creative advice from Elizabeth Gilbert

Each week we feature a well known creative or creativist talking about some aspect of creative business. It’s Go Creative Advice from Elizabeth Gilbert this week, continuing our “letter-to-self” theme.

Gilbert has described herself as “a frightened person my entire life.” and has written of the importance of owning our fears. Her way of doing that is, yes, the letter to–and from– your fearful self.

When I’m feeling particularly shaky and unsure of myself. I give my fear a chance to express itself, formally, in writing. I ask my fear, “What are you actually terrified about, in this situation?”

And I make an effort of listening, with respect.

(It’s amazing how seldom we do this — listen to our fear, with respect. We’re always trying to punch it in the face, or kick its ass, or run away from it. But we seldom let it speak.)

I’m always amazed by what comes up. Often, I think I know what I’m afraid of, but when my fear is given a chance to actually speak, I’m surprised at what the real issue is.

The other thing I keep learning, when I let my fear have a chance to make its case, is that my fear is not (contrary to how it often feels) BOTTOMLESS.

Fear and anxiety can feel like they have infinite depths, like they are afraid of EVERYTHING, but usually they are just afraid of 2 or 3 very specific things, once you look closely.

And sometimes those 2 or 3 three things are pretty reasonable. Usually, the letter that my fear writes to me is quite short, and very precise.

And once I see what those 2 or 3 issues are, what I’m actually afraid of…well, now we can talk about it. Like adults. Like friends.

And that’s when I can write a letter back to fear, thanking it for its thoughts and contributions, but gently explaining what we are going to do now that all the information has been reported.

Your fear should always be allowed to have a voice, and a seat in the vehicle of your life. But whatever you do — don’t let your fear DRIVE.

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