a person drowns underwater

On Fear

Please hear me when I say: I am very lucky to wake up every single day of my and pursue my inherent human interests and be able to call it a career. I take pride in my work and I’ve had so many awesome clients and opportunities presented to me that I’d be stupid not to. Even in its worst moments, my work affords me the ability to “sleep at night” when so many others cannot. (Quotations because, if you know me, you know I don’t sleep.) But, it’s not that way for everyone.

Creative Entrepreneurship has a history of being that rickety, old wooden rollercoaster that only 30% of people have the courage to get on; only for 50% of those who dare to ride to come off unscathed. There’s a lot that can happen on that rollercoaster. You’re looking at a really good chance of stalling on the climb (you never know how much weight you’re really carrying in those early days). You’re bound to wish for death on that first freefall. You’ll feel the car shake as the wheels casually tap the tracks like mores code, as you round bends. You’ll whisper a little prayer before every bunny hill. “Please let the car stay on the tracks.” Most of the time it does. Sometimes it doesn’t.

I understand why a career in independent work can be daunting to most people. It’s a whole lot of uncertainty coming at’cha, every day. You might know who the current client is but you rarely know what’s next—three, four, of five months away. And, if you do, you don’t really know the can of worms you’re dealing with until you open the lid. You’re bombarded with opportunities but always chasing the check.

Not to mention, being a creative scary.

If you already have the gumption to move forward with presenting your craft to the world and begging (and I do mean begging) them to pay you for it, good for you. And, if I know my reader base (and I do!), chances are you’re already doing it. Now, if you don’t have the drive but know you’ve got the craft, let’s let you squared up. Because living at the will of the ebb and flow of your creativity takes courage. And, we all know that when courage dies creativity moves on along with it. We have no room (or time) for fear and the isolation it brings with it.

If your curious what a creative could possibly be afraid of, let me tell you:

You’re scared that your ideas are shit.

You’re scared that you’re not good enough.

You’re scared that you’re really not as talented as you think you are.

You’re scared of rejection. And ridicule. And criticism.

You’re scared that you’ll be ignored.

And, my favorite paradox that I often find myself in: You’re scared that your idea is “too good” and that you don’t have the ability to take it to where it needs to go; that someone will steal it. So, we keep it tucked away—never to be celebrated, just in case.

The only reason I know this is because, if I’m a thought-leader on anything, I’m a thought leader on fear. I know fear better than I know myself. My family always reminds me of the looks I’d give as an infant, sitting on the sofa, just so full of worry. I was born afraid—and not just of the usual fears: The dark, the boogyman, the unknown. I was afraid of everything and I internalized it all. My fear made me feel more different than my homosexuality, tenfold.

The worst part of it is that no one really ever pushed me or helped me to explain the reality of what was going on. I was enrolled in every sport at least once but I was always terrified of the balls or the bats or the bigger kids; I was the kid in the outfield, staring at the sky… wondering what was up there. I never understood the value or “real role” that sports played in a kid’s life—community and team-building, trust and resilience. I thought it was all just to “toughen me up” and, frankly, just making it through a day convinced me that I was tough enough, thank you very much.

I don’t know when—probably somewhere in adolescence—or how but eventually I just stopped avoiding things. I guess I just said to myself, “Defending your fear but regretting the lack of experience? That’s not living. Something has to give.” And, eventually, it did: I unpacked and pushed back against my own fear—although much later in life than most kids. I subconsciously taught myself the importance of “leaning in” more so to the things that bring us discomfort than comfort.

One of the things that most helped me in my quest to abolish fear was the thought of how “unoriginal” it really was. “I hate the ocean,” I’d say (I know, times have changed), and everyone else would agree, “Me too.” That’s just one example, but everyone’s fears were the same. Fear is woven into us as children; sometimes we adopt our parent’s fears but most of the time we develop our own. Yes, fear is transferrable to anything: If you shake a can of coins at a dog it’ll likely immediately exhibit a visceral reaction, flinching in your presence. Now, we know, dogs cannot write, they cannot sing, they cannot knit, or paint, or even speak. But, they definitely know how to fear the unknown.

We all do.

Fine, there’s nothing all to earth-shattering about that statement but you do get to see what I mean. There’s no “extra credit” for having, embracing, or perpetuating fear. You’re not reinventing the wheel here. If you want to innovate and evoke change try to overcome it. Try to remember that your fears are not the things that set you apart from others but the things that make us the same. It’s our creativity that does that. It’s our craft that does that. It’s our personality that does that. It’s our dreams and aspirations and inhibitions that do that.