6 Ways To Overcome Creative Fear

By Karyn Patterson

This is a blog for all of those who want to be successful at a project, be it a book, blog, video or something else in between, but can’t seem to get over the fear of starting it. Perhaps you think no one will like what you make or worse yet, no one will care, so why even try? That’s the fear talking. The thing is, anxiety is the master of stealth and contorts itself in a myriad of ways, often preventing us from moving forward. How you get over it is by accepting fear in your life, not just something to deal with, but as your friend and guide.

It’s what I did, and I used that fear to start writing, and eventually publish my first book. It’s been fifteen years since I took fear head-on, and I can’t imagine life without it.

Read our six top fear hacks for overall success:

1. Do something scary every day.

Think tiny things. Don’t start with something huge, or you’ll quit before you begin. Examples: Compliment someone. Make a phone call. Ask to join a group you want to be a part of. You get the idea. Just make sure it stretches you by a small degree, and if you want to quit, you know your goal was too hard. Go smaller. Don’t worry about how little it is. The growing, daring hero inside you will get stronger every day, and on to much bigger and better things! (But don’t think about that right now, or it will scare you—see hack #2.) I will give you my favorite mantra as a bonus here. It’s the truest, hackiest of all hacks: SOMETHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING. You can adopt that as your own mantra. You’re welcome. Simply tell yourself that every time you think you can’t do something. You say to yourself, okay, so don’t do the whole thing, silly. Don’t even try to do a good job. Just do something.

2. Don’t think. Just do.

Does this really need to be explained? Nike coined a similar phrase for a reason. I added on the “don’t think” part, because thinking (when it comes to fear) is a lot more like overthinking, and is, quite simply, the villain trying to take you down. Do your little small thing (like complimenting someone) as fast as you can without really thinking much about it until it’s over. And then, bam. You did it. And you realize, after a moment, you didn’t die. Who knows? You might just decide to compliment people all day long.

3. Turn fear into fun.

Go to some haunted houses. Watch scary movies. Read a frightening book. Heck, read a romance novel. I don’t want to get all graphic here, but did you know that a human body has the same physiological response while reading a horror novel as it does when reading a steamy romance? Same spike of adrenaline, same endorphins. The only difference? Your thoughts. Yep, we’re circling right back around to your own brain and the control you can have over it. People love rollercoasters for a reason, even though they’re designed to be scary. The world is full of junkies that seek out that burst of adrenaline rather than dread it. But take this advice with a grain of salt. Fear sometimes really does just want to protect you, so don’t do anything too crazy…

4. Make friends with your fear.

If you’re not ready for a romantic relationship with fear, why not try just being friends? Speak to it. Think of it as one of your zaniest comrades dropping by, dutifully concerned, eager to help you out. You realize now that maybe you misjudged her by calling her a monster. This is what I say to mine: “Welcome, fear. I know you’re trying to protect me. You actually love me and have my best interests at heart. You don’t want to see me fail. That’s sweet. For that, I thank you. But right now, I’ve got this. I will probably need your advice later, so I’ll let you know.” Trust me, it works.

5. Take all the pressure off.

Lie to yourself, if you have to. I still do this after fifteen years. I say it doesn’t matter what I write because no one is going to see this anyway. And it’s not really a lie, because it’s your rough draft. Nobody has to look at it unless you let them. One thing I have found that is essential to creation is to get your inner naysaying friend/foe off your back until you’re ready to listen to what it has to say, and you’re in a better frame of mind to know if what it says is valid, or based in fear.

6. Have a deadline.

This might, at first glance, seem to be a contradiction with the above. But it’s not. You can still mess around and have fun like nobody’s watching, but do it with a deadline; otherwise, you will fumble and play forever without worrying about the consequences (which is just another way of giving into fear). Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “In skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed.” There’s a time to play, and a time to get serious—but it’s essential that you separate these processes. This concept is pretty basic. With a deadline, you don’t have the time or luxury to stew around. For best results, make sure it’s a real deadline, with real consequences.

If these six hacks haven’t convinced you yet, then maybe a quote from Christopher Robin from Winnie the Pooh will:

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”