Fear and the Path to Great Art

The most powerful weapon that will keep us from achieving all God has intended for us is FEAR. Fear cripples our creative community.

Fear is a monster who’s shadow is far bigger than her actual size. Fear speaks through the small voices that sound like thunder and prey on our past all the while making us question our future. Fear is the enemy that feeds its friends insecurity and failure. Fear makes us question ourselves and doubt our ability, an ability that God gifted us with, to change the world. When fear is at its best she tries to make us believe that only rare women and men of sheer genius can be creative and that the talents we have just are not enough.  Fear says we are not good enough. Often we believe this lie and quit before we have given our art the chance to take shape. Rather than facing fear and doing our work we cower from what might be our best moment ever…a moment of courage, passion, and hustle.  This concept is summed up amazingly well by David Bayles and Ted Orland in their book Art & Fear:

“In the ideal — that is to say, real — artist, fears not only continue to exist, they exist side by side with the desires that complement them, perhaps drive them, certainly feed them. Naive passion, which promotes work done in ignorance of obstacles, becomes — with courage — informed passion, which promotes work done in full acceptance of those obstacles.”

So how do we get to the place where we can outwit fear and overcome the strangle hold that keeps us slaved to her power?

1. Create a Routine. While this may feel anti-creative, a routine helps us beat fear. We should not always follow routine but when we feel the breath of fear on our neck we should know what works to create distance from these feelings. A refined routine creates that space. Inside of our routine we must include space to prepare, the ability to repeat tasks we know work, and bring amazing energy and effort that will outlast the fear. Rarely are amazing ideas created in a moment. Truly great ideas have been cultivated, developed, and cut from the clothe of hard work, sweat, time, tears, and healthy repetition. Becoming a genius takes years of hard work and devotion to ones craft. Fear wants to prevent us from doing the work and refining the routine. Twyla Tharp talks about this process in her book The Creative Habit: 

There’s nothing wrong with fear; the only mistake is to let it stop you in your tracks.

Athletes know the power of triggering a ritual. A pro golfer may walk along the fairway chatting with his caddie, his playing partner, a friendly official or scorekeeper, but when he stands behind the ball and takes a deep breath, he has signaled to himself it’s time to concentrate. A basketball player comes to the free-throw line, touches his socks, his shorts, receives the ball, bounces it exactly three times, and then he is ready to rise and shoot, exactly as he’s done a hundred times a day in practice. By making the start of the sequence automatic, they replace doubt and fear with comfort and routine.”

2. Have Courage. – Fear is like a bully. When we stand up to fear and flex our creative muscle fear runs and hides knowing its intimidation can’t keep us from succeeding. Fear wants us to believe failure is inevitable so fear fights us from starting. We can’t complete a great task if we never get started.  Courage forces us to start. When fear screams at us that we can’t…courage whispers we will. Courage is the ability to say yes when we feel like saying no. Courage is getting up the day after we fail and staring again. Courage is accepting we are on a marathon journey to greatness not a sprint to half hearted popularity. Courage looks at a blank canvas with hope while fear tries to intimidate us with the same canvas. Courage is what is going to carry us to our greatest work ever…as long as we are courageous enough to face our fear.

3. Turn Fear Around. We have the ability to channel fear into motivation. When we feel fear attempting to talk us out of our next artistic endeavor we might need to pause and take inventory on if fear is trying to actually keep us from doing what is going to propel us to our next great season. A great example is this excerpt from The War of Art

“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

So the next time fear approaches and starts to lie to you remember you are in control. Fear on its own does not have control of our lives. Sadly almost daily we turn control of our lives to fear out of intimidation. Remember these verses:

  •  Psalm 27:1 – The LORD is my light and my salvation- whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life- of whom shall I be afraid?
  •  Psalm 118:6 – The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
  • 2 Timothy 1:7 – For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
  • Psalm 115:11 – You who fear him, trust in the LORD- he is their help and shield.

What tools do you use to overcome fear? Has fear ever robbed you from a creative moment that you wish you could have back? 

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Stephen Brewster
Stephen Brewster is the Creative Arts Pastor at @crosspoint_tv in Nashville, TN.