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Fear and Creativity: Robert Maurer and Elizabeth Gilbert

Robert Maurer


How does fear affect our lives and creative work? Should we even try to “get over” the experience of fear?

Actor Natalie Portman once commented: “Fear is intrinsic to everything you do as a creative person.”

Robert Maurer, PhD, a UCLA clinical psychologist, would probably agree.

He has interviewed many successful actors, writers and other creative people, and researched social and neuropsychological aspects of achievement and creative expression for many years.

In an interview, Maurer cites research from the Google company on which of their managers had the “most retention of their talented staff and whose departments were the most creative.

“They found that these were managers who did not have the highest technical skill…but they knew how to manage people.

“They made those people feel special and important and they knew how to have them work together to create a result.

“They even have what they call ‘the Google bump‘ where they have your seats close enough together in the cafeteria so you will literally bump into each other – because the research has been going on since World War II that if you have people have to mix during the course of their day, they will sometimes create ideas they would never do as they’re isolated in their cubicles.”

Creativity is collaborative

Interviewer Marty Peterson notes: Maurer “adds that in almost every case, from Thomas Edison to Walt Disney to Steve Jobs, creativity is a collaborative effort by skilled people who each contribute what they do best to the effort.

“Even these great innovators are afraid at times, but they can rely on those around them to do a good job if they’ve chosen them well and given them an environment where they can thrive.”

A healthy body

Maurer also says mastering fear takes a healthy body.

“When we talk about staying healthy, we tend to think in terms of exercise, nutrition, enough sleep and of course all those things are important.

“But one of the best predictors of physical health, not just mental health, but physical health is the quality of your relationships.”

From radio magazine Viewpoints interview Mastering Fear at Work and in Life.

Photo of Robert Maurer from his site

Related book: Mastering Fear: Harnessing Emotion to Achieve Excellence in Work, Health and Relationships by Robert Maurer, with Michelle Gifford.

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Author Elizabeth Gilbert addresses a number of topics related to being creative, including dealing with fears.

In an essay from her book on creativity, she notes:

“I made a decision a long time ago that if I want creativity in my life – and I do – then I will have to make space for fear, too.

“Plenty of space. I allow my fear to live and breathe and stretch out its legs comfortably. It seems to me that the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back.

“If I can relax, fear relaxes, too. In fact, I invite fear to come along with me everywhere I go.”

She adds, “If you can’t learn to travel comfortably alongside your fear, then you’ll never be able to go anywhere interesting or do anything interesting. And that would be a pity because life is short and you want to do and make interesting things while you’re here.”

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

Extract from her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

Here is a short video about her related online course:

“A creative life is any life governed more by curiosity than by fear.”

Learn more about her Creativity Workshop.


Fear and Creativity: Robert Maurer and Elizabeth Gilbert

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. (2016). Fear and Creativity: Robert Maurer and Elizabeth Gilbert. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2020, from


Last updated: 14 Aug 2016
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