The Crippling Effect of Fear

Notebook 2Yesterday I was sucked into a YouTube vortex and ended up watched a bunch of videos about inspiration and photography.  The creative process took a hold of me to the point where at least three new image ideas sprang forth, prompting me to pause the videos in order to sketch and write about the details before I completely forgot the concept.

I keep a small moleskin books in my backpack and around my house for just such occasions.  They are ones with pre-printed boxes, like an artist would use to storyboard.  This got me to thinking about my own creative process and what makes me tick (a mystery I am sure I will never completely unravel).

When I used to draw, I would feel incredibly intimidated by blank sketchbook pages, especially if the sketchbook was new.  My fear and apprehension was exponentially increased the bigger the blank sheet was.  Similarly, when I would set out to write the blank lined pad of paper would feel just as intimidating.  Oddly, there was something satiating about a beautiful new and untouched pad.

Ever since I was little, and for reasons I doubt I will ever understand, I have had a sort of stationary fetish, if you will.  There is something magical for me about getting a brand new sketch pad or set of pencils.  I feel as though it is almost wrong to sully its unspoiled and pristine state.  I feel a sense of hesitation at making the first mark, like there was some kind of burden of responsibility involved in violating something so pure, that whatever manner it was tarnished had to be done in a truly worthy fashion.

Clearly these feeling are rooted in my long-present fear of failure and of making a totally indecipherable mess of things.  To the point where it cripples me from even taking a first step, a road block I have long experienced as an artist.  But something clicked in my head this morning, when I was thinking about my little notebooks and the wild abandon I felt at just attacking the blank page yesterday without any hesitation.

I was in the moment and it felt good!  I did not care what kind of mess I made as long as the idea in my head was adequately documented.  It made me thirsty to again feel the weight of my perceived burden of responsibility lifted from my psyche and to just go without pause and, more importantly, without fear of failure.

6 thoughts on “The Crippling Effect of Fear

  1. brookeshaden says:

    I can completely identify with what you’re saying!! I love that you put yourself out there and just went for it…to break past that blank page is a real triumph.

    1. Mary Angelini Photography says:

      It truly is. It is a bizarre hump to have to climb over, but once you’ve overcome it, the rest just flows. Honestly, it is made a lot easier learning and being inspired by incredibly free and unencumbered people like you!

  2. Mark Blu says:

    I want to let you know that you sharing here has made a difference and I’d like to suggest that you might be more than you might think you are… but what you are not is a failure.

    I truly admire those that can open up and expose their vulnerabilities. It is not something that comes easily to me. I find myself imagining sharing my fears with the world as you have here and that thought alone causes me to feel fearful. I even feel shy while writing this.

    I think I was born shy and I have similar issues with fear of failure. It has, quite honestly, prevented me from doing some things I really wanted to do. Fortunately, I’ve been able to hide it somewhat effectively – enough to perform music in front of sizable crowds, to eventually become a relatively successful business manager. As with you, though I’ve only been at it for a few years photography has helped me to feel motivated to go out in the world. Nonetheless, the fear remains visceral, even while hiding behind this screen.

    I am a man that turned 57 yesterday (yikes) and I have been reflecting on where I want to go from here. Your post comes at a good time. You’ve reminded me that I am not alone with these feelings. You have reminded me of the importance of losing myself in the moment. You reminded me that failure is irrelevant and the blank page, metaphor or otherwise, is my friend. You have reminded me that it’s never too late to chase my dreams. Most importantly, you have inspired me to open up to people despite my fears.

    Thank you for sharing, Mary.


    Mark Blu

    P.S. – Now I’m feeling shy about clicking the Post Comment button. Ugh. 😉

    1. Mary Angelini Photography says:

      Hi Mark – I love that you were able to open up like that and went ahead and clicked the “Post” button. I am also glad to know that I have in some small way helped you take that step. As they say, every journey begins with a first step. I know exactly how you feel about fear of failure and putting off doing what you love for whatever reason. When I got out of the Army I had a choice, go to paralegal school (and earn a living) or take a chance on doing what I love, art, and possibly starving. I chose the former and told myself that I would get a job that supported me and go to art school at night. Well, life being what it is, I never ended up going to art school at night or any other time and, increasingly since I discovered my passion for photography, have wondered “what if?” which became a road block…”oh, you’re too old now!” Well, I finally said f**k it, I am not too old and who give’s a S**t anyway – the only person who seemed to care anyway, was me! I am nearing my 49th birthday and I am slowly putting aside my need to care about what others think and just make myself happy and create what moves me. The best part about being older is that I have loads of life experience to draft from and infuse into my art! Sometimes, you just have to stop thinking about it and just go! 🙂

  3. More2Explore says:

    Mary, I am in the process of reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It is a great read for any artist. Just thought I would share, it is quite inspiring. Enjoy and well done with your blog…it looks fabulous, you are very talented!

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