The single greatest inhibitor to creativity is fear. Do you recognize any of these ‘voices’:
* I am afraid of typing FADE IN.
* I am afraid I won’t be able to finish the script.
* I am afraid I don’t have enough talent.
* I am afraid the words won’t come.
* I am afraid my characters won’t feel real.
* I am afraid people won’t like my writing.
* I am afraid people won’t like my story.
* I am afraid I won’t get an agent.
* I am afraid I am wasting my time.
* I am afraid I don’t know enough about the craft.
* I am afraid people will laugh at me.
* I am afraid I won’t make any money writing.
* I am afraid I won’t succeed.
I’m not a psychologist, but I know enough about the writing process to understand that if you allow these and like-minded voices to dominate your thoughts, you will have a hard time hearing your creative voice.
So the question on the table is, How do deal with fear?
I don’t think there’s any right or wrong approach — a writer will do what they need to do to vanquish or, at least, manage their apprehensions.
Some times you may be able to ignore the voice, the doubts, the insecurities — a good way to do that is to dive so deeply into your story, you drown out your negative thoughts.
Other times, you can use fear as a motivator: If, for example, you set a deadline with friends and family, whereby you guarantee you will finish this script by a certain date, your fear of public humiliation can spur you all the way to FADE OUT.
The simple fact is that whatever you do, you must do something, or else fear can devour your creativity.
Two of the greatest American writers, William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald, wound their way to Hollywood and worked as screenwriters. Read these quotes below, and note the palpable sense of fear:
“I think I have had about all of Hollywood I can stand. I feel bad, depressed, dreadful sense of wasting time. I imagine most of the symptoms of blow-up or collapse. I may be able to come back later, but I think I will finish this present job and return home. Feeling as I do, I am actually afraid to stay here much longer.”
– William Faulkner
“My only hope is that you will have a moment of clear thinking. That you’ll ask some intelligent and disinterested person to look at the two scripts. Some honest thinking would be valuable to the enterprise right now than an effort to convince people you’ve improved it. I am utterly miserable at seeing months of work and thought negated in one hasty week. I hope you’re big enough to take this letter as it’s meant–a desperate plea to restore the dialogue to its former quality…all those touches that were both natural and new. Oh, Joe, can’t producers every be wrong? I’m a good writer–honest I though you were going to play fair.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald to producer Joseph Mankiewicz
Faulkner? Fitzgerald? Reduce to “I’m actually afraid to stay here much longer” and “I’m a good writer–honest?”
Are you kidding me?!
This is what fear can do – eat your creativity alive.
So here’s a counterintuitive piece of advice:
Don’t avoid your fear.
Don’t run away from it.
Rather – acknowledge it.
Let it be.
Let it breathe.
Let it take you deeper into the core of your emotional self.
You will learn things there you can learn in no other place. Emotions, memories, experiences have collected in that inner place for years, untouched because most people never go there.
If you can get curious about why you are afraid, what are the particular elements behind your fears, you may discover a deep reservoir of personal insights and, almost assuredly, great story ‘stuff’ as well.
Once you know that you can go there, experience your fears, and survive that process, what you may discover over time in going there and coming back is:
The courage to give yourself.
To your creativity…
To your stories…
Each one a great unknown…
Waiting for what you will find in your creative journey.
[Originally posted September 18, 2009]