The Monster Under the Bed
I was a scared kid. I can admit it. I needed a Speed Racer night light to sleep. I turned on the AM radio just to block out the random noises from my parent’s old house. If I woke from a bad dream I would lay awake frozen in fear until I fell back asleep.
The other night there was a heavy thunderstorm that came through our North Houston suburb. Right before the storm hit, I woke suddenly to a large bang on the side of my house. Without thinking I jumped out of bed, walked quickly to my back door, and stepped outside.
It turned out to be a tree limb that had fallen – not the scary monster I’d imagined.
I’m not sure when it happened, but I figured out that these monsters under our beds disappear once we cast our light of courage on them. They cease to exist when we learn to dream, risk, and create in a way that chases down fear, tackles it, and forces it to submit to our will.
The biggest thing that holds us back as creatives, leaders, and innovators is fear. We’re held back from growing creatively by the fear of the monsters that are mere illusions.
I’ve found that fear for creatives can be broken down into four different types:
1. Fear of failure
Failure, as I’m sure you know, will always be part of the equation of what we do. We will all fail at some point. The earlier you understand this, the sooner you’ll learn to accept it as part of our line of work. Projects fall apart, budgets don’t get approved, vendors burn us, clients won’t like it, and pastors won’t understand it. It happens to the best of us.
The best way to get over this fear is to experience it, learn from it, and move on. It’s not the end of the line. There will always be a next project, a new client, or another opportunity.
2. Fear of being honest
If you want to be a great artist, the best thing that you can do is be honest. I’m not just talking about honesty in your life. I’m talking about honesty in your work. I see designers, pastors, and creatives lie all the time when it comes to what they make. When what you create doesn’t come from your own soul, it comes from somewhere else – like what others have created before or what you think people will approve of.
But the best artists master the skill of intellectual and soulful honesty by creating art that resonates with them personally – that moves one to change in some way or at least shows insight into the artist’s soul.
3. Fear of how it/you will be perceived
The next fear, then, is to worry what others will think. We worry whether they’ll like it or not, whether they’ll even understand it. But if you base your work on others’ perception you’ll fall short of creating anything great. Your art will be icing and no cake. It might be safe enough where it doesn’t offend, but it will never shake them up, motivate them to think differently, or help them see the world in a different light.
We must learn to dig deep with what we make and think about what we’re doing. Great art will never come from a tutorial or what we see others create; it must come from your own journey. That is the art I want to see. That is the sermon I want to hear. When we figure out that we can inhale the world around us and learn to exhale our unique perspective, something mystical happens. It’s no longer about what people like or don’t like. It becomes about helping me understand where you’re coming from as a storyteller, as a human.
4. Fear of what we don’t know
I have to face this whenever I build a new stage set. My knowledge of carpentry is limited but my vision is limited only by my worldview. I’m in a constant battle of giving up and building what I know how to do, or using the tools, materials, and techniques that I’ve never used before to create my vision. And that makes me risk missing my deadline, going over budget, or worse, injuring myself.
With the best things I‘ve ever made, I had a real sense of panic before I even got started. The interesting thing is, it always gets done in time and, nine times out of ten, it’s what I imagined in my head or even better.
I see so many people struggle with this fear of making mistakes or thinking they won’t be able to problem-solve in the moment. To be honest, I’ve learned to love this – the rush of adrenaline I get when it’s all on the line and the sense of accomplishment when I figured it out.
For designers, fear amounts to getting locked into Photoshop using the same stock photo website. For preachers, it’s using the same preaching method they were taught in seminary. For leaders, it’s doing what has always been done before – executing only the tried and true methods.
If you’re a designer or artist, perhaps pick up a camera and learn to shoot your own imagery. Or instead of trying to build a complicated design in Photoshop, take a trip to the hardware store or an art supply shop and pull organic elements into the digital workspace.
If you’re a pastor, learn how to tell great stories and weave creative elements into your messages. Learn to let go of your three point sermons and tell a story people will never forget. Speak from your own story and draw from the stories of others.
When the fear overcomes you and you’re paralyzed in your insecurity, dare yourself to uncover the monster. Pull the sheets away from your face, step out of bed, and move toward what terrifies you. It’s rarely as beastly as we imagine.
Mistakes, failure, and uncertainty are all a part of what we do. If it isn’t, your work is boring and safe. Safe is not good.
Above all remember to dream, risk, and create.