We have many different names for the fear that comes along with creative pursuits. Sometimes we call it “Imposter Syndrome.” Sometimes we call it “Resistance” (because, I think, sometimes we hit writer’s block because we’re listening to fear). Sometimes we call it “The Inner Critic.” But no matter what we call it, the effect it has is the same: it’s Snow White’s poisoned apple, that creates a paralyzing slowness that congeals until it looks like death.
Fear and I have a long-standing relationship, and I know its voice all too well. “Don’t do that,” Fear says, always. “It might turn out badly.” The thing is, though, that Fear is actually a terrible predictor of the future. Its crystal ball is totally occluded. But its insufficiencies don’t stop it from trying to get in the way anyhow.
I have been fighting a Jacob-wrestling-the-angel level battle with Fear for as long as I can remember. But this past year, it started showing up with a vengeance in my creative life. Perhaps it’s because I decided to take a chance on something new — two projects that pushed me so far outside the bounds of what I thought I was capable of executing that, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I experienced a total creative paralysis.
Enter Elizabeth Gilbert’s beautiful book, : Creativity Beyond Fear . If you are at all interested in pursuing a creative life, I feel this book should be on the required reading list (and, as a bonus, get the audiobook version. She has an incredible reading voice!) In this article, I’ll share some of Liz Gilbert’s incredible insights and how they’re helping me reframe everything I thought I understood about creativity and fear.
1. “Fear is Boring.”
Before my fellow horror writers come after me, let me explain what she means. In the first part of the book, Gilbert reflects on her own childhood experiences with fear and anxiety — a section that resonated very close to home for me. Gilbert spent much of her childhood paralyzed by fear, as did I. But at a certain point, she realized that Fear has only one word in its vocabulary, and that it says it universally, whether you are a human or a tadpole: “Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop.” Fear might be necessary to our survival on a basic level, but, as Gilbert says, it’s generally predictable and utterly…