Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.
— Mark Twain
Is there anything better than finding you’ve been writing (painting, potting, knitting, dancing, drawing …) for a few hours and didn’t realize time had passed? Discovering you had entered the zone that calls constantly but is so elusive? The creative zone can be difficult to find; our fear and thoughts constantly get in the way. Deep-seated fear of putting your creative work out into the world is sometimes so deep we don’t realize it. But if you’ve ever done laundry (cleaning, mowing the lawn, etc.) promising yourself creative time after you finish your “chores,” your fear is wearing your to-do list as a mask. And thought? It’s the voice telling you: Your *insert creative endeavor here* is a waste of time, energy and no one will like it anyway.
So how do you eradicate negative thinking and fear? The bad news? You can’t. Both are normal processes developed genetically over millennia to keep us safe — back when we came out of caves, everything was trying to kill us! The good news? You can disperse both fear and those voices long enough to enter your creative zone. How? Glad you asked!
Answer the voice. I don’t get ideas — where do they come from anyway? From your brilliant, unique self. What if all my ideas dry up? They won’t. What if I really suck and no one likes what I write? If you LOVE it, it will be worth your time. There are millions of stories out there screaming for attention. What’s the point? YOUR story is not out there.
Practice compartmentalizing. Thank those thoughts. After all, they are just trying to keep you safe. “Thank you, thought, that’s a good one! Now go in here for a bit while I write.” I personified my fear and bought a stuffed Porg (from the new “Star Wars” movie) that squeals and flaps its wings. At the start of my writing time, I thank it and put it away, promising I will soon free it to come out and rejoin me. Works for me. Plus, I have a good reason to gift myself with a toy, right? The point being, find what works for you to help compartmentalize your fear, and put it away during your writing (painting, potting, knitting, dancing, drawing) session.
Lie to yourself. You don’t have to show your creation to anyone. It can go in the garbage/shredder, and no one will be the wiser. Overwhelmed by your project? You aren’t going to actually write a memoir. You only have to write one page. Too much? OK — just a paragraph. Still too much — OK, one sentence. You can write one sentence. Before you know it, you will be in the zone and create much more. And wow — does that feel great!
Trick yourself long enough to get past any hiding or masked fear and slip around your negative self-talk voice long enough to get into the creative zone. And create!
Kathy Steffen is an award-winning novelist and author of the “Spirit of the River Series:” “First, There is a River,” “Jasper Mountain,” and “Theater of Illusion.” She writes from her home in Spring Green she shares with her husband and cats. Find out more at www.kathysteffen.com.