Recently a neighbor asked me to get drinks with her.
She said she wanted to catch up and talk about writing. I agreed to meet because it was an offer I simply couldn’t refuse. Writing and wine? You could ask me to meet you in Nebraska mid-February for writing and wine and I would book the first flight out.
Upon ordering a second glass of wine we started talking about things like insecurity and fear. You know, the type of topics that only a second glass of wine between strangers could possibly warrant. She was saying things like, “As a writer aren’t you scared? What do you do with all the fear?”
I paused waiting for a writer to answer. I found myself very excited to hear the writer’s response. In my head I was thinking, “Yes, what does a writer do when she’s scared? Or insecure? I would love to know.”
And then I realized she was staring at me.
I was the writer.
At the risk of not wanting her to think I was intoxicated or socially inept I blurted out the following things.
For brevity’s sake I’m only going to list what I’m affectionately calling:
5 Things That Scare The Creative Sh*t Out Of Me
1. Being Single
I’m afraid that I’ll expose too much of myself and no one will find me desirable enough to befriend, let alone marry. The more I create the more I discover about myself and I’m not exactly sure of what I will find. What decent non-sex offender would ever sign up for the terrible burden of this discovery process with me? I’m afraid my honesty will be off-putting and deem me unfit for marriage. I feel as though I should be small, quiet, and manageable. But as I write I’m liable to find the most wild and unruly parts of myself smattered on the paper for him to read. Surely, in disgust, he would walk away and leave me alone in a puddle of my own worst fears.
2. Being Adored
The worst thing that could ever happen during the creative process is that you would actually like me. I’m afraid that you might actually start to think I’m a decent person capable of doing the right thing. I fear being successful because I’m terrified I’ll never live up to it again. I know myself and the performance anxiety would cause me to completely collapse under my own self-imposed pressure. Sometimes I’m so scared that you’ll like the creative version of me more than the rest of me which leads me to my next fear.
3. Being Abhorred
WHAT IF YOU HATE ME AND I SAY THE WRONG THING AND YOU NEVER WANT TO SPEAK TO ME AGAIN LET ALONE TRUST ME? I COULD THINK SOMETHING IS TRUE NOW AND LEARN IT IS FALSE LATER AND YOU’LL THINK I’M A LIAR.
WHAT IF YOU MEET ME IN PERSON AND REALIZE I SUCK?
WHAT IF I’M A FRAUD AND COMPLETELY EMBARRASS MYSELF?
4. Being Ignored
This is an even worse fate than the previous two. To be seen or heard and yet still rejected is, essentially, hell. Being ignored would be devastating because it would mean that all the lies are true. It would mean that I’m not worth feeling anything about and apathy is debilitating. Nothing can crush a soul like cynicism and apathy, both of which continually creep into our culture because we’ve seen it all and heard it all. I have nothing left to offer you, nothing original to say, so why should anyone pay me the slightest attention?
5. Not Being Pretty Enough
This sounds dumb. I get that. But I feel like in order to be creative I need to look a certain way. I need to only drink black coffee and eat grapefruits and be a size 0. I don’t own thick-rimmed glasses or wear those really cool black felt hats even though I wish I did. On a really good day I’ll wear lipstick but for the most part it’s a small victory that I even remember to pluck my eyebrows. Something deep inside of me is afraid that I’m not pretty enough to warrant creativity. It's as though I don’t get to make things until I achieve a physical measure of success.
It doesn't matter if you're a writer or a musician or a mom or an entrepreneur. We're all terrified.
Because all of those fears could apply to our relationships. Or our creativity. Or our jobs. Or our faith. And yet some of us are dumb enough to keep showing up. We keep trying. We keep opening our computers. We keep investing in people. We come back time and time again even though the fear wants to drag us back and keep us apart.
We keep showing up because it makes us better.
Something remarkable happens within us when we show up to create. Sure, the fear is there too, but you know what happens if you twist fear around a little bit? Chemically, it's made up of the same things as excitement. Yes, the only difference between fear and excitement are just a few twisted words, a few little lies.
So when we show up we learn how to untangle the lies and get to the truth, namely, the truth about ourselves. Investing, choosing, and creating all help us become who we were always meant to be.
It helps us dismantle the fear and find the excitement within us. I believe it looks a little bit like falling in love.
I'm a better person because I write.
The same way you'll be a better person if you dance. Or if you open that business. Or start a family. Or try a new recipe.
And those won't make us better people because we set out to make the world a better place. No, those endeavors make us better people because they facilitate the very best within us. They speak to those places that got buried deep within us when we started listening more to the fear and less to the excitement of it all.
Please, for the love of everything, start being a little more selfish and stop trying to make the world a better place. I'm a millennial and I love thinking about making the world a better place but it's complete and total BS.
I mean selfish in the sense that you owe it to yourself to discover who you are when you start to dismantle that fear and get back to the excitement. You deserve to know who you are underneath the lies that tell you you aren't smart enough, pretty enough, original enough, or lovable enough to go create something.
Because you are. If the only reason you ever create is for you then you've accomplished more in that one moment than most people do in a lifetime. Which instantly dispels the fear. Which instantly reveals the excitement. Which instantly uncovers the you that was hiding beneath the surface all along.