Fear. Anxiety. Butterflies. Worry. Despite all our talents, creative people are susceptible to a smorgasbord of fears. Even Oscar and Grammy winners deal with stage fright. Pulitzer prizewinners sometimes go underground, ceasing to write another word for fear of not repeating their earlier success. Oddly enough, sometimes even good news (like having a big muckety muck read your screenplay) can strike alarm in the heart of an otherwise unflappable DaVinci. ("Omigod! What if he likes it?!") Creative fears range from relatively mild and transitory jitters to increasingly profound and debilitating terror. (Note: if you are experiencing symptoms of PROFOUND anxiety -- for example agoraphobia (fear of public places) or panic attacks (uncontrolled bursts of fear so intense they are sometimes confused with heart attacks) -- please seek professional help immediately.) If, however, you are facing the fears inherent in the creative process, then this article is the first in a series to help you understand and overcome your fears.

There is nothing wrong with you. Most fears are our natural reactions to perceived risks and dangers: Our biology triggers a ‘fight or flight’ response – and involuntary urge to run away or to do battle. Our minds try to protect us from heartache and hurt. Our cunning egos trick us into all kinds of resistance – often deceptively benign or innocuous.

Resistance can be disguised many ways. It might look any or all of the following:

- laziness (I just don’t feel like doing this right now)

- confusion (I just don’t get this; This is too complicated)

- excessive thirst for information (I can’t start this until I do another few months of research)

- fatigue (I don’t have the energy to tackle this; I need a nap)

- deferral (I’ll get around to this later/ tomorrow/ after I do my REAL work/ someday)

- excessive busy-ness (I don’t have time to do this; I’ve got too much going on)

- self-deprecation (I’m not good enough; I don’t deserve to succeed in this; I’m too young/old/stupid/serious/goofy to do this)

- avoidance (What’s on TV? ; Hey look at this cat on YouTube)

- despair (What’s the point? I’ll never make it; I’ve missed my chance)

- perfectionism (It’s not good enough; Mine is not as good as so-and-so’s)

- self-medication (Pass the tequila; Mmm chocolate).


1. Go back and read the resistance list again.

2. Identify which are true for you. Write them down somewhere handy.

3. For the next week, pay attention to which forms of resistance manifest – how often and under what circumstances. Awareness is Job One in counteracting resistance.

4. Whenever you notice that you are resisting something, smile. You caught yourself! Good work.

Huzzah! It’s just resistance. Perfectly normal, ubiquitous and – once you recognize it for what it is – totally manageable.

Resistance is your ego’s way of disguising different fears. So let’s dig deeper to see what’s really going on. Here are some possible fears underlying your resistance:


* performance jitters / fear of public speaking/ stage fright
(Pre-performance dread, often accompanied by physical symptoms ranging from ‘butterflies’ to excess sweat to nausea)

* fear of failure
(What if I do this and it’s not good enough? What if I bomb?)

* fear of success
(What if I do this and it’s really good? What if I raise expectations and can't repeat my success? What if my friends/family/co-workers are jealous? What if people come out of the woodwork to get a piece of me? What if I lose my privacy?)

* imposter syndrome
(Someone’s made a mistake; I’m not good enough to be in this position/receiving this positive reaction; someone’s gonna discover I suck; What if I’m here because of a fluke? Who do I think I am, Picasso/Meryl Streep/Nureyev/Lady GaGa?)

* fear of commitment
(What if I don’t want to do this forever? What if I change course -- I’ll be a flake and a quitter)

* anxiety about the future / fear of the unknown
(I’m terrified X will happen or Y won’t happen or my worst fears will come true)

* fear of others’ reactions / fear of criticism
(What will ‘THEY’ say? what if others don’t like this? What if the critics crucify me? What if my parents/ spouse/ church /neighbors disapprove? What if I disappoint or embarrass my family/ agent/ friends?)

* fear of embarrassment
(What if I look silly/ selfish/ stupid/ unprepared? What if I ruin my reputation/career?)


1. Review the list of Top Creative Fears listed above.

2. Identify which are true for you.

3. Turn to PART TWO and THREE of this post to read about how to manage and reduce fear.


(c) Liisa Kyle, Ph.D.


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Are you struggling with too many talents, skills, ideas? You may have The Da Vinci Dilemma™! Find tools, fun quizzes, coaching, inspiration and solutions for multi-talented people at http://www.davincidilemma.com/.

Author's Bio: 

Liisa Kyle, Ph.D. is the go-to coach for smart, creative people who want to overcome challenges, get organized, get things done and get more out of life (www.CoachingForCreativePeople.com).

Liisa Kyle is also an internationally published writer/editor/photographer as well as author of books including "YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE: A Workbook to Become the Person You Want to Be" Available here: http://bit.ly/ChangeYourLifeWorkbook).

If you are a creative person with too many ideas and too much to do, check out her other helpful articles here: www.DavinciDilemma.com