To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.

 –Joseph Chilton Pearce

Such a loaded question, and where do I start? There are lots of things that can spark fear and “hide in the creative closet” waiting for the right time to pop out. As one would expect, our fears have a way of popping out at inopportune times throughout the course of our lives. This blog talks about some of these fear instigators and shares insights and food for thought on how to navigate the bumps in the road as an artist, a photographer and, even more, as a human. I’ll share a few ways that I have fought and continue to fight fears that come and go with varied levels of intensity and success. (I’ve had at least three “false starts” just in writing this first paragraph, not because they were “bad,” but because they didn’t “feel right.”)

Just in case someone needs to read this right now.


In early November, I received a message with kind words regarding my writing, along with an idea for me to consider for a future blog post on “overcoming fear in photography.” This idea included a few specific examples and also suggested that I may have a different perspective considering my health history.  (I guess when a doctor tells you that you could die from treatment meant to save your life, that’s an appropriate time for fear . . . and faith. When someone doesn’t appreciate your art . . . not so much.) It ended with this question: “Whatever the fear, how do we acknowledge it, give ourselves grace, and move through it?” My initial response to Kim was “thank you,” and I said that I would put the ideas in my crockpot to develop (it’s how I write). It’s taken this long for me to be ready to share some thoughts that I feel may be helpful.

Ferns in motion, much like our minds in the creative process.


Among that initial list of fears were, in no particular order: fear of image reviews, fear of 1:1 mentoring, fear of technical aspects of photography, fear of learning about new gear like filters and flash, fear of travelling, and the best (really worst) one: fear of not measuring up to others. Do not, I mean DO NOT draw your sense of worth or goodness, skill or talent from social media. For that matter, remember what “opinions” are like … Like me, love me, don’t like me … I’m just sharing my work, work that means something to me.  Please do the same.

These fears made me curious, so I reached out further to a special group of photographers online, asked for and received even more input. My question was, “As an artist, what are you afraid of?” Some of the responses went deeper and included feeling like one cannot do full justice to the art and life obligations and a desire to pursue the art without pressure to make it a job. There was another just wanting one’s art to be understood, fear of not being creative or artistic enough, fear of letting go of perfect (oh, please do!) and of not being “good enough” (in whose eyes?). There was more: fear of a lack of acceptance of the work as artistic, of technical competence or artistic merit. Even more … fear of exposing deep life secrets, imperfections and the need for help. I heard of the fear of being boring and wondering what one was doing with art and photography.

The last one resonated with me on several levels. It talked about the fear of running out of time to chase the dreams due to health issues, fear of choosing without regrets and fear that the “muse” will have left, not to return in time. I remember that. And, then, there’s that small voice that whispers (then yells, if we let it), “not good enough.” Is there an echo? Who among us has not heard or thought some of these thoughts and fears, regardless of the medium, the art or any other vocation?

Not all the paths we travel are smooth.


While I felt that I could indeed respond to these fears and concerns from my own perspective and experience, I also recognized that there were others who have covered them and more in books that I had in my own library. Each of the four books I went to effectively stated thoughts that covered the range of art, creativity and fear. Sharing from each of them (and highly recommending them) would help me personally and would hopefully offer each reader something that would resonate and provide a tool or two to fight the dragons.

Seek and you shall find . . . something.


In Audience of One: Reclaiming Creativity for Its Own Sake by Srinivas Rao, the issue of being afraid of “judgment” is covered along with the idea of each one of us playing and creating for the most important audience, the one that matters most. My audience of one is me . . . me first, everyone and everything else comes after. By focusing on you, the artist, being your only audience, and not worrying what others think or will think of what you create, you are free to “do you.” Rao says this:

As a creator, your job is to commit to becoming the best version of you. If you’re a better version of yourself today than you were yesterday, that’s progress. Comparison and envy stand in the way of progress in any creative endeavors – or in any life, for that matter.

Do we hear that? We give ourselves grace by being our best “us,” not by comparing ourselves to others or by being “as good as” or like someone else. When I look back at my early work (flounderings), I sometimes wonder how I’ve gotten to where I am today. How did I ever get in those exhibits, win awards and sell prints in art shows? I wasn’t that great. All I know is that one of my primary goals was to learn more and improve my skills. I was fully aware that there were many photographers whose work was “better” than mine. I couldn’t feel bad about myself (for very long) because of that. I could keep working to be that better me. Over time I have improved and grown, and that work will continue.

Created out of a time of uncertainty.

In Art & Fear: Observations on The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland, a lot of ground is covered. They begin with a few assumptions that are helpful: artmaking involves skills that can be learned, art is made by ordinary people, that making and viewing art are different at their core, and that artmaking has been around longer than the art establishment. These form the foundation for the rest of the book. Can we relate? I think so.

In the section that addresses “fears about yourself,” Bayles and Orland cover pretending, talent, perfection, magic and expectations far better than I am able. The pretending concept relates to the “imposter syndrome” (feeling like we’re faking it) that fills us with self-doubt. By the way, Perfection is a Paralytic. Do yourself a huge favor and let go of trying to be perfect. It is impossible. Your best at any given moment is enough. When you do your best, you leave yourself room for incremental improvement, always. As for “magic,” it does happen, but often it comes from being yourself, being present and following your flow.

The authors say this:

Fears about artmaking fall into two families: fears about yourself, and fears about your reception by others … In a general way, fears about yourself prevent you from doing your best work, while fears about your reception by others prevent you from doing your own work.

Can I get an Amen? I’ve known photographers who lacked confidence not only in their technical skills (which we all can learn if we put in the work), but also and in their own creativity or what they perceived was more a lack of such. It made them want to do “a xxxx shot” (meaning one that looks like someone else’s. We know that their not being creative statement is not true. Each of us is unique and creative in our own way, and very different. When we embrace our uniqueness, we become more able to experiment, play and “own” our way of seeing and expressing ourselves. It is here, where we can learn to work through our fears and let go of perfect.

Let – It – Go.

In Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon the focus is not so much on the “fears” of a creative but rather on the import