Fear has ruled my life for the majority of my 50 years. I didn’t realize this until recently and nobody would have known to interact with me. Addiction has a wonderful ability to hide emotions from the one experiencing them. As I became a healthier person through recovery, I became more aware of my feelings and what role they played in holding me back from living life. So I began deliberately exposing myself to uncomfortable situations in order to get more familiar with the feeling, and doing something artistic was one of the first things on my list. I had never done anything artistic in my life.
Tips for Overcoming Fear as an Artist
So, in the off-chance that you are dealing with fear as a new artist, or in life in general, here are a few tips to help you through it.
The first step is often the hardest, so take a baby step to start. Go to Michael’s and spend $10 in paint. Don’t worry about brushes, don’t worry about buying a canvas. Just buy some paint colors that make you happy and make sure it’s cheap. Acrylic paint is probably the easiest for you to start with.
Second step is to practice on something that doesn’t matter if you mess it up. Take your newly purchased paint and paint on something you have lying around the house. Use an empty beer bottle like I did, or an Amazon box, or left-over laminate floors (I have a ton.) Paint on anything you won’t care about if the end result sucks. And don’t worry about brushes! Use a business card, a squeegee, popsicle sticks, whatever… I save more trash now than any human should, simply because I can use it in my next piece. And I hate cleaning brushes.
Third, don’t worry about being good. If you have never done this before, you shouldn’t expect to be good. Paint something abstract, try painting a figure, paint a landscape, it doesn’t matter. The act of putting paint on canvas is what is important here.
As you finish the “piece”, be kind to yourself and pat yourself on the back. No matter how your artwork comes out, speak to yourself in kind/supportive words and congratulate yourself for doing something for the first time. This exercise isn’t about the art, it’s about the act of doing something artistic and how that makes you feel (it will likely be radically uncomfortable.)
Lastly, do it again. Build on what you learn. Paint something else and see if you can improve on what you did the first time. There is a chance you will go backwards for a while and things will get worse before they get better, and that’s OK. Step into the awkwardness.
Application in “real life”
How does this apply in life? It depends on what you are trying to overcome.
For me, fear affected the way I interacted with people at work and at home, so what I described above helped me to step into that fear. Do you have control or micro-managing issues? Start looking for small ways you can give up that control. The next time you go do dinner and the server asks for your order, tell them to surprise you. You have very little to lose and it’s a great way for you to get comfortable with the unknowable. Anger issues? Look for things that only make you slightly annoyed, and see how you can approach the situation differently. As the great therapist Darrin Ford likes to say, “If it is in the way, it is the way.” What is it that makes you annoyed? Is there anything you can do about it? If not, does getting angry serve a purpose – does it help?? Set yourself a goal of how you would like to act the next time that things happens. If you don’t know how to act, ask someone you respect how they would act and take the direction from them.
In a nutshell:
- Start small.
- Practice on things that don’t matter.
- Don’t expect greatness from the beginning.
- Give yourself credit.