Creative Anxiety Never Fades
You are not going to like this. But it’s the truth. That anxiety you feel? When you’re releasing that art thing or that creative project of yours? It never fades. I know, I know, it’s not what you wanted to hear. But there is a silver lining: that anxiety has a function. Without it, you wouldn’t be an artist actually. Allow me to explain.
In our Amsterdam music app group, one of the singers recently told us that she was viciously attacked online after posting a video of her singing. Quite beautifully I might add. It was the first time something like that had happened to her. Everyone supports her singing and her ways of expressing herself. And rightfully so. She has a beautiful voice. And it takes courage to show your expression, whatever it may be. Because nothing is more frightening in life than showing your own vulnerability.
That’s the reason she was attacked of course: envy. For many people in the world who have a hard time expressing themselves in the right way, those that do are subconsciously seen as being better than they are. Maybe we are, because we overcame the fear. Yet, we don't see it that way of course. We don't feel better than anyone. We're positively shaking with self-doubt baby.
Consider this: why do we view rockstars now and past, from Bowie to Madonna and from Freddy Mercury to Tom Jones as such great people? Why is it we put the Picassos and Monets of this world on a pedestal? It’s because they had and have the courage to fully express themselves. And to do that, is still rare. Why? Because it’s so god-darn vulnerable that’s why. It's never nice to show yourself. Everyone's a critic.
And it gets worse. Because sometimes the worst critic is yourself. I once heard Gary Oldman describe in a round table video from The Hollywood Reporter, the sheer dread he felt every time he accepted a new role. He knew in his heart he was going to fail miserably and destroy his entire career with that one role. He felt as if he were about to die. For months on end. And the kicker? He said it got worse with age.
Oh God, oh god oh god. That is terrible. Oldman has never failed a single role in his life. But still he feels that way. That means that even with experience, even when you’ve done it so many times as freaking Gary Oldman, the anxiety never goes away… and may even grow. Lord, help us. We’re already shivering like tiny reeds in a hurricane whenever we release something. Please don't let it grow more than it already is.
Yes, I know. The trick is of course, to accept it. Acknowledge the emotion. And whether we deem it a failure or not (which by the way is almost always a self judgement), what it’s about is the fact that we do it. Failure or success does not matter. Criticism or praise does not matter. What matters is that we showed the courage, that we overcame our anxiety and fear and went out and expressed ourselves.
And that means, this creative anxiety has a function: without it we wouldn’t be brave. We wouldn’t overcome our obstacles and frictions in life. While overcoming those is at the heart of all storytelling. Without it, every story out there would be boring.
There you have it. Without the anxiety your story would be boring. With the anxiety however, your story is inspiring in its bravery of expression. So, it has a function. Luckily.
But man… do I still hate it.
(Adding to my anxiety… I’ve taken the vulnerable route and decided to crowdfund my upcoming book The Whole Story – The Ultimate Guide to Storytelling. So check it out here and donate if you want for the goodies!)