Is Fear A Good Or Bad Thing In Creative Terms?

2015 Artwork Fear and creativity

Whilst this is an article about writing and art, rather than a depressing and introspective diary-style article – I should probably begin by saying that I can often be a very nervous person.

But, instead of rambling about myself, I thought that I’d talk about how nervousness can affect creativity in both positive and negative ways – in case it’s useful and/or interesting to you.

You see, nervousness is one hell of a double-edged sword when it comes to creativity. Some of my best creative works have been driven by it and some of my other best creative works have either never been made or never seen the light of day because of it. So, yes, it isn’t all bad – but it isn’t all good either.

Still, I’ll start by talking about the positive sides of being a nervous writer and/or artist first.

One of the first reasons why being nervous quite often is great for writing fiction is because it gives you a lot of inspiration. For example, both the horror and thriller genres are almost entirely based around fears and anxieties. Good horror stories are about people’s worst fears coming true and good thriller stories are about people’s worst fears almost coming true.

So, if you have a lot of first-hand experience of worry, paranoia, nervousness etc… then this will give you something of an edge when it comes to writing in certain genres of fiction.

Not to mention that finding a way to turn your many fears into something that other people can actually enjoy can be quite uplifting in it’s own strange way. At the very least, it’ll make you feel like all of the random and meaningless fear you’ve felt wasn’t for nothing.

Likewise, if you’re an artist, then immersing yourself in making art can be a great way to distract yourself from the fears and worries that you might be feeling.

When it’s at it’s best, making art is an almost meditative and magical experience that takes you out of the terrifying dystopic world that you’re living in for an hour or two at the least. It can be an indispensable way to banish the terror for a little while.

And, unlike other ways of doing this, you’ll actually have something cool to show for it at the end.

Again, like with writing fiction, being nervous and making art can be a way to show yourself that your nervousness isn’t a completely useless part of who you are. It’s a way of making something wonderful from the terrifying darkness, if only to prove to the world and yourself that you’re more than just a nervous wreck.

Finally, nervousness can be an absolutely great thing with it comes to making sure that you practice your art and/or writing regularly.

In fact, the main reason why I still stick to my daily posting schedule on here almost religiously is because I’m terrified that not making something every day for more than a couple of days will make me lose interest in creativity altogether (since this happened to me for pretty much all of 2011) and because I’m worried about letting my audience down.

Likewise, I’m usually so paranoid about things like technology malfunctions (after losing quite a lot of data to one in 2010) that I’ll make sure that I have at least a month’s worth of articles automatically scheduled to be posted here and have another month’s worth languishing in my “drafts” folder. This, incidentally, is why most of my articles here tend to feature the words “a few weeks ago” rather than “today” or whatever.

In fact, my account on this site actually got temporarily frozen for a couple of days last year because I had scheduled more articles than the site could cope with. Yes, I was actually more productive than this site could handle – and it was all down to fear and worry.

So, yes, nervousness and worries can be an extremely powerful driving force when it comes to motivating yourself to create lots of stuff 🙂

But it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Although being almost perpetually nervous can have some great effects on your creativity – it can also have some pretty terrible ones too.

Surprisingly, I’ve only really noticed these effects since I started posting my work online a few years ago. In short, I’m terrified about how people are going to react to the things I make, so I often tend to self-censor a lot more than I did when I was just writing and making art in private. So, I’ve lost count of the number of great things I either haven’t made or have made and then hidden.

To use a film censorship-based metaphor, almost all of the stuff I post online is “12 rated” at the most, whereas the kind of stuff that I really thrive when I’m creating is a lot more “18 rated”.

Likewise, I tend to stay in the shadows a lot when it comes to presenting my creative work because the idea of being “famous” scares me. I’m not one of those artists who “gets out there” and tries to promote their work as much as possible.

And before anyone cheerily tells me that I should just “get out of my comfort zone“, I’ve lived outside of it for as long as I can remember. It isn’t the rewarding land of joy and riches that some arrogant… motivational speakers say that it is.

Plus, one of the many annoying side-effects of being a fairly nervous person is that I’m reluctant to start longer creative projects, because I’m worried that something terrible might happen and all of my work might be wasted.

And, of course, this wouldn’t be a major issue if it wasn’t for the fact that the publishing industry, the media etc… is only really interested in longer projects. I mean, when was the last time you heard about a writer having a best-selling short story collection? When was the last time you heard of an artist getting their really small paintings exhibited in a major gallery?

Of course, I shouldn’t feel bad or awkward about this because I’m also scared of being genuinely famous. But, I still do for some strange reason.

You see, fear is a paradoxical and tricky thing that can be both wonderful and terrible at the same time.

It can be your best friend or it can be your worst enemy. But, more often than not, it’s both at the same time.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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