The Creative Process is Scary and That's Ok

Staring at a blank screen, notebook, or any other space flooded with emptiness can conjure feelings of worry, confusion, and definitely fear. Yet this is a ritual anyone who considers themselves a creative willingly puts themselves through on a regular basis. Some may dread these less than pleasant feelings, but I am sure there are also many who embrace them, and I am one of them. Full disclosure, creating something is a scary process for me, and that's ok. From beginning to final product there are plenty of uncomfortable moments that I find extremely beneficial and rewarding to a successful creative process. Hopefully, after I share how these often referred to as negative emotions are helpful, you too will see how essential they are to your creative process, and why they should be embraced and not avoided.


Worry leads to wonder. What's not to worry about when first faced with a creative challenge? Will this have a successful outcome? Will I live up to expectations? Will I be creative? No matter what type of project you're faced with, there will be no shortage of worry, and that's a good thing. Personally, I worry the most at the beginning of a creative project, and I don't think that it's coincidence. I believe worry stops me from arrogantly sinking my teeth into a project, no matter how badly I want to start creating things. Instead, worry leads me to wonder about which important questions need to be answered and what research and brainstorming needs to be done before getting my hands dirty. Without the initial feelings of worry, I might not be led to wondering all of this, and would miss out on making some critical discoveries before beginning to create something. Additionally, the fact that worry leads to wonder is just as important towards the end of a creative project. For example, wondering about whether or not a web application you created is doing what you set out to create can motivate valuable user testing and reiteration.


Confusion can create collaboration. It's unavoidable to feel confused when faced with a new project for several reasons, and that's also a good thing. Confusion may be caused by the need to create something out of your comfort zone, something you don't have a lot of experience with, or a project that does not have a clear set of goals and expectations. Whatever the reason, confusion is inevitable and another reaction that is beneficial to the creative process. That's because confusion leads to the necessity of collaboration, whether it's because you need to reach out to a client for more information, or brainstorm with a fellow team mate who has a different skill set than you. Being confused can motivate you to reach out to others and ask important questions. I don't view confusion as a negative part of the process, but instead as a human reaction that forces me to work together with great minds and make discoveries I would have missed on my own.


Finally, fear can motivate. While I agree that you need to fail in order to learn, it's never-the-less human to fear it. I believe that fear of failure motivates and pushes us through struggles throughout the creative process. Fear of failing can also motivate you to iterate—to make things better. Failure happens when you give up. The creative process is long and winding and requires lots of iteration in order to have a successful outcome. This is especially true when creating web applications. Often failure is something that we self-assign based on our own measuring stick. For me, it's not failure as long as I am learning and not giving up. When I create something that just isn't working I haven't failed, I just need to continue to improve it. Without a healthy fear of failure I might not have the energy most creative projects require or reach an end result I can call a success.


Having a job where I can be creative is filled with positive experiences and feelings of gratitude. But just as I would never trade those experiences and memories, I would also never trade the struggles and tribulations that helped me to succeed. Worry, confusion, fear and all the other confounding feelings during the creative process might be uncomfortable, but without them creating something beautiful would be unobtainable, and that is much scarier.

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This is a really great article. Cause I struggle so often by myself in creative endeavours. Although I am a psychologist, I do sites, give lessons in Argentine Tango and plan (since years) to hold speeches about topics of life. And you are writing very clear what is the most blocking thing in the creative process: The believe that being creative has to be fun and easy and must not have uncomfortable feelings.
I like your approach cause it tickles something in me to think about.
If you don't mind I would like to take your idea of this article and transform it to a broader, psychological area (my site is about personal development) and writing it in my native language German.

Thank you Justin for making me think.

Hey Arne,

Glad that my article resonated with you, and I really appreciate the kind words. It would totally be ok if you used this as inspiration for your own article. I'd only ask if you could reference my article if you use any pieces from it.

Thank you, and I'm very glad to hear my article made you think.

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