Creative Compass Minicourse

Creative Compass Day 4: Face your fears

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Your goal for day 4: OWN the fact that this is YOU deciding to move forward

The decision to carve out time and attention to make your work is a breathtaking act of ego. You’re saying, “I don’t care what everyone else thinks I should be doing with my time. I know this is what I need to do.”

If you’ve been trying to create new work of any kind, even if you feel like you’re failing at it, you have made that decision, somewhere, somehow. But then you also have to live with it every day, as it bumps up against other feelings—that other things are “more important”; that other people need you to do things that take up all your time; that you’re too stupid or untalented to make the thing, and anyway, who gives a crap if you do or not, so why even bother?

Once you are making the work, you can put it in front of people who might need it, but until then, it takes guts to declare: “I not only am allowed to do this, but I must, and this work is what the world needs. I’m spending my time and my energy on this because I believe in it, and I believe in me, and in my ability to do it.”

Living with that firm self-declaration is uncomfortable, if not excruciating.

But it’s essential.

Think about it: You do very few things in life that are entirely self-motivated and self-produced with little to no support from friends, family, or society at large—pure products of your own desire to act.

So that’s what we’re up against. Let’s be clear on the stakes: This is an existential battle.

Existential, meaning: Winning the battle is pivotal to your existence.

…Looked at this way, it’s more understandable why finding room for creativity in your life feels so difficult.

On the other hand…

What if you were to consciously decide not to make your work? What then? And I don’t necessarily mean the very specific project you’re working on now, but creative work in general.

Maybe you’ve tried it. I bet it made you sad and slightly crazy. When you’re stretching your abilities, whether physical or mental, is when you’re most fully alive. There’s nothing like the joy of achieving some new milestone in your work.

So let’s get down to brass tacks

When you think about making your work and feel that chill of fear, what, specifically, are you afraid of? What could happen?

Ridicule? Probably not. One or two mean comments, maybe, but not at scale.

Trolls and haters? Not that likely. And anyway, are you going to let them stop you?

Being ignored? Possible, but then, are you doing the work because you love the work, or to be famous? I’m not saying money and fame are not legit motivations—they are. But if the core act of making the work doesn’t bring you joy, do something easier for a living.

I heard that comedians will ask themselves, “Can it get me arrested?” and if the answer is no, game on. I think that’s a good bar.

Your dilemma

Making your creative work, and especially putting it out in public, is really scary—it feels like a huge risk of being shamed.

Your action plan

Define what bad outcomes you fear, and figure out if they reach a threshold of “worse than not making the work.”

Creative Compass Day 4 Q&A

Fill in this form to start facing your fears


Tell someone you’re going to do the thing you actually are going to do. Check if the sky starts falling.

Further Reading (okay, viewing, this time): Check out Brené Brown talking about how she faces her own fears and resistance around creativity.

And some blog posts from me:

Treat yourself like a dog

There is no gatekeeper. There is no gate.

Stop fixating on “shoulds” — follow through on your new creative habit

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