Fear in the Face of our Creativity
Valleys of our creative journeys are the sustenance and replenishing storehouses of our intentional experience. Like foragers, we sift through the grasses and rivers of our environment, harvesting soul food, learning stillness, concentration, and energy management.
Arguably the moments and time we take in the valley is of vastly more importance than climbing the mountains. It may feel less riveting, progressive, or exciting, but it is an essential period to our growth.
Alex Honnold is a world class free-soloist rock climber, probably the best that has ever lived. He trains incessantly and meticulously in order to scale huge expanses of open rock in some of the harshest and most intense mountain environments on earth. He does it without ropes or gear. Just a chalk bag and climbing shoes. He talks about his bigger ascents like a long choreographed dance up the wall. He says that in order to be a good and diligent free soloist, there can’t be any fear. His training regimen is a physical one, yet when he speaks about his experience he uses language that is entirely mental in nature. He visualizes each movement. He memorizes the dance. He becomes so familiar with the rock features that they are cemented in his mind.
The nature of his entire sport requires deep fitness and discipline. He must have the strength, balance, and stamina to place his body in extremely precarious positions. Often holding his entire weight to the wall with nothing but a quarter inch of toe and the forefinger and thumb of each hand. This physicality is a feat in itself, yet when he is asked about the obstacles he faces, he hardly mentions how fit he his. He always stresses his mental fitness. His psychological readiness.
Fear is one of the strongest emotions we can encounter. It is perhaps the strongest! Art and creativity is inherently filled with deep risk and therefore fear. We cower at the thought of revealing ourselves in such truth and abandon to the world. Comfort is simple! It is much easier to fit into a familiar box. Instead of converting and channeling our emotions into progressive, daring and new experiences, we can find ourselves controlled by simple yet deeply human fear.
Perhaps when we were just 6 years old a siblings drawing was praised over ours, and given lots of attention. We were left feeling like our outcome wasn’t good enough, that we had to be something other than our true self in order to receive praise and admiration. Yet maybe now in our adult life we want to take a painting class. We battle the fear of not being received. We block ourselves.
Or perhaps when young we said something silly and off-putting at the very worst moment in front of strangers, and felt the sting of shame and humiliation. We secretly vowed to ourselves never to speak our minds in groups of people ever again. Now though, we desperately love slam poetry. A divide grows between our potential and our experience. Our desire to contribute our hearts and freely express is bound by the fear and complacency we have cherished and allowed to become our friend over time.
This type of situation is non-sustainable. What can be done?