Fear and uncertainty – art imitates life

Fear traps creativity. Fear of judgement. Fear of failure. Fear of indifference. Fear of vulnerability.

Those who challenge their fears continue; those who don’t quit.

Art & Fear, David Bayles & Ted Orland

Ten years ago, I stopped challenging my fears. I quit. I stopped making art. Ever since, when the fears have subsided, the creative urge has surfaced. Again and again. It will not lie. Yet each time, it’s been suppressed by fear.

Fear that I will create meaningless art. Fear that if I create meaningful art, I will expose my soul to judgement.

Fear that I will be judged as mediocre, judged to be no artist. Fear of not being judged at all.

Fear that I do not have what it takes to get out what is inside. Fear that there is nothing inside that is worth getting out.

Fear that I’m wasting my time by making art. Fear that I’m wasting my time by not making art.

Tolerance for uncertainty is the pre-requisite to succeeding

Art & Fear, David Bayles & Ted Orland

The fears are driven by uncertainty. Will I be able to do it? Will it be any good? What will people think? Is it worthwhile?

I cannot tolerate the uncertainty. It’s easier to give up while uncertain than to face a certainty I might not like. It’s easier to never ask the questions than to get uncomfortable answers.

This discomfort in the creative process mirrors much of the discomfort I experience in life. Intolerance of uncertainty. Turning away from asking the difficult questions. The fear of falling short for myself and others. These are the roots from which anxiety grows.

In art, you can turn away. You can avoid the questions, get out, and all the anxiety is gone. In life, you have to somehow tolerate that uncertainty. The questions are asked of you whether you like it or not.

I’ve always thought art was about the final product – paintings that people want on their wall, photographs that are selected for exhibition. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s about overcoming your fears and finding out how to tolerate the uncertainty. Maybe it’s about discovering yourself and how you fit in the world.

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