’s so key — because then you can do it a little bit more.”
–Seth Godin (full interview)
“When you are thinking about doing something and it feels scary, when it feels like this big lion is waiting at the finish line and he’s roaring and he’s ferocious and he’s going to tear you apart… you should just run toward that lion anyway. Run to the roar.”
–Tina Essmaker (full interview)
It’s not your job to tell yourself no. It’s not your job to reject yourself or grade yourself or debate the value or worthiness of your ideas. Your job is to create. Your job is to share. Your job is to overcome fear and run the race.
Yes, if you build something people might judge it or dislike it. But if you don’t create and share the things that you have inside of you, then you’ll commit the far worse crime of rejecting yourself. You can either be judged because you created something or ignored because you left your greatness inside of you.
“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There’s almost no such thing as ready. There’s only now. And you may as well do it now. I mean, I say that confidently as if I’m about to go bungee jumping or something — I’m not. I’m not a crazed risk taker. But I do think that, generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”
–Hugh Laurie (source)
It will never feel like the right time. Do not wait for someone to give you permission to begin. Nobody is going to tap you, nominate you, appoint you, or choose you and say, “Now, it’s time to start.”
Give yourself permission. Successful people start before they feel ready.
“To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities – I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not – that one endures.”
–Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power
Ultimately, the chance to persevere through self-doubt and fear and procrastination is one of the greatest opportunities we have for self-discovery. It is through creating that we find out who we really are and what we are truly made of.
Live in the arena rather than judging from the crowd. It’s more exciting down there. Whether you win or lose, the fight is the reward.
Can anything be sadder than work left unfinished?
Yes; work never begun.