Overcoming Fear in the Creative Process

For many artists, the creative process can be a painful endeavor. Illustrator, artist, and author Christoph Niemann likens the process to sport training. It’s a miserable task and if you feel too good while training, it causes you to wonder if you are actually working hard enough. Niemann identifies fear as his main source of agony while creating. During his talk at the 99U Conference, Niemann provides insight on how he handles three of his creative fears:

01/ I’m not good enough
This is a heavy burden because people will only judge you by your best work. Fortunately, this fear can be combated by simply practicing. Your craft is a skill which you can constantly improve. Present work should always be visually better than your past. However, take time to review your work and consider if you are getting better at the right skill. Are you creating something of value? Something that people love?

02/ My work is predictable and I will soon be broke
To prevent predictability, be your most honest critic. Social media is a great source of positive, self-esteem boosting feedback, but it’s  not valuable. Periodically critique your own work so you can find what’s wrong and adjust it accordingly. In addition, Niemann suggests creating a safety zone by saving funds and having a contingency plan so you can separate your creativity from income. It’s hard to be creative when your mind is worrying about money.

03/ I’m out of ideas
In order to create more ideas, you need to create now. Take time to work on your passion projects and look for solutions without knowing the problem. Everything that Niemann has created started as an experiment. You can’t follow a strategic set of steps to creativity. You have to create the time and environment for it to happen. Create exercises for yourself to stretch your thinking like Niemann’s @abstractsundays.

Be proactive, and don’t wait for ideas to come to you.

Stephanie Kaptein is a design strategist at Idea Couture. She is based in Toronto, Canada.

Photo: Christoph Niemann


the author

Stephanie Kaptein

Stephanie Kaptein is a senior foresight analyst at Idea Couture.