12 Feb Is Fear Suffocating Your Creativity?
“I’m not a creative person”
If you identify as a creative, I’ll bet you five English pounds that you’ve heard many people say “I’m not very creative”. They’re so afraid that they have talked themselves into the ‘not-creative’ box. I’m not surprised that billions of people feel that way. The game is rigged from the start.
Here in the UK we fear creativity itself. Creativity is strongly discouraged in our schools. We spend the formative years of our childhood being trained out of it. Institutions *say* that they passionately encourage creativity but the actual evidence is to the contrary. Creativity is a wonderful buzzword but most people don’t really know what it actually means. Schools and universities will pay the lip service, tick the box and move on.
School is broken!
School was designed 200 years ago, in the Industrial Revolution, to produce factory workers (crucial at the time). The formula hasn’t really changed since then but the world has. School prepares us for a future that doesn’t exist anymore. As we move into the realm of automation and AI the system will quickly become even more out-dated. Sit in a line, be quiet, and do the tasks we pop in front of you. You will be given a mark out of ten, because we need to show RESULTS! If you get a low score, because you didn’t remember the facts we asked you to regurgitate, then you are a failure. We don’t like failures.
The fear of failure leaves absolutely no room for creativity. We grow up scared to experiment and we tell ourselves stories long into adulthood. In his book, ‘The War of Art’ Steven Pressfield writes “We fear discovering that we are more than we think we are. More than our parents/children/teachers think we are. We fear that we actually possess the talent that our still, small voice tells us.”
If at first you don’t succeed
Seth Godin defines creativity as “this might not work.”
It’s scary to think something might not work. I’ll tell you what’s fun though; throwing mud against the wall and seeing what sticks. We’re quick to label a project that didn’t go where we wanted as a failure but it’s important to remember what it really is; an experiment.
After Thomas Edison’steachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything” he invented the light bulb. It took him around 1000 attempts. “I didn’t fail 1000 times” he said, “The light bulb was an invention with 1000 steps”.
It’s terrifying to think we might be criticized, so terrifying that many think it’s safer not to try. School has conditioned us all to be a cog in the system, to stay in our lane. The messed up thing is that our brain agrees.
As Elizabeth Gilbert says; “Fear is boring, because fear only ever has one thing to say to us, and that thing is: “STOP!””. Our brain incentivises the old familiar pathways. We’ve got this far and we’re still alive so we’d better not do anything different. Creating something new is unfamiliar, which is ‘dangerous’.
The old brainbox is constantly scanning for danger. Unfortunately, we forgot to tell our caveman operating system that we’re pretty safe. There’s no more threat of being chased by a sabre-toothed tiger or run over by a woolly mammoth. One of the few things our grey matter can now see as a potential threat is; being judged.
We have developed a crippling fear of other people’s opinions, or, as Dr Michael Gervais calls it: FOPO. Giving a fuck about what other people think about you is a sticky trap. It’s suffocating your creative process and devouring your potential greatness.
It’s easy for me to sit here and say ‘you can do whatever you want to’, but I honestly do believe it, it’s just difficult. The reason you haven’t started your screenplay, practiced your guitar or got up at your local open-mic is almost certainly because of fear.
I still feel the fear and so does every other artist. It took a lot for me to start Creative Rebels; I was scared. Despite building three successful creative businesses, I was worried that no one would want to read my advice or opinions. I want to help creatives achieve more and I can’t do that if I’m too scared to hit ‘publish’.
You must stop worrying about failing and about what people might think. Your creative idea might work, it might not, and that’s scary, but if you don’t do something, nothing will change.