Fear in the front or in the back?

By Lisa Chandler, 13 September, 2022
The cover of the book Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert

I was recently wandering through the stacks at our new downtown library trying to convince my daughter to check out some books when Big Magic (by Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame) practically leapt off the shelf into my hands.

I’d read it many years ago in Montréal; yet there it was, seemingly insisting I read it again.

Who was I to say no?

I love the idea of creative living without fear. As the book’s subtitle, it sounds like a promise.

Why would I not want that?

The re-read validated again that big fear comes up for me when I consider doing bold things, or really anything different at all. Gilbert offers myriad reasons one might be scared to live a more creative life; while I could find common cause with them all, I’ve bolded the ones that feel like bigger fears for me.

I’m afraid I have no talent.

I’m afraid I’ll be rejected or criticized or ridiculed or misunderstood or—worst of all—ignored.

I’m afraid there’s no market for my creativity, and therefore no point in pursuing it.

I’m afraid someone else already did it better.

I’m afraid everybody else already did it better.

I’m afraid somebody will steal my ideas, so it’s safer to keep them hidden forever in the dark.

I’m afraid I won’t be taken seriously.

I’m afraid my work isn’t politically, emotionally, or artistically important enough to change anyone’s life.

I’m afraid my dreams are embarrassing.

I’m afraid that someday I’ll look back at my creative endeavours as having been a giant waste of time, effort, and money.

I’m afraid I don’t have the right kind of discipline.

I’m afraid I don’t have the right kind of workspace, or financial freedom, or empty hours in which to focus on invention or exploration.

I’m afraid I don’t have the right kind of training or degree.

I’m afraid I’m too fat. (I don’t know what this has to do with creativity, exactly, but experience has taught me that most of us are afraid we’re too fat, so let’s just put that on the anxiety list, for good measure.)

I’m afraid of being exposed as a hack, or a fool, or a dilettante, or a narcissist.

I’m afraid of upsetting my family with what I may reveal.

I’m afraid of what my peers and coworkers will say if I express my personal truth out loud.

I’m afraid of unleashing my innermost demons, and I really don’t want to encounter your innermost demons.

I’m afraid my best work is behind me.

I’m afraid I never had any best work to begin with.

I’m afraid I neglected my creativity for so long that now I can never get it back.

I’m afraid I’m too old to start.

I’m afraid I’m too young to start.

I’m afraid because something went well in my life once, so obviously nothing will ever go well again.

I’m afraid because nothing has ever gone well in my life, so why bother trying?

I’m afraid of being a one-hit wonder.

I’m afraid of being a no-hit wonder.

What do you fear most? What else would you add to the list?

Most of us fear failing and finding ourselves alone and unloved. Some of us equally fear succeeding (and finding ourselves alone and unloved!).

To be human is to be fearful. Not all the time. Not about everything. But about some things. Rational or not.

Gilbert writes:

You are on this road trip of life. You are the driver, and fear is that loud baby in the back seat. It's going to bother you and it might get in your head. Butyou have to accept that your fear will be there with you during this ride. And even though you accept that the baby is going to be with you in this journey, you obviously do not let the baby drive.

I want to be bold. To create. To push limits—others’ and my own—and so the only choice I really have is where fear will sit.

Of late, it’s been driving a lot.

I’d like to get back in the driver’s seat with creativity as my co-pilot. Fear will be joining us of course but I’d like it to stay in the backseat. I’ll likely need to give it an iPad and many good snacks!