Fear and Courage

“Courage is thinking big, aiming high, and shooting far. It’s taking a dream and doing anything, risking everything, and stopping at nothing to make it a reality.” Caroline Kent

The view from my studio window

Winter has never been my favorite season. I was born and raised in Chicago and currently reside in Michigan so you would think that I was ok with snow and cold temperatures, but I still fret about driving on icy country roads, I still worry about our power going out (which has happened more than a few times), I still worry about being able to get to appointments, and on and on and on ……… 

But one thing I do love about this time of year is the quiet.  After the hustle-bustle of the holidays, it’s so nice to slow down a bit and take the time to make plans for the new year. In my first post in 2010, I mentioned that I was savoring some juicy “re” words – words like renew, revitalize, renovate, re-invent, re-vision, rejuvenate, refresh, restore, recover, and re-focus. Donna Watson left a comment on that post that gives us even more to think about. She said, I think deep down we do know what is best – where we should go next – to listen to our inner most voice whispering what we already know. But to have the guts – be brave to finally follow what we know deep down and have even said out loud! Donna is absolutely right. Having the guts – the courage – to follow through and achieve our goals is a huge challenge.

I think it’s important to distinguish between courage and motivation. We can be highly motivated to go after our heart’s desire, but lack the courage to act.  The culprit here is usually fear, and asking yourself “what fear is holding me back?” is a good way to get to the bottom of the issue. I have found a number of fears that conspire to keep me from getting into my studio and working as often and as effectively as I’d like. Here are a few:  

I fear that I’ll run out of subject matter that excites me.

I fear that if I do all the work and complete the painting, it still won’t be good enough. 

I fear that my completed painting won’t live up to my expectations; it will disappoint me. 

I fear that I’ll start struggling and won’t know what to do.

I fear that no one else will like my painting. 

My tendency is to want to flee the scene when I experience one of these thoughts or feelings. I remember many years ago when I made the decision that I would draw everyday. I bought drawing books, paper, pens, pencils and set up a bright and shiny new drafting table in our family room so that everything would be right there and it would be easy to sit down every day and draw. Did it work? Absolutely not! Each day I found a “reason” that I could not possibly work: I had to go shopping, I had to take the kids somewhere, I had to do the laundry, clean the house, make some phone calls, pay the pills – you get the picture! I don’t think I EVER sat down at that drafting table and did any drawing. That experience made me realize that motivation and passion were not enough to get the ball rolling.  Some honest soul searching helped me discover the five fears above and face them head on, which allowed me to move forward and do what I so passionately wanted to do. Here are some tips for dealing with fear:

Accept that fear is part and parcel of the whole process of painting. Allow yourself to feel and accept the fear and then go into your studio and paint. 

Work consistently. If you’re working regularly, fear and courage aren’t such issues.

Make appointments with yourself for studio time and schedule them on your calendar. I’ve found that once I’m in the studio I’ll eventually settle down – even if it takes 15, 20, or 30 minutes of cleaning, reading and various other procrastinating activities to get there.  

Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Sometimes the fear of disappointing ourselves or of not being good enough is there because we compare ourselves, our working methods, and/or our art to someone else and come up short. The resulting feeling is often – why bother?  Stop comparing and start committing to finding and honoring your own personal style, your own personal working methods, and your own personal vision. Doing that will help instill a feeling of confidence and it will also help erase some fears. 

How about you? Have you identified some fears that keep you from doing the kind of creative work you dream of doing? And, how do you muster up the courage – the guts – to “feel the fear and do it anyway?” We’d all love to hear your tips – please share! 

Happy Painting!