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Elizabeth Gilbert on Fear and Expressing Our Creative Ideas

Matisse quote creativity

What fears can interfere with our creative thinking and creatively expressing ourselves?

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

That is such a great quote. I’ve also used the image (though I can’t find a credit for it) in my post Courage and Creating.

Learn to deal with fear

Actor and teacher Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”) describes how fear can impact presence and creativity in performances and auditions, and how to shift the experience of fear and build confidence.

“I think the main idea behind my teaching is the issue of fear and how we use that to our advantage,” he writes.

“We are all fear-based creatures. And fear can be the great killer. It kills your original impulses, your creativity, and it kills desire.

“Rather than deny fear, we have to find new ways of dealing with it. We actually have to dance with it, so to speak. You can never be great if you are afraid of being bad.”

From my post: Jeffrey Tambor on using fear.

A number of other artists have commented on how they relate to fear, develop self confidence, and build courage about their creative work.

Audra McDonald thinks “The most important thing for me as an actress is to be fearless and to challenge myself. Acting in TV and film forces me outside of my comfort zone.”

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Elizabeth Gilbert on fear and creativity

In her popular TED conference video “Your elusive creative genius” (over 11 million views), writer Elizabeth Gilbert addresses a number of topics related to being creative – including developing emotional intelligence and dealing with fears and anxieties about “the work you were put on this Earth to do.”

You can see the video and others in my post Elizabeth Gilbert on fear and creativity and mental health.

In an article on this topic of fear, she admits “the only reason I can speak so authoritatively about fear is that I know it so intimately. I know every inch of fear, from head to toe. I’ve been a frightened person my entire life.”

title2She notes that “Evolution did well to install a fear reflex within you, because if you didn’t have any fear, you would lead a short, crazy, stupid life.

“You would walk into traffic. You would jump into giant waves off the coast of Hawaii, despite being a poor swimmer…

“So, yes, you absolutely do need your fear, in order to protect you from actual dangers.

“But you do not need your fear in the realm of creative expression.

“Seriously, you don’t.”

She adds that “Just because you don’t need your fear when it comes to creativity, that doesn’t mean fear won’t show up. Trust me, your fear will always show up, especially when you’re trying to be inventive or innovative.

“Your fear will be triggered by your creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome, and fear hates uncertain outcome.”

She says this fear reaction “is all totally natural and human. It’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. It is, however, something that very much needs to be dealt with” in order to realize our creative ideas.

From post The fear factor by Elizabeth Gilbert, Daily Life, October 4, 2015.

This is an excerpt from her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

Video about her Creativity Workshop:

Elizabeth Gilbert is presenting an online Creativity Workshop to “learn about how to pursue a life driven more by curiosity than fear” and “become equipped with the practical tools & inspiration to jumpstart your creative journey.”

In a Facebook post, she says her course fee will support Acumen, “a not-for-profit online school for social change, working to support people who are tackling problems of poverty and injustice around the world.”


Elizabeth Gilbert on Fear and Expressing Our Creative Ideas

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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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2016). Elizabeth Gilbert on Fear and Expressing Our Creative Ideas. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Apr 2016
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