Art & Fear

What is it in creating that fills an artist with FEAR? The flow of the creative life force is too much. It often feels as if it will overwhelm the artist – i.e. me. Sometimes I feel as if I will be eaten alive, devoured, by this thing inside me that is crying for release. Is it good or evil? Will it consume me? Is it a roaring lion that fools me now into thinking it will be benign, but when I release it will it tear me to pieces.

In the book Art & Fear, authors David Bayles and Ted Orland speak of the fear of annihilation, but they focus on this fear having to do with not creating. There is another fear of annihilation, however – it’s the fear that if one completely surrenders to this creative life force that one will be swallowed alive and will find no way to turn back. The creative force is frightening – terrifying.

The day I first started writing this piece (actually several years ago now), I had a very strong manic episode. I felt like a madman. I was running around and could barely stop myself. I would sit down to write in my creativity journal and then find myself jumping up one minute later to go search the Internet. I went down to my studio to work and suddenly started rearranging my house to display my art. Am I the ONLY one??? Or is it we just can’t admit to anyone that we are NUTS sometimes.

I did get some insight into what this “artists mania” is – and it’s not all good. I think sometimes when creative energy, fear and anxiety mix together they create this kind of weird manic energy. But what happens if we remove the fear and anxiety. I would like to feel the creative energy without the fear, without the anxiety. Would it be more peaceful? I think so. Thinking about it, I’ve had moments when I’ve experienced the creative force without the crazy weirdness. I call it “being in the groove”. Still the Creative Force is nothing to be trifled with. It reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ Aslan, the benevolent ruler of Narnia, about which the other animals have a saying: He’s not a tame lion! This creative force is not tame, it can be quite frightening in and of itself even without the inner critics (not to mention the outer ones). It is a bit like a Consuming Fire, yet if one simply surrenders oneself to it, peace does come.

I’ve recently been experiencing the peaceful creative flow without the anxiety as I am writing a novel. I’ve never written a novel before, and I have no idea if it will even be publishable when done. I’m not writing it for that, I’m writing it because I have to. I have been writing for the pure joy of it. Of course, I made the mistake of telling friends about it, and so now they expect something from me, and I can feel the anxiety coming in. I am walking forward anyway, and silencing the voices that seek to silence me.

Anxiety is not a popular word these days. I think few of us like to admit that we have it, but I think most of the time it’s become such background noise in our hearts and minds that we don’t think it’s there when it is – we just call it by other names – usually these days we call it “stress”, but calling it by another name doesn’t change its nature or its dynamics.

So what would it feel like to create without fear or anxiety? Without the voices in one’s head that say “What the hell are you doing, you fraud?” Or whatever else they decide to say in the moment to derail us from being creators, from acting in the image that we were made. What did God feel like when He was moving over the waters, over chaos, over void? What did it feel like, God, when you began to create? It must have been PURE joy.