“I still have pretty much the same fears I had as a kid. I’m not sure I’d want to give them up; a lot of these insecurities fuel the movies I make.” Steven Spielberg
There can be many flavors of anxiety related to creating – thinking about a project, worrying whether a description of a character in your novel has the right tone, self-doubts about your acting scene that felt wrong – and on and on.
And being successful and accomplished does not magically relieve anyone of fear and anxiety.
Psychologist Robert Maurer, PhD, has worked with many writers and other creative people, and thinks fear may be indispensable for creative expression.
“Fear is good,” he said in an interview. “As children, fear is a natural part of our lives, but as adults we view fear as a disease. It’s not a disease. Children say they are afraid or scared, but adults use the clinical terms anxiety or depression. A writer should not view fear as something bad, but as essentially doing something right.”
He thinks accepting and working with fear is part of the creative process.
“If you find the right relationship, does fear go away? No. You publish your first novel, does that make fear go away? No,” he says.
What are the sources of creative anxiety?
In a publisher interview about his new book Mastering Creative Anxiety, creativity coach and psychologist Eric Maisel, PhD explains, “First of all, so much is on the line. For someone who’s self-identified as a writer, painter, composer, scientist, inventor, and so on, his identity and ego are wrapped up in how well he creates—and when what we do matters that much, we naturally get anxious.”
He points out “It’s one thing to sing in the shower and another thing to agree to sing at your daughter’s wedding: so much more feels on the line!
“Second, the process demands that we don’t know until we know: it is a voyage into the darkness of an unknown place where our plot or image or melody resides.
“People want to know right now, even before they begin: they want a kind of guarantee that they will succeed based on already knowing the outcome.”
But, he adds, this kind of emotional safety and guarantee “just isn’t available—which produces anxiety.
There are many other reasons and examples in the book, and provides a number of “little-known anxiety-management techniques that can help enormously” in dealing with creative anxiety.
Also see my related post: Creative Anxiety – Are You Procrastinating?
Steven Spielberg quote paraphrased from CNN tv biography, 12.28.02.
Robert Maurer quotes from article Writers can use fear to advantage.
Book: Mastering Creative Anxiety: 24 Lessons for Writers, Painters, Musicians, and Actors from America’s Foremost Creativity Coach, by Eric Maisel, PhD. New World Library, 2011.
Dr. Maisel is also author of an earlier book that includes a practice of deep breathing with “incantations” (phrases to focus thinking), designed to facilitate greater awareness, resolve and other benefits including stress management.
Also read my interview with him: Ten Zen Seconds for Purpose, Power and Calm.
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Last reviewed: 28 Apr 2011