Thursday, July 21, 2016

It Wasn't Courage if You Weren't Scared....

This post from last year has been getting a lot of views so I thought I'd repost it.

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Wasn't it brave of her to say that out loud? Georgia O'Keefe, one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, a pioneer for women artists and a woman who lived what appeared to be an adventurous life, was scared the whole time. Wait - not just scared - she was terrified every moment!

Call me crazy, but I find that very comforting.

And recently I read a piece from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things, in which she talked about her own fear. She basically said that she'd been afraid most of her life, and it had bothered her until she realized it was just the way humans are and decided to accept it, and more importantly, not to let it stop her.

Fear is a real thing, and I'm pretty sure anyone who says they haven't been mostly scared is either full of baloney or in denial. I've known people who kind of swagger with cocky declarations that they aren't afraid of anything, but I don't buy it. I think it's just that what we fear is different for everyone. I guarantee those folks are afraid of something - we just can't see what it is and they aren't about to tell us.

One person might not be scared to go bungee-jumping, but they might be scared to be in a relationship or to change jobs or to write a book. Another person might be petrified to go bungee-jumping, but might not be afraid to run for public office or to work for the Peace Corps in an unstable part of the world. And then there is the possibility that both people are afraid to do all those things, but each one chooses those things that they want to do more more than they fear doing them....

I used to be mad at myself for being afraid. And there were definitely times in my younger life when the fear held me back from doing certain things and it led me to make fear-based choices that didn't work out so well. But with time, I started to be able to do things despite the fear - to leave unfulfilling jobs, to travel, to move, to learn new things, to try new things, to write my books. Even now, when I sit down to write, I'm scared - that nothing will come; that what I write will suck. But by now I've developed some faith that if I show up at my desk, inspiration will come. I fear it won't, but I believe it will. And I want it more than I fear it.

It helps when we know we are in the good company of people like O'Keefe and Gilbert. It helps when they have the courage to actually talk about their fear out loud. We think people like that are different from us because they are so boldly out there in the world. But their honesty and openness helps us understand that we are all the same.

I'll let Elizabeth Gilbert have the closing word on Creativity and Fear:

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