In the United States, anxiety disorders are approximately one third of the population. It’s no wonder, then, that a significant number of artists and writers also suffer from anxiety and depression.
However, some critics appreciate the striking paintings of Vincent van Gogh and the confessional poetry of Sylvia Plath. As a direct result of psychosis or depression, I tend to be less romantic on this subject. I see their brilliant accomplishments as occurring in spite of, or rather in spite of, their mental anguish.
In my new book, “I am afraid”I explore the interplay between fear, anxiety and creative work.
These things are more intricately intertwined than you might think. Depending on the situation, fear and anxiety can be stimulating or hindering. But when anxiety becomes overwhelming, creative work often stagnates.
anxiety as a hindrance
The most basic way anxiety interferes with creative work is by shifting attention away from the task and toward fear and worry.
If a writer is worried about losing their day job, it can be difficult to focus on writing.Excessive anxiety causes people to regress as they avoid all non-threat-related tasks Go to basic survival mode. Most attention, thoughts, and emotions are focused on addressing the source of the danger, whether it is real or imagined. And creative minds are especially adept at the latter.
Because fear is focused on survival, People become less flexible and more cautious When you’re scared and anxious. At that point, following the known path is much more appealing than taking the risk of venturing into the unknown. It can be said that aversion to the unknown rarely leads to creative breakthroughs.
Another reason why fear inhibits creativity has to do with the fear of rejection.
Friends, Family, Colleagues, Critics often resist Unusual ideas or ideas that depart from established artistic norms. In addition to arising from envy and competition, this knee-jerk reaction makes sense for several reasons: evolutionary perspective: Norms and agreed upon ideas foster group harmony.History is full of rejection, ridicule, and suppression of innovative ideas and styles deemed too “outside” – Painter claude monet and frida kahlo and the author Herman Melville All of them were harshly criticized, dismissed, or persecuted by their contemporaries.
To create something truly original, artists often have to disrupt the status quo.
Therefore, it is no wonder that creative endeavors lead to criticism, rejection, and fear of failure. Roads less traveled may be more dangerous. It may even be futile. And sometimes the cost can be life-threatening. Socrates was executed Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno has been indicted on charges that his pointed questions are corrupting young people. Burned to death for his heretical claims That the earth was not the center of the universe.
when anxiety is stimulated
This is not to say that being cool as a cucumber is a prerequisite for great art. A certain amount of anxiety can serve a purpose.
When you are really scared, you may feel paralyzed, bored, or sluggish. Your motivation may stop.
There’s actually a sweet spot for anxiety where it actually taps into motivation and cognition and directs all of your attention to the task at hand.
As the deadline for “Afraid” ticked down, I felt a pang of anxiety that drove me to the finish line. He and I holed up at a resort next to the mountains in Tucson for two weeks, working 12 hours a day to complete it. I’ll upload the book. The fear of missing the deadline was enough to motivate me to buckle down and get the job done.
Then there’s the ghost of death.
No one will be saved. But even though geniuses like Michelangelo and Charles Dickens suffered the same fate as their colleagues, their brushstrokes and words were immortalized.
Creative work is a way to achieve a level of immortality, such as art, books, and articles that live on past their expiration date.
American anthropologist Ernest Becker said that the fear of death is gave humans the motivation to compose There are stories, myths, and legends about the afterlife and immortality, which inspired great architectural works like the Egyptian pyramids.
this existential fear Inspired writers and artists Exploring forms of immortality through work. It is somewhat comforting to think that after I die, some of my scientific discoveries and writings may live on through other people.
In fact, you might still be reading this article long after I’m gone.
What you can and cannot control
Creative work involves traversing risky mental landscapes, whether it’s using your imagination, planning your next step, or organizing your memories. Failure always looms.
This uncertainty can cause fear and doubt.
What’s interesting is that while creativity is at its peak, horror is focused solely on survival. when basic survival needs are met. Furthermore, while fear is a primitive emotion, art, science, and culture are among humanity’s most evolved abilities.
But fear and creativity are also similar in that they both have automatic and intuitive processes. The best works of art are not just the result of logical thinking. Like a fetus, art grows autonomously within the artist while the artist continues to nourish the artist. Delivery will be made when the time comes. Fear is also mostly autonomous. When you notice a car hurtling towards you, you jump off the road before considering the driver’s intentions.
In that sense, people cannot fully control their fear and creativity. A balanced harmony must exist between the unconscious and the conscious for both to function productively.
Still, there are elements of your consciousness that you can influence.
If you want to create something but feel like something is blocking you writer’s blockthink about hesitation, anxiety, what kind of fear is holding you back.
Is it fear of failure or fear of judgment? Are you afraid of your own inner critic? Or are other daily tasks and responsibilities taking up most of your attention?
Once you’ve identified the source of your anxiety, see if you can reframe it in an objective way that frees you from its shackles. Perhaps failure can be perceived as a possibility, but ultimately it will not kill you. You can always try again.
Another option is to use your brain. reward circuit – Think about possible positive outcomes of your work, including, for example, immortality. Or you can use your fear network to your advantage by remembering deadlines, promotions you might be up for at work, or the awkwardness of not being able to complete a task. Breaking down the task into smaller parts makes it seem more doable and less scary.
Sometimes a change of scenery and context can be helpful. I chose the desert to complete “Afraid” not only because the landscape provided inspiration. There’s also something about a completely different and empty geography that helps clear my mind from the chaos of everyday life back in Michigan.
Just as there are many paths to take when pursuing a creative endeavor, there are many different strategies for combating and capitalizing on the small fears that pop up along the way.