Fear Not

There's a lot to say about fear and art. I'm sure I'll have more to say on this topic in the future but I think too many of our fears are external sources: will people like my work, will they think I'm a fraud, will anyone buy my work, can it live up to my past successes...etc.

There are also the internal fears we place upon ourselves that I think artists need to identify and sort out first. There are fewer of these fears and if they are properly shut down it makes the other one's not such a big deal.

Psychologists have 5 categories of fear: 

  1. Extinction: fear of death
  2. Mutilation: fear of bodily harm
  3. Loss of Autonomy: fear of being restricted either physically or emotionally
  4. Separation: fear of rejection, not accepted by the group
  5. Ego-death: fear of humiliation or shame that causes a decrease in self worth

With art-making we're mostly talking about the last two fears. If we strive to resolve the fear of separation by producing work that we know will be accepted by the masses then we will ensure the fear is fulfilled. Because what the masses really want from artists is the new and unexpected they don't even know what they want they just know once they see it. Additionally if we are creating artwork in an effort to avoid the fear of separation then we will likely ensure the fear of ego-death is fulfilled as well since as an artist we really want to create and build the "new".

So the only fear worth considering is the fear of self-worth but we can control that ourselves by ensuring we push ourselves to experiment, try new things, follow our guts and venture beyond what we can imagine.

In the end it all comes down to this: you have a choice (or more accurately a rolling tangle of choices) between giving your work your best shot and risking that it will not make you happy, or not giving it your best shot-and thereby guaranteeing that it will not make you happy. It becomes a choice between certainty and uncertainty. And curiously, uncertainty is the comforting choice. -Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orlan