“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”-Frank Herbert, Dune
This wonderful quote from the novel Dune has become so famous because it is a useful tool against fear. Fear stops us from doing stupid things, like jumping off a cliff, but it also stops us from wonderful things, like creating art and sharing our feelings.
When I was an undergraduate student, thinking great thoughts at Bethany College, we read Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bales and Ted Orland. At the time, I was very put off by the title because I felt like art was a joyful undertaking. I still feel that way, but I am not sure a book entitled Art & Joy would address so many of the obstacles an artist might face. Perhaps this is a book I need to write after I finish Cats in Bikinis, but I digress.
I must also mention that I was in denial of my fear, and it had not been allowed to age and grow with me for very long. I had grown up in an art-loving family in Taos, NM. I was not aware of the amount of fear that surrounded my small protective bubble. People who do not make art sometimes have difficulty understanding it, or accepting creativity in themselves and others. Even people who make art don’t always understand what they create. The creative act can have elements of mystery and the unknown, that is what makes it so intriguing. However, people are intrinsically afraid of what they don’t understand. It is probably a trait that helped us survive as cave persons. It is still useful for keeping us safe, but sometimes fear gets out of hand.
Let us move away from fear. I am a strong believer in the idea that we create our world. If we focus on our fears, they will multiply and rule over us. Conversely, if we focus on what brings us joy, it will multiply and surround us. I take issue that the word “rewards” is in parenthesis in the title of Art & Fear. Let us take a moment to focus on the rewards of making art, to help bring it out of the parenthesis. If you create something:
- It will help your brain grow.
- You will feel a sense of accomplishment. (Even if you create something you dislike, you will have learned something about the materials you are working with.)
- You will be able to express something beyond words. (Even if you are a writer, the combination of the words you choose has the potential to combine and surpass their definitions.)
- You will form a connection with another human when they see/read/hear/taste/smell/touch your creation. This connection will be beyond words.
Have you read Art & Fear?
What part does fear play in your creative process?
Are there uses for fear in the creative process?
If you are a creative person, have you been confronted with fear of creativity from others? How did you handle this fear?
If you consider yourself a non-creative person, what experiences brought you to this conclusion? (I think everyone is creative, but maybe that is obvious.)