Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Triumphing Over Fear

Monkey here. Just a FYI, the illustration this week is a bit more graphic than usual and may be disturbing to sensitive readers.  I also talk about assassination attempts and violence (and yes, I tie it all back into creating and art), so if that might bother you, please come back next week.  The post starts (with the illustration) after the jump.

About one month ago, a young 15-year old girl was riding home on a bus.  She and her classmates had just taken an exam, and were heading back home for the day.  Suddenly, a masked gunman invaded the bus and asked for a girl by name, threatening everyone else.  The girl stood up, and was promptly shot in the head.

That girl, Malala Yousafzai was an outspoken activist who, four years prior, started blogging for the BBC about what it was like being a young girl living under Taliban rule in Pakistan.  She openly spoke out against the Taliban and fought for girls' right to go to school (which the Taliban did not want), and was one of the few girls attending school as girls' schools were being shut down and bombed.  Openly criticizing the Taliban is usually not a good idea if you want to live a long life, but regardless, this fierce young girl stood up to the shadowy bullies and spoke her mind.

Just ten months earlier, she was interviewed and when asked if she was scared that the Taliban would try to come kill her, she said  "I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right."  Malala is one brave young woman who refused to let fear (even of death!) get in her way of fighting for what she loved.  Also, Malala survived and is rehabilitating in a hospital now.  Take that, fear.

You're stuck again.  Maybe you have a project to work on, but you're killing time here on the blog.  Perhaps you're feeling uninspired, or that no one cares about your art but you.  Maybe you struggle daily with trying to just get off of the internet and go and make something.  If you find yourself having trouble creating, let's examine what might be the issue here.

There are many reason why we don't create.  "I don't have time" is often heard.  One might say "I'm too tired after work."  Excused might range from "I don't have the right brushes/paint/canvas/etc." or "It's just a hobby, it's not important."  Regardless of why you might tell yourself that you are not creating, I would guess that 99% of the time, it's actually your fear talking. 

Often times, we read that fear needs to be destroyed, or mastered, or conquered somehow.  However, I think that while it's a great goal in life to be fearless, I think it's more important to accept that fear is part of life, and to act regardless.  Malala never stopped being scared, and I don't suppose she'll ever forget the fear of being shot by an assassin.  However, the important thing is that we cannot let fear decide our actions - we must act in spite of the fear.

Personally, after reading about Malala, I realized how I often inflate the perceived consequences of failure.  I scare myself into inaction, thinking that if I submit to a juried competition and don't get in, the world is going to spin off its axis and throw us all into the sun.  We often fear embarrassment or failure, and our language reflects this fatalistic thinking ("I was so embarrassed I could DIE," or "Oh god, kill me now.")  However, the likelihood of me surviving introducing myself to a gallery owner or submitting to Spectrum or showing a complete stranger a painting is very, very, very high.

So really, what the worst you can do?  Maybe you'll make something that's ugly.  Maybe someone will laugh at your painting, or cry at your comedy routine.  Really?  Who cares.  You'll still be alive, and if you're smart, you'll learn something from your failure and you'll be able to spring back again.

Now I want you to think about one thing that you're not doing right now, and think of why you're really avoiding doing it.  What are you afraid of?  What's the worst that will happen?  Is that worst thing really even so bad?

So while your fight might be less epic than trying to take on the Taliban, it is important nevertheless.  You have a gift and you owe it to yourself and the world to share that gift of creation with other people.    Don't let imaginary fears of dire, exaggerated consequences keep you from creating.


Mike said...

One of the few newsletters I subscribe to which I actually read. Love this inspiration to create! Something I struggle with myself. If a girl can put herself on the line for women's rights,...

Melissa said...

I really like your blog. You write about our everyday questions, and leave us with encouraging words and fresh thoughts. Thanks for the continuing effort. I guess that's what makes you write so well :)

Monkey + Seal said...

Thanks Mike and Melissa! We hope we can keep bringing the good stuff for you! Thanks for reading and for commenting! Woo!