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Managing Creative Anxiety: Change Your Thinking

“Every time I star in a film, I think I cannot act. I’ve tried to pull out of almost every one I’ve done because of sheer terror.”

Nicole Kidman continued, “I can always come up with a list of actresses who would do better and try to convince the director to cast someone else.

“My mother keeps telling me to call it quits. She thinks my nature is too fragile for acting.

“She’d love it if I was a writer and had a more secluded life. I agree.” [Reuters Feb 17 2003]

Being sensitive and perfectionistic, perhaps also insecure, leads many creative people to be vulnerable to some degree of anxiety.

Elaine Aron, PhD thinks “high sensitivity increases the impact of all emotionally tinged events, making childhood trauma particularly scarring.” [From my post Sensitive to anxiety.]

But acting is often an “emotionally tinged event” – on purpose, of course, but still, many actors report that some of their roles are particularly difficult and challenging, and hard to “shake off” when completed.

In an earlier post (Creative Anxiety – So Much On The Line) I referred to Eric Maisel’s new book on the subject of anxiety for many artists in addition to actors, and his comments on the sources – such as our identity and ego being wrapped up in how well we create.

In an interview about the book, he lists some ways people use to try avoid this creative anxiety:

“You can decide not to create. You can decide to do formulaic work and keep repeating yourself. You can try to handle the anxiety that arises by drinking too much or by using addictive drugs.

“All the methods available to avoid anxiety, like fleeing the creative encounter, or ineffectively managing anxiety, like getting drunk, are second-rate. It is much better to embrace the reality of anxiety, rather than to try to deny it, and to learn effective anxiety management tools like the more than twenty I present.”

He finds “Changing the way you think is probably the most useful and powerful anxiety management strategy.

“You can do this straightforwardly by 1) noticing what you are saying to yourself; 2) disputing the self-talk that makes you anxious or that does not serve you; and 3) substituting more affirmative, positive or useful self-talk. This three-step process really works if you will practice it and commit to it—it’s the way a person gets a grip on [their] mind.”

Becoming aware of self-limiting beliefs and negative self-talk is a powerful approach to not only managing emotional challenges like anxiety and depression, but to better realizing our creative talents.

Here is an admission of anxiety you might relate to:

“Writing a novel is like making love, but it’s also like having a tooth pulled. Pleasure and pain. Sometimes it’s like making love while having a tooth pulled.

“The pain is a product of the ceaseless self-doubt that sits like a demonic imp on my shoulder from the moment I begin the first sentence until long after I finish the last, informing me in a whisper – occasionally in a stentorian rant – that I am composing this story with less success than any three-legged toad might experience if it attempted to herd sheep.”

Dean Koontz [on] – His books are published in at least 38 languages. Ten or more of his novels have risen to number one on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list.

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Book: Mastering Creative Anxiety: 24 Lessons for Writers, Painters, Musicians & Actors from America’s Foremost Creativity Coach, by Eric Maisel, PhD.

Meditation and mindfulness articles/products

Anxiety Relief Solutions site – Multiple drug-free self-help products and programs to relieve social anxiety, stage fright, performance anxiety and other forms of stress and anxiety.

A related post: Nicole Kidman on fame, and actors as highly sensitive people.


Managing Creative Anxiety: Change Your Thinking

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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Some excerpts from The Creative Mind are included in his newsletter .
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Emotional Health Resources - Programs, books, articles and sites to improve your emotional wellbeing.

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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2012). Managing Creative Anxiety: Change Your Thinking. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 19, 2019, from


Last updated: 21 Apr 2012
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