It didn’t take me long to discover that creativity makes me super, super uncomfortable. I doubled up on the ‘super’ there, so you know exactly how uncomfortable I am right now, at this exact moment.
What about you? How do you feel, after you’ve hit File > New, and sit looking at that blank page, with it’s flashing cursor?
Well, in this post you are going to learn how we can get the proper perspective on our fears, and confidently create great content despite feeling fearful.
It’s early days for me, of course, and although I still have no idea what form my online adventures will eventually take, I do know that it’s going to involve writing and creating. In short, making lots of helpful, valuable content for other people – real humans, eek – to consume.
Now, alongside that realisation, several debilitating, all-pervasive fears arrive, unbidden, into my subconscious. There they sit, murmuring softly in the background…until I put fingers to keyboard. And then…then…well.
Then the fears start to shout at me, deafeningly, and I realise that this creativity thing is a lot harder than I expected.
At about this point I simply start alternating between staring at the blank page making new playlists on Spotify, touring the globe in Google Earth, and reading Wikipedia for hours on end, before finally calling it quits and going to bed.
Fast forward a few days, as I sit starting at the flashing cursor, again paralysed from the wrists down. I realise that I’m going to need a strategy for dealing with these fearful, negative thoughts head on—if I want to have any chance at success in this scary online world.
Perhaps, just perhaps, you can relate? And if so, let me tell you, I get it. The struggle is very real.
I’m sure there are a lot of people out there, new to content creation, that feel the same way. So I want to share some of the thinking and strategies I’ve picked up since then that are helping me to move forward with the fear.
If I can get a mastery over this, then anyone can. Especially you, dear reader.
Common fears of the creative mind (and the proper perspective)
I like to think of each fear like a thread. They intertwine and join forces with the other threads, and spin us a yarn where all of our worst case scenarios rule the narrative.
The good news is you can unpick those threads and before long the whole illusion begins to unravel. More than that, you will have re-written narrative – re-framed your reality – into one where you’re free to create with confidence. This is really a simple two step process.
The all important first step is to articulate the fears, get to know them. Why? Isn’t it better just to shove them deep down and get on with it? Well…you could. But actually, this doesn’t achieve much and will just make you more fearful in the long run. You’ll find it more useful to snuggle up close and personal with those fears, let them guide you, and like any good friend, you’ll find they can teach you a thing or two.
Just like you can’t become friends with someone without getting to know them, so you need to get to know your fears in order to move forward with them.
The second step, once you ask yourself questions about your fears, the next step is to re-frame the fear in such a way that it guides your actions while creating.
So lets have a closer look at some of them.
Fear #1: I fear I’m going to get it wrong!
Ergo, the ‘thing’ is going to end in failure, and I will feel like—well, a failure.
This is probably the number one fear stopping nearly everyone, everywhere, from achieving the things they want.
We just can’t bear the thought that we’re going to get it wrong. Just what are other people going to think? We don’t want to embarrass ourselves! We don’t want to be ridiculed or laughed at!
The reality is that everyone gets things wrong. All. The. Time.
Nobody gets everything right. So congrats, you’re only human after all.
But it gets more interesting. You see, the more things you do wrong, and the faster the wrongness comes to your attention, the faster you can start doing those things right.
Think about it.
Its actually in our best interest to start making mistakes. Lots of mistakes, and as quickly as possible. In fact, if we’re not prepared to do this, then we might as well just quit now. Actually, let’s also stop calling them mistakes. We’re going to call them lessons instead.
As for me, I decided I didn’t want to quit, so I had better start taking action, even (especially) if that means failing, as fast as I could. Bring on the fails!
After all, as Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “The only man who never makes mistakes is the man who never does anything.”
I know which type of person I’d rather be.
Can you see how having the proper perspective on the fear makes it useful? On to number two…
Fear #2: I fear the superior competition!
They’re crushing it, and I suck.
I’ve found that this happens to me when I start researching content for a new post.
I end up spending hours reading amazing posts by my favourite, well established bloggers on my chosen topic. They, of course, come off polished, well researched and professional.
With every new post I read, I feel my confidence shrivelling up until I feel like there’s no point even starting. I can’t produce anything that lives up to their content after all, can I? The voice in my head tells me I have nothing to say that hasn’t been said before, or been said better than I can say it, so why bother?
I spent quite a long time comparing myself and my small amount of mediocre content to guys and girls who have been creating for over a decade.
I always ended up feeling like I could never match up to them.
But the perspective came when I realised that rather than comparing myself to them, I should be learning from them. Hundreds of my favourite well established online entrepreneurs have repeatedly laid out the path to be followed, all I have to do is soak up the knowledge and let it influence my action.
They’re quite literally holding the baton out to you! You just need to take it and run with it.
It’s true that there isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said. But the thing to remember is that it’s never been said in the way that YOU would say it, because nobody else is you. And there is an audience of people out there who will resonate with the you and your communication style.
Here’s a bonus mission! Go and look at the earliest content that was being put out by your favourite bloggers, YouTubers, or whoever. You’ll see they probably started out from a similar place to you.
Fear #3: I fear that I’m not <blank> enough
Quite a talkative little guy, that voice inside your head, isn’t it? I mean, man, it ALWAYS seems to have something to say. And it’s usually not encouraging or helpful. More like sarcastic and demeaning. This one feeds off of, and into, all the other fears.
I’m not DEDICATED enough, I fear I’ll fail to see this through…
I’m not GOOD enough, others will criticize me…
I’m not SMART enough, my ideas suck…
I’m don’t have enough writing TALENT, my content is terrible!
Yup…little voice-in-head guy is a real mood killer.
Most things you’re worrying you’re not “enough” of, again, all link back to fear of failure. You don’t think that you have enough of X to succeed.
But guess what? These worries are actually kind of like sign posts. When we re-frame the emotion, or fear, we actually get a lot of useful hints. How so? Well, using the examples above…
I’m not DEDICATED enough! Well done, you’ve realised that your endeavour will require dedication, consistent, regular action. Now you know what you have to do.
I’m not GOOD enough, I fear criticism. This fear represents your desire to have others find value in, appreciate, and share your work. What better motivation to generate well-researched, authoritative, super helpful content that readers will keep coming back to?
I’m not SMART enough. If you have the self-awareness required to manifest this thought, I’m pretty sure that you ARE in fact smart enough. What you are actually realising is that your content requires good quality research and a thoughtful, hardworking approach. You got this.
I’m not TALENTED enough. Re-framed, this simply means that you recognise a need to improve your skills in whatever the thing is that you’re applying yourself to. Do yourself a favour – never lose that recognition. When you do, you will cease to grow. You will only get better at something by practising it. The only alternative is to stop taking action, stop making content, quit.
Get the idea? Use your fear of not being <blank> enough as a signpost for where to direct your efforts.
Fear #4: I fear that people will find my writing boring
For some reason, my insecure self finds it straight up impossible to believe that anyone will want to listen to what I have to say, or that people will find my posts helpful or useful. It’s a natural human instinct, to want to be interesting to others and to be liked.
Again, this seems to be more noticeable when enjoying a really great piece of content from another established writer. I’ll feel inspired, yes—but in parallel, the little voice is saying “Dude, why is anyone going to read YOUR content when they can go and read this piece – which is way more interesting/entertaining than anything YOU could produce – and hundreds more like it”?
Perspective here is kind of straightforward, when you think about it.
You don’t want to appear boring – or, re-framed, you desire to be interesting. Who doesn’t?
Chances are, if you’re writing for an audience on a subject you’re passionate about, you already know what’s going to be interesting to them. It’s content that you yourself would find interesting, isn’t it?
So following that, your desire to create interesting content (or fear of being found boring) can guide you on to create valuable, interesting content that you can be proud of.
Fear #5: I fear I don’t have enough experience/education/expertise. I’m a fraud, an impostor!
Ah, a tried and tested classic. Good old impostor syndrome.
From all the material I’ve consumed over the months and years, it seems to me that at times these odd, guilt ridden insecurities occupy the minds of all who are creating with honesty, humility and authenticity.
Now, this is the last on my list. But when I first realised I wanted to start creating content online, this was probably one of the first fears that waltzed in, steamrolling obnoxiously over the barely formed ideas in my fuzzy brain.
It seems most good content creators have been there, and have the t-shirt. I’ve just recently put mine on, and I don’t think it will be coming off for a good long time. Gross.
But, yes. We feel like…
- Everyone knows more than us.
- People are going to see us for who we are. Another fraud, an imposter.
- We feel we have no business talking about our chosen topic.
So lets just give up, go back to bed and binge Netflix.
I think this one is quite closely linked to number two on the list. We think there are so many experts out there doing a good job, everyone will immediately know that our knowledge is inferior.
- How did those experts become experts?
- What does it actually mean to be an expert?
I think you know both of the answers already.
Firstly, they had to start somewhere. Your fellow bloggers/coaches/entrepreneurs didn’t come charging out of the womb an expert in their given field, did they?
No, they put in time, effort, and patiently built up their skill and knowledge piece by piece, to get to where they are. You and I can do the same.
Secondly, what does it mean to be an expert, or to be an authority? Well, if you even have one useful little thing to teach other people – congratulations, to them you are the expert. And that’s all it is.
You might be only a few small steps ahead of your readers (or half a step, in my case, ha) but if that small step is enough for them to follow, that’s all it takes to be an “expert” or “authority”.
The more steps you keep taking, the further along your journey you will be, and the more your authority will increase. Commit, and you’ll see!
Having the proper perspective of your fears is critically important
It’s easy to see how all this insecurity can overwhelm our minds, to the point where most of us simply never start creating.
But this is precisely why it’s so important to learn how to observe these fears without that distorting lens of insecurity.
We’ve seen above how we can achieve this through the process of re-framing, and just how tightly these fears are interwoven with our desires.
In my case, once I had identified the fears above as the ones most responsible for holding me back, I realised a couple of things.
Firstly, the worst case outcome, should any of those fears play out, was not nearly as bad as my insecure, emotional side was making it out to be.
Secondly, if I dug deep enough (by questioning myself about the fear, analysing it, researching it), at the root of each fear actually lies a reason for creative confidence.
Summary—making friends with your content creation fears
It’s absolutely, totally OK to be scared. In fact it’s more than fine. If something scares you, that’s a good indication that it’s probably something you SHOULD be doing.
How else can you grow as a person, other than to move out of your comfort zone and do things that scare you?
Personally, I’m now at the point where I am more scared of inaction than I am of getting things wrong, failing, and learning lessons. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t times I feel like giving up. But it does give me motivation and drive to do the work, even at times when I don’t feel like it.
Before we part ways, think on this quote for a minute.
“Thinking does not overcome fear, but action does.” – W. Clement Stone
So action is the antidote to fear. The more action you take, the more comfortable you will become with the fear. It may not ever go away, but you will learn to be friends with it, and value it’s advice.
So be scared, but do the thing anyway. Because the path to success is littered with scary things, and that means that you chose the right path.
Get cosy with your fears, and the growth will come.