Enemies of Creativity: Fear

I have a sketchbook on my desk open to a very detailed sketch of a website I’d like to create for my fledgeling design business. I have a tab in Safari open to Giant Hydra, and my mouse is hovering over the “Apply to be a Hydra Head” link. I have another tab open to a tutorial going over the latest in HTML5 and CSS3. And, of course, I haven’t updated this blog in a week. But why? Why do I have all of these valuable resources in front of me, yet I can’t take one step forward?

To put it simply: I’m paralyzed. 

Paralyzed with the fear of failing. Paralyzed with the uncertainty of what lies ahead. Doubt in my skills as a designer. And with those three thoughts creeping up in my brain, it completely shuts down my ability to get anything done at all. My creative energy is completely zapped, and I look for other distractions to keep me from the task at hand. 

How do I get over this hurdle? What am I so afraid of? I learned back in my Brand:YOU class to write this stuff down, so I’m going to take the advice, and maybe I’ll find my way out:

I’m afraid that deep down, that I’ve spent the last two years hopping between unemployed and underemployed is validation that I’m in the wrong business. Yes, I know the economy has been in the toilet. Yes, I know that unemployment is hovering around 10%. Yes, I know that design jobs in Seattle are few and far between. That doesn’t make me feel any better. It’s frustration talking to recruiter after recruiter after recruiter after recruiter tell me how solid my portfolio is and how excited they are to find work for me, only to have them summarily ignore my emails and phone calls. I’ve been beaten down for two straight years. I don’t know if I the fight in me to answer the bell anymore.

I’m afraid that if I invest what little money I do have into myself, and I fail, then I will be back at ground zero. I’ve wanted to be a creative my entire life. In three days, I will have been a designer for ten years. I don’t know how to DO anything else. If I can’t do this, what am I here for? What’s my purpose in life? 

I’m afraid my work isn’t good enough. Yeah, I’ve gotten good feedback on my work. But sometimes I feel like I’m just pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes, and one of these days, someone’s going to stop me on the street, point at me and shout, “HEY! This guy thinks he’s a good designer! LOL!” I don’t know if he’s actually going to laugh out loud, or say “lawl”. That’s a minor point.

Maybe I’m not the only creative that feels that way. Maybe there are others that fight this same struggle every day. If there’s anybody actually out there reading this, I’d love to know. 

I know is that being paralyzed by fear isn’t going to fix anything. Trust me, I know that. But how do you keep from feeling overwhelmed by a growing to do list, and a fear of being buried by it all? 

That’s not a hypothetical; I really need some help here.

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