Let me list for you some of the many ways in which you might be afraid to live a more creative life:
You’re afraid you have no talent.
You’re afraid you’ll be rejected or criticized or ridiculed or misunderstood or – worst of all – ignored.
You’re afraid there’s no market for your creativity and therefore no point in pursuing it.
You’re afraid somebody else already did it better.
You’re afraid everybody else already did it better.
You’re afraid somebody else will steal your ideas, so it’s safer to keep them hidden forever in the dark.
You’re afraid you won’t be taken seriously.
You’re afraid your work isn’t politically, emotionally, or artistically important enough to change anyone’s life.
You’re afraid your dreams are embarrassing.
You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of work space, or financial freedom, or empty hours in which to focus on invention or exploration.
You’re afraid of what your peers and coworkers will say if you express your personal truth aloud
– Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Many of us have a creative side that we fear exposing to the world, possibly because of one of the reasons Gilbert, the author of the bestseller Eat, Pray, Love, presents above. We fear failure and ridicule, and, therefore, decide that it’s not worth the risk. We choose to ignore our natural inclination to create in favor of our natural inclination to fear. This is perfectly normal and understandable; however, if we move past that fear, we might live happier and more creatively-fulfilled lives. Do you have the courage to incorporate creativity into your life?
Gilbert’s discussion of her fear is quite moving and relatable. It paralyzed her for many years, but when she realized that she could not get rid of it, especially when in regards to creative endeavors, she decided to not let fear control her. To that end, she wrote her fear the following letter:
“Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting – and may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still – your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even aloud to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”
Ok, so you must take fear along for the ride with creativity – and Gilbert writes in a way that is clear and convincing. In the later portion of her book, though, she doesn’t give concrete examples of how to cultivate creativity. For that, I turn to neuroscientists John Kounios and Mark Beeman and their book The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain. They explain that there is a science behind creativity and thus a way to incorporate more of it into our lives: