On Creative Fear and Failure (Visiting Seth Godin’s Latest Book)

Seth Godin 2014 (Fear and Failure) IMG_0001

Visiting Seth Godin’s What to Do When It’s Your Turn (and it’s always your turn)  (2014):

“Today we have the chance to do work that’s far more pleasant [than in our past] and involves more freedom. And the only one stopping us from doing this work – is us” (Godin 66).

In his most recent (self-published) book, marketing guru Godin argues that motivation, self-discipline, finding support, getting “in the mood” to do work are all excuses. They are mythologies that limit our capacities to step up and “take our turns.” He says: “It’s not about standing in the right light. It’s not about being in the right moment to let the muse arrive. It’s not about figuring out how to be comfortable enough to do the work. . . . In fact, we’re capable of creating work that matters only if we’re willing to be uncomfortable while we do it” (45).

Discomfort, fear, suffering, pain are part of every creative’s life. (And non-creatives’ lives, too). We should consider that opportunities to create something significant, individually and freely can make a difference to others. And make a difference to the world. We won’t always succeed, but as Godin says, “Failure is almost never as bad as we fear it will be, but it’s our fear that we feel, not the failure” (63).

Fear itself is what many of us are afraid of. It’s uncomfortable, off-putting and focusing on it makes it loom larger. When we try to fight it, we are in fact frightening ourselves, effectively harassing ourselves with fear. (Consider that most of us would never treat others in such a way, but we do it regularly to ourselves—fear mongering.)

But that’s not to say that notions of “courage” and “bravery” are any more real than the mythology of “motivation” and “getting in the mood.” So Godin argues. As creatives, we need to feel the fear but do the work anyway. (And no, the book with a similar title doesn’t address this problem.) When we acknowledge the fear, and then try to ignore it as best we can (distracting ourselves from it), the art of doing something valuable or influential feels possible. But no, it still won’t be comfortable.

Godin’s new book, What To Do When It’s Your Turn,  provides many insights on failure and fear in relation to creativity. Some of these I’ll feature in future blog postings and e-newsletters.

As you continue your creative work in this new year, ask yourself this? In what ways can you experience fear and the potential for failure without retreating into myths or creative paralysis?

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