My sister and I had a conversation recently about fear. Both being in our 50's, we looked back on the role that fear has taken in our lives. As children, we were both pretty fearful of new experiences - so much that we allowed fear to prevent us from trying new things. I remember having a very small electric organ that I got for Christmas one year. I played songs on that organ constantly and loved it. I felt I had so much talent, yet there was no way in hell I would ever take piano lessons. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear.
We have both led successful lives even as we struggled to overcome our fears. And we both agreed we have made much progress. But will we ever rid ourselves completely of this nasty friend? Probably not. We wonder, though, how different our lives might have been without it.
I just finished reading (listening to) a wonderful book by the author of "Eat, Pray, Love", Elizabeth Gilbert. This book, "Big Magic", addresses the subject of "creative living beyond fear". As I was listening, I was naturally thinking of myself and photography, but I couldn't help but think about the young people I know who are embarking on creative careers - Ali, Hali, Lyndsay, Jon, Annie and all of those young musicians I have met at her school.
As I made my way through its pages, written with honesty, wisdom, humor, and insight, I came to believe it is a valuable read for anyone.
We all have fears. Some more than others. And we all have fears that often affect the choices we make - no matter how much we wish they didn't.
And no matter how stupid we know they are.
Here are a few excerpts for "Big Magic" that really hit home with me (really the entire book hit home with me).
The first is a letter that Elizabeth Gilbert wrote to her fear. Even though she is addressing fear as related to creativity, it's easy to generalize.
"Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you'll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I'm about to do anything interesting - and, may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There is plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are a part of this family and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still - your suggestions will never be followed. You're allowed to have a seat and you're allowed to have a voice, but you're not allowed to have a vote. You're not allowed to touch the road maps; you're not allowed to suggest detours; you're not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you're not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive."
"It isn't always comfortable or easy - carrying your fear around with you on your great and ambitious road trip, I mean - but it's always worth it, because if you can't learn to travel comfortably alongside your fear, then you'll never be able to go anywhere interesting or do anything interesting.
And that would be a pity, because your life is short and rare and amazing and miraculous, and you want to do really interesting things and make really interesting things while you're still here. I know that's what you want for yourself, because that's what I want for myself too.
It's what we all want.
And you have treasures hidden within you - extraordinary treasures - and so do I, and so does everyone around us. And bringing those treasure to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small."
I loved listening to the audiobook because it is narrated by Elizabeth Gilbert. She is not only a talented writer, but also a fabulous speaker and storyteller! Also note, the Deep, Dark Fears comics are NOT from the book.