What Are You Afraid Of?
So what scares the crap out of you?
People always tell me they can’t think of anything to write about on their blog.
For me the problem has never been coming up with ideas, but instead it has always been about having the courage to sit down and expose myself to the world. I’m not talking about exposing myself physically like some deranged congressman — I’m talking about opening up emotionally and allowing a bit of vulnerability to seep out.
Cynicism is easy. It’s vulnerability that’s hard.
It may be hard to believe, but I tend to be a bit of a smartass by nature. Anyone who uses sarcasm as a daily companion knows what I’m talking about. Being a critic and being someone who judges someone else’s creative work, is fairly easy. What’s hard is shining that same sarcastic sunshine on yourself and exposing your own fears and doubts.
It wasn’t always like this however. Back when we first started this site, I often wrote about online marketing, SEO, doing this, and not doing that. You know the kind of stuff that everyone online seems to be writing about, but as it turns out, no one else really wants to read because, let’s face it, it’s booooooorrrrring!
The writer, when he is also an artist, is someone who admits what others don’t dare reveal.~Elia Kazan
Those early posts were okay I guess, but the more I kept writing about that stuff, the more it felt like I was just saying the same thing everyone else was saying (just not as well). It was also right around this time that I wrote a post called “9 Warning Signs of an Amateur Artist.” and suddenly I realized that I was a fraud.
If you haven’t suffered through this particular post yet, it’s essentially a confessional about all of the crap that I was (and still am) afraid of when it comes to being a writer, except that it’s dressed up to look like helpful advice. In other words, it’s your typical here’s-what-you-should-be-doing-even-though-I-can’t-seem-to-do-it-myself kind of article that you might find in some glossy magazine.
Looking back now the article seems a bit preachy to me, but I remember having a hard time writing it because it forced me to dig deep into by own little neurotic fear basket and see what I could come up with. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what to say, but that I was afraid to say it.
You see at the time, I was still buying into the delusion that you had to put your best game face on whenever you posted something online as if the entire internet was little more than an ongoing job interview.
For whatever reason, we all still seem to follow the rules we learned in Interviewing 101: Always be cheerful. Don’t show your weaknesses or doubts. Don’t let them know that you sometimes feel like an impostor, a fake, and a fraud. Don’t allow them to see that you are scared of being rejected, or sometimes you feel that your work just isn’t good enough. In other words, don’t let them see you sweat.
When everyone is pretending to be someone they aren’t,
you might as well be talking to yourself.
The problem with all of this is that you can only make a real connection online or anywhere else when we are willing to peel back this fictionalized version of ourself and admit that maybe we are less than perfect after all.
Just like no one wants to hang out with the guy who won’t stop talking about himself at a party, nobody wants to hang out online with the arrogant know-it-all ass who thinks he can do no wrong. We want to connect with real people. People who have successes and failures just like we do. People who screw things up and make mistakes, and people who aren’t always trying to sell you something.
After writing the “9 Warning Signs” post and meeting all of these other artists who were willing to share their own fears and doubts, I began to loosen up a bit and was more willing to explore my troubled psyche. Over time, I realized that I wasn’t alone. Maybe I wasn’t the only crazy misfit ranting in cyberspace after all.
Trust me coming up with ideas of things to write about is now a lot easier because it turns out I’ve got a lot of issues (surprise!)
So now I write about the things that scare me.
Just to be clear, we’re not talking about the spooky I-see-dead-people kind of scary, but the what-if-I’m-wasting-my-entire-life kind of scary. The what if my work really sucks and nobody takes me seriously kind of scary.
But the longer I am on this journey, the more I realize that the scariest thing is not about how much I suck, or how many times I can screw things up, but the things I would have missed out on and all of the amazing artists I would have never met, if I hadn’t been willing to share my closetful of neurotic fears and doubts with the world.
What’s your scary story?
The next time you are posting a status update on Facebook or writing up your latest blog post, think about if you are sharing something that makes you a little nervous to reveal about yourself, or if you’re just playing it safe again and going through the motions?
It’s easy to forget sometimes that it’s not our shiny smiling facade that other people connect with, especially online when the subtleties of body language (and sarcasm) are lost — instead it turns out that it’s our shared fears and doubts that allow us to connect with one another.
So if you’ve got a scary story about a time when you completely blew up your comfort zone, we would love to have you tell us about it in the comment section below!
About the Author
Writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist community. His book "Getting Creative: Developing Creative Habits that Work" is all about finding the time (and energy) to live a more creative life.