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Fear and Courage and Creating

Matisse quote

“The artist begins with a vision — a creative operation requiring effort. Creativity takes courage.” Henri Matisse

What fears and anxieties are holding you back from expressing yourself more creatively? Matisse and many other artists and psychologists note creative work requires courage or dealing with our fears.

His quote is from the book Artist to Artist : Inspiration and Advice from Visual Artists Past & Present, edited by Clint Brown.

Arianna Huffington notes fear can impact creative communities as well as individuals.

She writes, “After all, it’s next to impossible to be truly creative when you are afraid of shadows (unless you are a nubile teen cast in a slasher flick, in which case you have a very good reason to fear those dark nooks and crannies).

“The most stultifying and damaging fear infecting Hollywood is, of course, the fear of failure, because it keeps you from taking risks — and risk is an essential element of creativity and art. Failure is part and parcel of any creative life. It’s not the opposite of success; it’s an integral part of success.”

From my post Fear and being creative.

She is author of the book On Becoming Fearless.

What is courage?

In a review of the book The Courage to Create by Rollo May, psychologist Stephen Diamond commented, “Creativity always requires taking a chance on one’s self… and moving ahead despite self-doubts, discouragement and anxiety.”

He adds, “Courage, as May makes clear, is not the absence of insecurity, fear, anxiety or despair, but resides in the decision to move through these feelings as constructively or creatively as possible.”

Writer Anais Nin refers to other aspects: “It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before, to test your limits, to break through barriers.”

From my article Courage and creativity.

But this is not always, or even usually, an easy task.

It is one thing to go to a Halloween haunted house attraction if you are a bit scared; a much more demanding challenge is facing our fears of being less capable than we think we need to be to make something “really” creative.

One example is from author Milli Thornton: she describes a CPA who kept shutting off his dream to write “the story of his life as a fictional novel, but could not bring himself to write more than the opening paragraph.”

“If I can’t write like Wally Lamb, it’s too scary to even begin,” he declared in his heart.

Thornton writes, “The years ticked by and the CPA felt unfulfilled. ‘I’ll write my story when I retire,’ he promised himself.

“When I heard this, I couldn’t rest. Don’t wait until you retire! I said. You may just put it off forever at that rate.”

“I knew this truth intimately because of the years when painful hormones surging from my fear of writing gene caused me to hide from my own creativity.”

Milli Thornton is author of the book Fear of Writing.

From my much longer article on this topic: Reclaiming Creative Courage.

What fears are holding you back from creating?


Fear and Courage and Creating

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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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2014). Fear and Courage and Creating. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 31 Oct 2014
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