I suffer from anxiety. All of the time. And it doesn’t just revolve around my work or creative projects. It consumes me in all aspects of my life. I worry about my reactions and responses to others, about making the right decisions, about what will happen tomorrow or next week or even next year. I spin out of control in my mind about scenarios that barely have a basis in reality.
Just writing this post has taken an enormous amount of energy and commitment, to not mention a big dollop of anxiety and a pinch of neurosis.
Creatives suffering from anxiety can tell you there is a small distance between perfectionism and madness. But let’s be real. Anxiety is not kept in a compartment that is labeled for work only. It bleeds across and taints every aspect of life. While it can interfere with our creative inspiration and expression, it can be and often is crippling in other areas of life.
Whether it is an overbearing level of perfectionism, various kinds of insecurities, self-doubt, criticism and negative beliefs, anxiety and her friends take center stage –hogging the spotlight and shoving the creative process and product off into the supporting cast and extras on the sideline.
Handmaiden of Creativity
T.S. Eliot has said, “Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity.”
It has been known for some time that but now it seems that there is support for something many of us in the creative fields have long believed and experienced first hand. There appears to be a link between anxiety and being more creative.
Not that the validation was needed from anyone more than some of my favorite artists.
Of course, almost all people have some amount of worry and face all sorts of anxiety and challenges, but the high sensitivity and fierce intensity of creative types tend to be more prominent.
The Missing Link
That may, in fact, be due to
While the symptoms and intensity may (and do) vary from person to person, the crux of the matter is there is a prominent inner conflict which many artists face. But many of the notable and most successful are artists are able to channel this anxiety to the right places, specifically to their creative benefit.
Famous psychiatrist Rollo May, who felt “real creativity is not possible without anxiety” points out that creativity is what fuels the process and even can be the secret to solving problems and dreaming up content.
Transform anxiety into creativity
So, here are a few pro tips to take hold of that anxiety and make it your bitch.
- Dabble in a variety of creative activities to enhance and bring your imagination to center stage in a pro-active and productive way.
- Keep a journal of all thoughts, ideas, and concerns. Let the anxiety out and use it to generate new ideas in your work.
- Meditate on the feelings. Understanding and dealing with feelings can often improve creative thinking and expression.
- Creativity flourishes when you are comfortable and when you least expect it. Don’t force things when you are feeling blocked and paralyzed. Instead, distract yourself or engage in another activity that pulls you out of the situation. The ideas and images will then come out to play more naturally.
- Anxiety is like a shadow, its always there looming behind you wherever you go. Don’t try to run from it. Instead, accept it and recognize it and take care of it.
Most importantly though — Don’t let anxiety take control and stop you from doing what you want and creating that masterpiece. Anxiety can be your superpower instead of your crutch.