If you have faced fear a lot, in your life, you can, if fortune smiles upon you, finally get to a point where things are on an even keel, at long last. The insanity has subsided and you feel like you can just about cope, now. It feels good to not have to constantly face fear, draw upon your courage and survive. While it is amazing what you can survive, if you have to and while fear is all in your mind, the feeling of having to face one fear after another is not, actually pleasant. It’s stressful and tiring. It’s demanding and exhausting. Eventually you just don’t want to feel that feeling ever again. It’s quite a horrible feeling and contemplating bringing it back into your life can seem unthinkable.
Unfortunately, life isn’t like that.
When you are, as an artist, contemplating your next exhibition, or the recording of your next album, or starting up the next enterprise, you know that you are going to be judged. In facing that judgement, no matter how accomplished you are, you know you are going to face fear and have to conquer it, somehow. You may have faced and conquered such fears thousands of times in the past, but you know you will have to face the fear anew and conquer it all over again, as if you had never done so before. You can become afraid of feeling like you will have to face the fear again.
You can spend all your time fretting about what you are about to unleash – the disruption, obsession and creative agonies, along with the disappointments, exhilarations, the injustices, the sleights and the nutters. You know they will come, if you exhibit or release. You know you’ll be roundly criticised, ignored entirely, given a luke-warm reception or become a runaway hit. In each case, there will be challenges to face that will make you afraid. You know that tsunami of crazy is just waiting to spoil your contentment, long fought for and hard won, after all these years.
Sometimes that fear of the fear is enough to stop your creative endeavours dead in their tracks. You shut down. At best, you might limp forward slowly, procrastinating for all you are worth. You just can’t face the consequences of putting your work out there, no matter what they are. Good, bad or indifferent, they are going to force you to experience fear and force you to have to dig deep into your soul to find the inner resources to face them. It’s going to be an emotionally demanding time. Some of your relationships with your closest friends and family may change irrevocably, as a consequence of putting your art out into the world. Nothing will be as it was. You will feel stress. It almost makes it feel like it’s not worth it.
Well, that’s one way to look at it. The fear of fear might be telling you to pack it in. More likely than not, however, that fear is a signpost, pointing to exactly what you should be doing. It is your guiding beacon toward personal development, stretching yourself to do something you might not actually be fully capable of achieving, at this moment. It might be the very signal telling you, in no uncertain terms, what you are supposed to be doing with your life. The fear of the fear may be a confirmation of the potency and importance of your art. If you know deep down it will change your life and the lives of those around you, it’s a pretty big clue that your art is going to touch many more lives and change them forever too.
Some artists work all their lives to achieve that.
If your fear of the fear is strongly indicating to you that you should be working in that direction, then whatever you do, find a way to listen. The prospect of feeling fear again, after feeling so much fear throughout your career to date, might fill your veins with ice, but destiny is like that. You sometimes don’t get a choice. Sometimes you just have to do what you know you must, even when you fear the entire thing. The stronger the fear, the bigger the potential impact of what you could be releasing to the world, if only you would just do it. You know it intuitively. The magnitude of its potency is what is making you worry about the scale of the insane, uncontrollable, unpredictable response.
Look on it as a spectacular challenge with a massive payoff. Because that’s precisely what it is.