Fear is the Mind Killer

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me"

-Frank Herbert

Fear.  The fear of failure.  The fear of poverty.  The fear of rejection.  The fear of ridicule.  The fear of never being good enough.   Let's talk about fear.

First off - You are not alone.  I know it feels that way.  I know it's hard to admit, sometimes even to yourself.  Often I think we feel that to speak our fears give them reality.  I know for me, the instinct is to keep quiet, and hope the fears don't notice me, or get worse.  The fear is real, and we all feel it, to varying degrees.  I can say personally it hasn't gotten less as I've improved as an artist.  I know everyone is different, but for me, two things really help.  

The first is to admit I have these feelings, both to myself and to others.  Doesn't have to be super public, but it's really good to have an art-friend you can turn to and go, "Dude, everything I touch sucks so bad, I feel like I'm never going to get to be the artist I want to be."  When you say it out loud, it often sounds ridiculous, and when it doesn't, it gives me an opportunity to help my friend, because...

The second thing that helps me is to help others overcome their fears.  We are stronger when we help each other.  When I was finishing up at CDA two years ago, I was in a really bad place, confidence-wise.  By chance, I reached out to my (now) friend Emma Ruyle, who was also seemingly in a bad place.  Being there to help her helped me tremendously.  Teaching, reassuring and helping others is the best way to overcome your personal insecurities.

Fear is a great motivator sometimes - but not for learning.  When you need to crank through 24 paintings in 16 days, a little bit of fear isn't a bad thing...but when you're trying to grow and improve, it will kill your forward progress.  Seriously, it will stop it dead.  When you approach art with desperation, you get art that looks desperate.  You're not giving yourself the space to learn from your mistakes, because your mistakes are too scary to contemplate.  This is why I'll tell you over and over again that at LEAST half the time, you need to be drawing and painting what you like when you are trying to learn.  You must push yourself from a position of security, not from a place where everything is life or death.

"But Seth, I work a shit job, I'm depressed, and I feel hopeless.  Art NEEDS to be my way out!"

... I don't have a lot to say that doesn't sound trite.  I'm not in that position, and I've had the privilege to never have to be.  That's important to say - I went to art school, and my now ex-wife supported me through that and 2 years afterward, so I could practice and learn without having to worry about starving.  That wasn't a fear I ever had to cope with.  I don't know that I ever could have fought through that, and I'm almost certain my artistic skill would not have improved as quickly as it did if I had to.

...but that does't change the core facts.  I think one of the many reasons why the poor stay poor is that their circumstances make it incredibly hard to not be afraid....and that fear prevents them from finding ways out (One of many reasons, not turning this into a cause of inequality discussion).  You have to find a way to take joy in your art...to draw without thinking about tomorrow, or how you need to figure out how you're going to use it to pay rent...that's incredibly hard, but if you don't, you're going to advance at a snail's pace.  Growth doesn't happen in life or death mindsets.  If it is life or death (and sometimes it is!) you have to be able to turn that part of you off when you work if you want to improve.

You got this.  Fear is just an emotion, you can be aware of it and let it pass over you.  If you need help, reach out...as long as you aren't just using the other person as a sounding board to complain, you'll probably be helping them too.

Thanks for reading, as always!  Please share if you know someone else who might be into reading this stuff :)