On Risk, Creativity and Fear
I’m listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s audiobook, Big Magic, again. This morning I heard one of my favorite quotes, the one where she talks about the discussion she has with the fearful part of herself that makes itself known whenever she embarks on a new creative venture. I like how Elizabeth addresses the fear directly, as an entity that is outside of herself, who will always pipe up with a barrage of unhelpful advice, when faced with something new. A new job, a new street, a new relationship, a new artistic project. "Dear Fear,” she begins.
She doesn’t try to ban the fear, she accepts its presence on her creative journey. She bids it welcome and tells it she knows it is trying to protect her and that it will insist on coming along for the ride. She does, however, set several important ground rules. First and foremost she does not let it drive.
I walk the tightrope between the opposing forces of risk and fear. My fearful side is quite noisy, but I am learning to coexist with it, instead of trying to stuff it in the trunk or letting it plot the course. (Seriously, my fear would never let me leave the house. It doesn’t think it’s safe to go anywhere.) I used to wonder what happened to the part of me who travelled in Greece alone and once hopped on a train hoping it was going in the right direction. But I realize that I drew on that part to switch careers in midlife, after earning my livelihood in theater for 25 years. My risk-taking courageous side accompanies me every time I take a new class, or apply for a grant, or figure out a new skill on the computer. I have a desire, an impulse, an inkling and my inner adventurer whispers in my ear, “Why not?”
When I consider the films that I’ve made with Mountain Girl Media I can see that I’ve chronicled the stories of other people’s adventures. The impulse to solo hike the AT, to take a beloved hobby and turn it into a business, to do something significant about the environment. Fear isn’t our only companion on the creative journeys we take. Curiosity, excitement, and joy, all come along for the ride.