Fearlessness in creativity is a myth

“Creative people are confident in only one thing: their own doubt. I think there’s a huge lack of self-confidence in a creative person because, by nature, the definition of a creative person is someone who is trying to make something new….They build within that city of doubt.” – John Maeda

A terrible misconception exist that professional, successful creative individuals escape from the plague of fear. For those few, the malady of self doubt is gone.

The truth is nothing is further from the truth. Our biological safety system latches onto to any risk it can find regardless of the actual threat to your well being. Emotional and creative risks fire up the fear response exactly like the possibility of a nearby lion.

The fear never goes away.

Bravery often merely masquerades as fearlessness. From an outside observer, the two traits function in similar ways. However, the difference is that fearlessness is a state of being and bravery is a choice.

There is no partial fearlessness. It’s an all-or-nothing proposition made impossible by the fact that you can’t control your fear response. Bravery, however, is the choice to act despite the fear.

Creatives become defined by this bravery. It is the daily act of turning into your fear and pushing past it.

Since bravery is a choice, it is also a skill. It is no different than deciding to go to the gym or not eat an entire box of donuts. How can you practice bravery? Find a small task that will generate those fears and self doubt and repetitively push past them.

Joel Runyon’s solution is called “Cold Shower Therapy.” Take a cold shower for 30 days. The excuses generated to avoid the cold shower match any other creative endeavor. Practice pushing through the “reasons” and just do it.

Be brave. We all are fighting our own doubts. Your doubts are the same as your creative idols. They just practiced bravery longer and better than you.


Cold shower therapy

What it really means to fail

Facing fears, doing work, and a single serving of life

Poster: It’s only by overcoming the fear of what our ideas may become that we discover what we’re really capable of


This article was written by pinhole photographer, Jon Wilkening. To see more adventures in the wonderful world of film photography, art, and creativity, follow him on Twitter.