Thursday, January 16, 2014

When fear is good

Maria Popova's valuable blog recently cited several interesting books by visual artists that deal with facing fear--what in my field is called writer's block.

One of them, Steven Pressfield, says, "Fear is tells us what we have to do."  The more scared we are of a work or calling, he says, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.  Shaun McNiff in Trust the Process cites Monet as saying that people should not fear mistakes but welcome them because they can be harbingers of new ideas: a mistake may represent something we never saw before.

So fear and creativity go hand in hand, it seems.  The horror of the blank page can also be a stimulant; the initial fears we have in beginning a story or painting seem directly related to the joy we experience, or at least the satisfaction, when the work is completed.

As an anxious person, I have often thought that, if I had been a laid-back guy, I would have not only written less and achieved less but explored fewer spiritual paths.  Would I have taken an interest in silence, meditation, mindfulness and prayer?

When I look at people outside the fields of art and spirituality, I see fear as the driving force in much human achievement, in the intense work that produces success in the world of business, science, academia, etc.  Would there be much comedy without anxiety?

So far all of its negative aspects, fear, even anxiety, can lead to great things; but, of course, it must be balanced with trust.

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