There are a lot of reasons artistic endeavors fail; lack of talent or training, a weak personal support system or terrible personality. Hell, sometimes good old fashioned bad luck sinks an idea. But in my very humble estimation, FEAR the single greatest obstacle to good art.
In the words of the late, great Frank Herbert, “Fear is the mindkiller.”
Ok, maybe he was talking about having the stones to overthrow an intergalactic empire, but I think we can apply this sentiment to pretty much any endeavor that makes us feel vulnerable.
Don’t get me wrong, fear in and of itself is not a bad thing. If we weren’t afraid of bears, humans would be extinct and there’d probably be some sort of ursine society ruling the planet. Caution leads to wisdom which leads to better work, but I can’t help but wonder what I would have accomplished in my life if I hadn’t spent so much time afraid of failure, afraid of judgment.
I decided I wanted to write fiction at age 16, but I didn’t finish my first short story for over a decade. Why? Because I was afraid it would suck. And guess what? It did suck. So did the next few stories I wrote. But let me tell you, it sure would have been nice if I’d been writing shitty stories at 16 instead of 26.
Fear of being bad at things has hamstrung my growth as an artist my whole life. I can’t play an instrument, or draw more than a stick figure. It took decades on this planet to learn sucking at something is the first step to being sort of good at something.
It’s a damned miracle I ever got on stage to perform stand up comedy, because I can say without any shame, I was fucking terrible. I knew I was terrible, but for some reason, the fear just wasn’t nearly as important as the work. And guess what? Now I’m kind of good at it.
More than any other artistic pursuit in my life, doing stand up gave me the ability to say fuck it, I’m not afraid. And I’ve been able to carry that confidence over into my other interests. I’m writing more consistently than I ever have before. Just this week I sent out copies of my first novel to friends to get notes. I never would have finished it, much less shown it to anyone if I hadn’t gotten on stage and bombed for two years.
Alright, I think I’ve rambled enough. I’m not interested in this blog becoming some sort of self help platform. God knows, if I can barely remember to pay my credit card bill, I shouldn’t be telling other people what to do, but this type of writing needs some sort of call to action right? So here it is:
Find something you’re compelled to do, even if you’re shit at it. Then work until you aren’t. Make the thing you want to make even if you are afraid other people will judge you. Because at the end of the day it’ll make your life and your art better. And in that spirit, here’s a video of me explaining how soap works:
Thanks for reading Fear! If you enjoyed it, hit that like button and leave a comment. If you’d like to check out more of my weird stories and musings about life, the universe, and the meaning of existence, then subscribe to mindful of madness. You can also find me on twitter @drewjokeringram or on Instagram @andrewingram88. Thanks, my self-esteem depends on you.