How To Handle the Creative Art of Fear
Launching a new business, or a new venture can keep us up all night in fear. So can writing a book. Or shifting creative media as a professional. When it comes to heading into the unknown, fear of what’s ahead can override all joyful anticipation.
There are always going to be certain points in your life to experience fears and doubts – in fact, it’s completely natural that at some point or another, everyone is going to face moments of professional self-doubt or uncertainty.
In some ways, this can be a positive experience. We know that not all stressors are bad stressors and, with the right handling, can be used to motivate and inspire. Yet when fear and doubt are given the freedom to override any other way of thinking, we stop being able to think clearly and find it impossible to progress on our projects.
So what do you do if you find yourself in a place of paralysis, where fear and the doubt have stopped your business creativity or development flow?
When it comes to being faced with the unknown or unfamiliar, your mammalian brain constricts and homes in on threats. Your vision narrows. Your heartbeat amps up. Your reptile mind obsesses on all of the “But what if’s”, and the potential challenges to your security and safety.
At first glance, the questions provoked by this self-doubt can seem legitimate. The “But What Ifs” can frequently masquerade as pragmatism or realism. They might also be stopping your creative inspiration before you’ve even had a chance to get started.
How can you tell the difference between reasonable concerns and something that could kill your next great idea? Facing these fears head-on with intelligence and consideration, rather than bluster,.you can master the doubts and fears without them stopping you in your tracks.
But What If I’m Wrong?
The Internet is awash with people who want to tell you that you don’t need the expertise to do what you want to do. “Writing a book doesn’t mean you have to know how to write!” “Having your own business doesn’t mean you have to know how to run a business!”
While these ideas might seem motivating, all they’re doing is offering up something that people want to hear: that you don’t have to work hard or learn how to do something new well.
This is how delusions can trump intellectual thinking. The act of directly facing this concern is a vital step to assessing the merits of a new idea. When you tell yourself that you’re just being “realistic”, you’re automatically trying to stop delusion from taking over, and caution here can be a good thing.
Reframing your fears by breaking down your concerns into specific, concrete details can show you the real scope of the project. This way, rather than trying to fight the nebulous fog of fear, you can create your own roadmap of what you need to master to get to the next step.
These “mastery goals” are skills which need constant refinement, and far from being a simple semantic twist, framing them this way opens your mind to learning new skills. You want right know-how – which if approached with openness feeds the wonder of our ever-learning minds.
That you’re as far in your career as you are has been an ongoing series of opportunities for you to learn throughout your interactions with other. Psychologist Seth Kaplan calls this “Convergent thinking” = creative thinking in line with a group.
In other words, don’t damn what you’ve learned, what you’ve accomplished, and who you’ve become. Instead, use all of it. You get to draw from all of that as you advance your core project and shape your own brand.
But What If I Look Silly?
Say you put your new idea or core project out into the world. You’ve put together your copy, and created a brand story so that people know its value. It’s unique to you, and is different to what you’ve seen around you. Of course, now your idea is “out there” people could pan your idea or business. Your Kickstarter might fail. What if no one calls? What if your website sits there like a storefront, pretty but empty?
Everyone will know. And it will feel personal. Fear is telling you that it’s a better idea to hide.
Hiding is a powerful defense mechanism, isn’t it? And it’s pretty deeply wired. Here’s the thing: When you play it safe in business, you hide. Hiding your quirky personality or unique take on things can actually put you at a disadvantage.
Here’s the greater risk: You can hide what could be your most potent ideas – your message’s medicine that could actually salve your community of customers, readers, clients, and fans.
Instead of trying to do what everybody else is doing, research how two other influential idea-entrepreneurs in your field are building ideas, creating, and engaging their communities. Then enlist 1-2 other business artist peers who know your field and who would run with you on offering knowledgeable input.
Don’t hide and hoard your medicine. Dare to stand out with your ideas, and be open to the ideas and differences that other people are making and receptive to their feedback. You’ll be surprised by how generous people are and how much they want your success as much as you.
But What If I Fail?
What if you do fail? Business artists learn like scientists. They sketch, try out educated hypotheses, gather data, and test again. They take joy in the creation of new things, and offering new services, in order to create something that is uniquely theirs. As you apprentice yourself and apply your imagination to your business projects, what you may have seen as “risk-taking” becomes a vital experimenting.
You test stuff out. Some of it works. Much of it doesn’t. You cry. You laugh.
Reframe your “failures” as learning curves, providing you with more information and insight on your business model. Blogs, ebooks, published articles – these are tests. A beta program, a beta workshop, a beta website – tests. Marketing calls – pre-tests.
Some experiments are going to fall short of the projected goals and expectations, for any number of reasons – some you may be able to foresee, others might come as a surprise. “Failure” is a question of gathering data, and it allows you to grow amazingly confident in what you’re creating. Why? Because through the tears, you didn’t perish. Instead, you’ve actually honed your own creative process and method to create something more robust and reliable.
Failure, it turns out, can lead to more goodness than you realize. One astonishing thing about this one life: You get to contribute your ideas to this world. You get to shape, share, and create something which has purpose and meaning and is authentic to the person you are.
This is consistent with who you are – you live your story through your business, brand, and signature frameworks. Yes, you. You don’t just have permission. People are waiting for you to stand up, stand out, and own your influence.
What might you do if you stopped letting fear stop you, and instead started to use it as an inspiration for your next great step?
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