on-creativity-and-fear

 

I just listened to “The Source of Creativity” episode on NPR’s TED Radio Hour which covered ideas about where creativity comes from, why we all have it and how we find it.

It takes courage to be vulnerable and say “This is me and I made this.” Especially if you created something that you put a lot of yourself into.

I challenged myself this past year to do just that. Create something – from idea conception to final result and push it out into the world. No external obstacles, no managers or committees to answer to, no one instruct on what I should do and how I should do it. This is me and I made this.

I listened to many business and entrepreneurship podcasts from other people who created something – a product or a business, including Seth Godin’s Startup School, Mixergy, Startup and I learned a lot from all of the stories of trials and tribulations of people who put themselves out there like that. The main thing I learned is just f#$%^@g do it. Get out of your own head, remove the idea that you have to strive to a level of perfection that doesn’t exist and just do it. Stop talking about doing it and just try it.

Watch my favorite motivational 1 min video.

And of course there were all the negative thoughts that come along with being vulnerable like that. What should I create? What if it sucks? What if people call me a fraud? What if it just gets ignored completely? What if I’m wrong?

But as Ken Robinson says “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original.”

I decided to treat this project as an experiment; an experiment in creation. And if it flops, at least I would have learned through the process.

I started narrowing down my options. I didn’t want to create a physical product because I know nothing about that and it seemed to be a very expensive experiment to conduct. Instead, I opted to create a knowledge product, based on things I know – no need to recreate the wheel for my beta experiment. I decided on creating an online course about Marketing since I’ve been a marketing professional for almost a decade. But Marketing is a pretty broad term so I needed to narrow it down even further. I was seeing a lot of websites that looked pretty but really didn’t have any substance or optimized for getting customers. And I heard from talented designers and developers that were telling me that they knew how to design a site or develop the site, but they didn’t know much about the strategy side of creating a website. So, I thought I could help with that and I created an online course on website strategy called: “How to Create a Website That Doesn’t Suck.”

The challenge was to ship it – to put it out into the world before I talk myself out of it, even if it wasn’t perfect because as the maxim attributed to Sheryl Sandburg goes “Done is better than perfect.”

I didn’t want to give in to the fear, I wanted to learn and I wanted to try.

This is why I was really struck by Elizabeth Gilbert’s view on how creativity and fear are intertwined.

“I think what stops people from doing [creative work] is always exactly the same thing, which is fear. What I’ve discovered over the years is not that you have to be fearless because I don’t believe in fearlessness and I don’t advise it.

I think the only truly fearless people that I’ve ever met were full blown psychopaths or really reckless 3 year olds and I don’t think we want to aspire to be either of those things.

I think instead what you have to do is recognize that fear and creativity are conjoined twins. And what I see people doing in their lives is they’re so afraid of their fear, that they end up trying to kill it and when they kill it they also kill their creativity because creativity is going into the uncertain and the uncertain is always scary.

So what I’ve had to figure out how to do over the years is to create a mental construct in which I make a lot of space to coexist with fear.

To just say to it: “Hey fear listen, creativity and I, your conjoined twin sister, are about to go on a road trip. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do, but you don’t get to decide anything about this journey that we’re going on. But you can come and I know that you’ll be in the back seat in panic, but mommy’s driving and we’re going anyway. And you just take it along with you and that seems to work for me.

The rest of the time for me it’s just been about showing up every day for the work. And I find that what actually happens is that you begin the work just from a place of diligence and discipline and then if you’re lucky through that process you’ll have moments where inspiration will come in and meet you.”

Gilbert’s approach to fear and creativity really struck a chord with me. Don’t try to be fearless, instead, accept the fear as an integral part of the creative process and don’t give into it.
And the results of my experiment? I’m putting the final touches on my course to be released before the end of the year, as I promised myself.


I was also honored to present my talk at WordCamp this year, a global conference for WordPress designers, developers and users and I received great feedback from the attendees. It was a great opportunity to test-run my course and learn from all the wonderful creative people who attended. I am very happy to be part of the WordCamp community.

What is fear stopping you from creating?

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