Creative fear can be a hell of a thing, especially when it masquerades as procrastination. What if we’re not lazy, but instead afraid?
For the past couple months, I’ve had a hard time doing anything creative. I’ve managed to plan out a few stories and do some studies, but beyond that I’ve practiced and produced very little. For a while, I thought I was being lazy, but I’ve realized that much of my aversion has come from being afraid.
There are many valid reasons to be afraid. I, for example, have a difficult time digesting even constructive criticism due to being subject to years of unhelpful criticism and bullying. It all brings back the same reaction of “I made errors, I guess it’s time for me to be punished for it.” This isn’t how I want to live.
Just because we’re afraid, however, we don’t have to give up or give in. The Litany Against Fear from Dune by Frank Herbert is a useful tool against this:
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
The point of the litany is essentially to feel our fear without judgment, accept it, and move through it. Take a deep breath or two, feel how it feels, and get moving.
Just because we’re afraid doesn’t mean something bad will happen. It’s our instinct giving us a head’s up to pay attention to something. Without fear, we wouldn’t have survived this long as a species.
Note: Learning to sit with and feel our emotions can be a very valuable tool. It is a form of mindfulness, which I highly recommend learning more about.
One strategy I’ve found helpful is to “get out of my own way”. This involves some rituals for getting into the right mind-set, like organizing my work-space and setting up the tools and materials I need to work. It also can include preparatory things, such as making some coffee, having a snack, or maybe even going for a walk to clear my head.
We’re creatures of habit, so setting a schedule can be helpful, too. This will give us an “excuse” to move through our fear and get started. I’ve typically been much more productive when I get up on time, have some food, take a shower, and then get my day started.
Getting started is the hard part, I’ve found. Once I go through my rituals, I usually can manage about 20-30min of work or something before I need to get up, walk around, and get back at it. The Pomodoro Technique is useful for this. It’s essentially “work for 25-30min and then take a 5min break”. You can cycle this as many times as you feel able to.
I would like to note that having mental illness throws a wrench in the works. When an event overwhelms me emotionally, I get burnt out and have a difficult time doing anything at all. It’s kinda like the weather — my mood often changes at will and can be very unsuitable for doing anything other than self-care. There are some things I can do to improve it, but they take time and practice.
Remember: These are some suggestions that may help you to be more successful, but seldom is the road a smooth ride. For some, these things come more easily. For others, not so much. There’s no shame in having a difficult time working on things. We all have our struggles.
I hope this helps! <3