Seth Godin and Elizabeth Gilbert on Fear and Creativity

IMG_0159 Liz Gilbert BookIn a recent blog posting, marketing guru Seth Godin shared the following comments:

The power of fear

Fear will push you to avert your eyes.

Fear will make you think you have nothing to say.

It will create a buzz that makes it impossible to meditate…

or it will create a fog that makes it so you can do nothing but meditate.

Fear seduces us into losing our temper.

and fear belittles us into accepting unfairness.

Fear doesn’t like strangers, people who don’t look or act like us, and most of all, the unknown.

It causes us to carelessly make typos, or obsessively look for them.

Fear pushes us to fit in, so we won’t be noticed, but it also pushes us to rebel and to not be trustworthy, so we won’t be on the hook to produce.

It is subtle enough to trick us into thinking it isn’t pulling the strings, that it doesn’t exist, that it’s not the cause of, “I don’t feel like it.”

When in doubt, look for the fear. (Godin, October 17, 2015 blog)


Has fear undermined your growth in the past week?

In her recent book, Big Magic (2015), novelist Elizabeth Gilbert (whose work Godin has elsewhere commended) writes that she thinks that fear and creativity

are basically conjoined twins . . . creativity cannot take a single step forward without fear marching right alongside it. [They] shared a womb, they were born at the same time [so that] we have to be careful of how we handle our fear – because . . . when people try to kill of their fear, they often end up . . . murdering their creativity in the process. (24-25)

Gilbert instead refuses to “go to war against” her fear, making instead a lot of “space for it. Heap of space . . . . to live and breathe and stretch out its legs . . . . the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back.”

Using the metaphor of sharing a car on a long road trip, Gilbert refuses to fight her fear, as it journeys with her in her creative work:

Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand that you’ll be joining us, because you always do . . . . Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting . . . . So . . . keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making decisions along the way. . . . your suggestions will never be followed. . . you are allowed to have a voice . . . . [but not] a vote. . . . [And] above all else . . . you are absolutely forbidden to drive (25-26).

Because it takes focus and work and courage to create any of the work we do, we must remember that we have no time for the smallness of fear and rumination: “the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have the time anymore to think so small” (27).

How can these insights from Godin and Gilbert help you to broaden your creative process from the obsessive smallness of fear?

Please write me with your comments: I’d be delighted to broaden this conversation.

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