I am a creative.
It has taken me years to own that statement, that label. I always wrestled with the value of the things I wrote, sang, or made. I held them up against the social brokenness of the day and wondered what difference it made. Or at least, that’s what I thought I did. I’ve learned now that I was just hiding my fear of failure under a guise of selflessness. I would ignore unfinished songs and blogs and poems to busy myself with “good works.” Ultimately not because my heart was gold, but because my heart was afraid. My heart just didn’t want to risk the possibility of failure.
If you are a dreamer, a creative, or an entrepreneur, you understand. Maybe for you, your obstacle or excuse is different. Whether it is acts of charity or endless to-do lists, creatives are bombarded with a million things that need to be done the moment we sit down to shape and fashion and focus on our craft. The priority of our creating gets challenged by the priority of all the other things—the emails, the bills, the people. But as I look back over the past year, in which I released a full-length album, had written pieces published, and helped my husband release an independent film, my heart is struck by some of the things I have learned about overcoming fear as an artist.
First, your fear of failure has to be acknowledged. It wasn’t until actually booking studio time to record an album that I balked. I didn’t want to talk about it, think about it, or do it. I had a thousand reasons not to do it. It was so strange. The dream of my heart for years was right before me—I had the contacts, my husband lined up the musicians, we were about to land the rehearsal and recording dates, and I basically threw a tantrum. In the midst of this emotional whirlwind, truth broke through. I remember stopping and saying, “I think I’m just afraid.” It wasn’t until I acknowledged my fear of failure that I was able to step forward and welcome the process of risk.
Secondly, you need a community of support around you. The community of friends and artists that believed in me was what forced me to acknowledge my fear of failure. It was fellow creatives and their willingness to risk that knocked some sense into my selfish desire to protect myself from the possibility of failure. My husband and I had been married only a month when he set in motion the recording process. Were it not for his initiative, I would probably still be sitting in my cage of fear with nothing but excuses to keep me company. The musicians and producer we worked with were willing to step out with us and go after something we had dreamed up. How inspiring is that? When people are willing to build community around you and around your vision, fear of failure has to go, because now you are actually being sharpened by the courage of artists and dreamers around you.
Lastly, your fear of failure is based on a bunch of lies you believe about success. Success, according to society, looks like popularity and prosperity. And it has to look like everyone else’s success—or better. The truth is that success does not define our worth, nor the worth of our craft. Success is not general acceptance or popularity, not the accolades of men. Success is not winning a comparison battle. Success is being faithful to the gifts and callings we have been given. Success is saying no to fear and saying yes to the risk of the creative process. Success is choosing faith and trust to go after the dreams that brew inside of us. Overcoming fear of failure means we must reorient our ideas about success. There will be risk and pain and sweat and tears. But in the end, the risk is worth it.
Don’t be afraid, fellow creatives. Throw your excuses to the wind, shut out the fear of failure, and run after what you were made for.