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Making Fear Your Creative Friend

Creating your life, every day, is an art; and we are all artists.

We are all born creative. When we write, make art, create music and embrace movement, we carve out a ritual space in our lives to restore our connection with the quiet voice of our higher minds and benefit from that wise guidance. In the midst of our hectic modern existence, this oasis of the restorative, healing energy of creativity helps us tune into a life-force of universal knowledge that gives our days meaning.

Since I was little, I was encouraged to be in touch with my artistic, mystical side. My dear mother, Jessie Spicer Zerner, was a master pen and ink artist, who created wonderful drawings for children’s books, coloring books and greeting cards. She was a prolific illustrator and made her living that way for many years.

My first memory is actually sitting on my grandfather’s knee—my mother’s father, the painter Clayton Spicer—as he drew leaves on one of his paintings of northeastern Pennsylvania, where I spent my early years. I feel fortunate that this love of art and drawing was passed down to me. My family helped provide the fuel I needed to visualize and manifest, all the ways to get going and thinking and doing, with attention and respect and courage.

Because of my multifaceted life experience as a professional artist, bestselling author and fashion designer for Bergdorf Goodman, I can understand and share many concepts of the creative process, both the exhilarating moments of channeling original ideas and and the shadow blocks that can often inhibit.

Our vulnerabilities are callings to look within, recirculate the energy and ground it in form. This is “the vision quest”—it’s an effort to go back to the feeling of wholeness by turning inward for power. The search for this inner power is the “medicine” which shamans seek. They want that which will heal them and make them whole.

The vision quest is the time that you take for soul-cleansing, when you plunge into deep contact with the mysteries of life—especially of your life. Creativity is not just about making things: it can also be the act of disassembling and reassembling. The introspection of the first process gives us recognition of the suffering that is sometimes necessary to deepen our awareness of ourselves. There are shadows to be met and sorrows and slumps with which to get in touch. Do not think in terms of conquering or getting over your fears, pain and other vulnerabilities. They are all fertile ground in which to plant the seeds of your creative ideas.

You are most likely accustomed to doing things a certain way. Try doing them differently. Rearrange your materials, workspace and home. Use different materials to do your job. Focus on new subject matter in your reading and entertainment habits. Use new and unusual reference materials. Use oracle cards to help you focus your intuition. Listen to different music. Look at art you really don’t like or understand and try to see it the way those who like it say they see it.

Try different techniques, especially those you have been reluctant to try in the past. Even try using a different hand, if you are blessed with two. Remember to be thankful for all that you have, which requires that you be aware of all you have. The point is to encounter what you fear or resist, even if what you resist is feeling good about yourself and the world, and to understand more about why you do so. See what you learn from the process.

If you are new to the idea of thinking of yourself as a creative person or artist, then everything is new for you—everything, that is, except your fears and your tug of war with distractions. Fear, difficulty focusing and time-management challenges are problems for professional artists, business people and cultural creatives of all kinds. However, these issues are especially challenging for those who are first learning to actualize their creative visions. The lack of experience with confronting the all-too-human tendencies to procrastinate, to be a perfectionist, to pick apart a creative endeavor when it is only in its early stages—these and a hundred other things are the “demons” that must be faced in your vision quest.

It’s important to remember that you are not alone: all creative people go through the same thing you are going through each and every time they face the challenge of giving birth to something that has never been before. It’s equally important to remember that your fears have a reason for existing and must be respected. In fact, the greatest thing you can do on a vision quest is face and endure fear in order to understand it, embrace it and make it a powerful ally.

This is not as impossible as it sounds. Our fears are a method of self-protection born from our desire to dodge possible dangers in unfamiliar situations or avoid repeating negative experiences. Knowing this fact is the first step to using your fears to work for you.

When you are afraid, be aware of it. Admit it to yourself. Do not immediately move onto asking yourself why you are afraid. Just experience your fear and let it talk to you. If you let it, your fear will tell you why it has come into being at that particular moment—but you must listen. Your fear will also teach you invaluable lessons about yourself and your beliefs.

Whether you are trying to write, create visual art or solve any problem, you are going to be tested by self-doubt, distractions and other people’s needs. There is that incessant voice inside our heads, our inner critic, or the voice of a parent sibling, or anyone who gave you a hard time and made you doubt yourself. Don’t let them win! This is a game that will go on for the rest of your life. The only way for you to win is to recognize that this is the problem and notice it every time it manifests itself. There is nothing wrong with admitting one’s fears. In fact, that is the way to creativity and personal power. Denying them, on the other hand, ensures that you will see your every creative effort short-circuited.

Like a story from Greek mythology, the closer you get to your goal, the fiercer and more numerous the monsters get. Think of your fears as signs that you are getting closer and closer to the core of your creative self. You can be sure that somewhere this very minute, we, too, are facing our fears as we plunge headfirst into the exhilaration of creation.

If you never create a thing, but learn to listen to your fears, you will be one of the most powerful people in the world. As the ancient Chinese Book of Tao says, “He who conquers others is great. He who conquers himself is greatest.” You cannot really conquer your fears or yourself, but you can make friends with them both. To some degree or another, your fears will always be with you, doing their best to keep you safe and secure, even if you don’t want them.

We hope that you’ll use your creative potential to do your best with what you have. When you do that, you are no longer a victim; you are, instead, living your life to the fullest.

By Monte Farber & Amy Zerner for Live The Process

Amy Zerner and Monte Farber are a husband-and-wife team. Their newest creation is The Creativity Oracle (March 2020, RedFeather). Monte’s profound writings offer inspiring guidance. Amy’s exquisite art exudes her intuitive connection with archetypal stories. They’ve combined their deep love for one another to create bestselling books and oracles that have helped millions answer questions and follow their own spiritual paths. Learn more about The Enchanted World here.

Story cover image via New York–based artist Sarah Meyohas, a series of photographs entitled "Speculations"


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