Guest Post by Allison Maruska

The Biggest Killer of Creativity

First, I want to thank Jenny for hosting the Sunday Scribbles Challenge and for opening up her blog space for wee scribblers like me. I hope I can do this awesome blog justice.

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Now, let’s talk about creativity – and specifically about what kills it (for the purposes of this post, creativity refers to both the act of literally creating something and to sharing our already-created work with the outside world). As creative types, we need to know what hazards lie ahead so we can avoid them.

Unfortunately, this killer isn’t something we can avoid entirely. In fact, it’s one we likely face on a daily basis.

I’ve recently started reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. In it, she outlines qualities creative types must have in order to create, including enchantment, trust, and persistence. But the first quality she discusses is courage.

That means not being afraid, because as she says:

…when courage dies, creativity dies with it. We all know that fear is a desolate boneyard where our dreams go to desiccate in the hot sun.

She goes on to list 27 fears we face as we strive to live more creative lives, including fear of rejection, fear that we don’t have enough training, and fear that our work isn’t important enough to put out there. The easy advice would be to simply say everyone has fears so either suck it up and create anyway or go do something else.

Here’s the thing, though: Fears are real. They aren’t silly, irrational things we’re taught to ignore (for the most part). Fears keep us alive – we don’t run into traffic because of the fear of getting smashed by a MACK truck.


Beep Beep!

But fear can also be paralyzing if we let it.

My bestselling novel was *this close* to being shoved under a mattress because of fear. After I got some bad feedback from a critique partner, I knew if I let anyone read it, one of two things would happen: 1. They would hate it and ridicule it mercilessly, or 2. No one would read it at all.

That’s right. I was afraid people would read it or not read it.

It took another, much wiser writing partner to talk me back off that ledge. I went on to self-publish the book and it sold twenty thousand copies in its first year.

And it wasn’t ridiculed mercilessly.

In her most recent flash fiction challenge post, Charli Mills says this (emphasis mine):

It’s not that fear itself is so bad. Fear is a warning — proceed with caution; be safe. Entrepreneurs and artists take calculated risks — they strategize to overcome doubt and fear to do or create something new. Fear is best acknowledged, not justified. It’s fear justified that skews thinking and actions.

Acknowledgement says, “Yes, this is a real fear that I have.” Justification says, “And because of it, I will or won’t do this.” Justification gives fear more credit and weight than it deserves.

I published my novel while carrying the fears that it would be poorly reviewed or not read. My wise writing partner even said, “Yes, those things could happen.” We acknowledged those fears and proceeded anyway. And you know what? Those things did happen! It got some bad reviews and I can’t get most of my own family to read it (among many others, I’m sure). But it also has lots of good reviews and fans anxiously waiting for the standalone sequel, which is now in revisions.

Fear is part of the creative process. Hell, it’s in every freaking step of it. If creativity is the Yin, fear is the Yang.

That doesn’t mean fear gets to kill our creativity. In fact, pressing on after acknowledging our fears makes having created and shared our work that much sweeter.

What fears do you face when creating? How do you overcome them?

0ec5e6b6a9fd960893ba80993bf75090.jpegAllison Maruska is the author of mystery, suspense, and YA novels, a humor blogger, former teacher, mom, wife, coffee and wine consumer, and owl enthusiast. Find her on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon.


29 thoughts on “Guest Post by Allison Maruska

  1. Fear of controversy. Fear of being misunderstood. Fear of rejection. These are real, but we have to not let them stop us from doing the right things our hearts tell us to do.

    The testimony about the rejected novel that turned a best seller is inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Yep, totally agree that fear can be debilitating, but we have to acknowledge the fear and go ahead and do it anyway. I thoroughly enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert’s book. I listened to her read it. I nodded my head, I think, to almost all the fears she listed and added a few more of my own. If we give in to fear, we give up on life. Congratulations on beating your fears and publishing your novel. That’s an inspiring story that can give us all hope. Hope is a hand-up when we’re not sure if we can make the next step. Thanks.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Reblogged this on Dan Alatorre – AUTHOR and commented:
    Great post on Jenny’s blog today. I know most of you will stare tgis debilitating fear in the face one day.

    Jenny did. Allison did. I did.

    Here’s what I want you to consider:

    You know what’s really scary? Thinking in reverse. Being old and on your death bed and a crystal ball shows the book you put under the mattress would have sold 20,000 copies and changed your life. Think about seeing that and knowing it all could have been different. How scary is that?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. First I feared I’d never write a novel and die a pathetic loser. Then I feared I had nothing to say. Then I let myself write 100 pages without judgment. then I was hooked.

    Bad reviews suck. Some are quite useful though. I’ve found the best thing to do when i get one of those weirdly aggressive bad reviews is to read reviews of the classics in literature on Amazon. When War and Peace gets trashed as a horrible novel I’m reminded that even the great writers of literature can’t please everyone so why should I expect my novels to do what no book has ever done?

    Humility is a good thing–along with a sense of humor.

    Funny how hard it is to keep the good reviews in mind when a bad one shows up. But just think how cool it will be when you’re dead and your great-great grand kids discover one of their ancestors wrote a book!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thanks so much for your encouraging post! Fear is a real thing that not only keeps us from risking our lives, but it can keep us from living our lives too. The only thing that I would add is what I tell everyone (including myself, every time I’m afraid to put anything out into the world): for any creative endeavor, there is someone who will connect with it and appreciate it.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Pingback: 7 Bullet Friday – Fear and Time Travel – Denise M. Sessous: writer, artist & dreamer

  7. Pingback: Where Writers Get Stuck: Querying and Publishing | Allison Maruska

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s