True Confessions of a Fearful Artist

Ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum.

I sit in a coffee shop feeling my heart beat as I try to find a sense of calm. In a little over an hour I will be at an interview for a directing job. Just a small college show, but my fears overwhelm me and I feel panic building.

What am I afraid of?

Once upon a time I believed I would be a famous director.  I thought I had the talent and vision to create powerful and meaningful theatrical experiences for even novice theatre-goers. Or, at least that’s what I tricked myself into thinking.

The truth is that my doubts ate away at me. That little inner critic took control and won. I didn’t have the courage to pursue my dream fully and I let the nay-sayers and the cruel manipulators who wanted to keep themselves on top push me down. I lost faith in my ability. I lost faith in my talent and knowledge. I lost faith in myself.

I still got directing jobs, though.  Usually through somebody else’s recommendation. Actually, that’s how I get most of my jobs of any type, through a connection or a recommendation–rarely through an actual interview?

What does that say about me?

Since moving back to Massachusetts, I’ve seen plenty of directing jobs, although most of them were near Boston. I used the hour drive (without traffic) as an excuse not to apply. You know . . . rehearsals would start around 6 or so which means I would have to leave by 4:30 at the latest to be sure I’d get there and wouldn’t have any time to see Sarah, etc. etc. etc.

But really what held me back from applying was fear.

Then this job came up, and the excuse didn’t stand. This University is 15 minutes from my house, without traffic. The play is quirky and interesting, written by a woman and with strong female characters. It relies heavily on movement, music, and, I believe light. In other words, all the things I love.

No excuses. I had to apply. I didn’t even let myself stop and think. I sent in my resume as soon as I saw the ad, even before I’d read the play. If I had procrastinated, the inner critic would have found another excuse for me to run away and hide in fear.

Which brings me to this moment of nervous tension building.

But here’s the interesting thing, since I started writing this post, suddenly my fears are beginning to calm. It’s as if words are my meditation. By allowing myself to blog, to share my words in a public sphere, I have slowly learned to be brave about all my artistic endeavors. The inner critic doesn’t have as much control anymore.

I can, and will, go into this interview knowing that they want me to succeed. They want to find the director who will be the best match for this project.  I believe that could be me, but if for some reason they disagree that isn’t a reflection of myself or my talent.

Sometimes what it really comes down to is personalities.

I no longer have the dream of becoming a famous director. I have other dreams trying to make themselves knows–writing and publishing novels; developing theatre for social change projects; becoming a successful arts advocate in some way; and other dreams that I have yet to put into words. Directing is a part of my life that I’m not willing to give up completely, but it is not the guiding light to my creative soul. Still, I think I need to confront this fear in order to continue to grow into the person I want to be.

Wish me luck.

What are you afraid of as an artist? What do you do to confront those fears?





24 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. termitespeaker
    Nov 26, 2012 @ 18:10:48

    Writing is my only “artistic talent” and I suppose I can say that rejection was the problem before I started self-publishing. I wasn’t afraid of rejection, but I knew it depressed me and made me think, “What the use? I’ll never get anywhere, I’ll just quit.” So for years I didn’t even try to publish. Now, I don’t worry about it – if a publisher should show an interest, I could just say, well, if this doesn’t work out the way I want it, I can always go right on self-publishing. There isn’t so much on the line.
    Parenthetically, in high school I wanted to be a movie director (this was back in the l950s, you know, when the only woman who had ever directed was Ida Lupino). I didn’t know blinkies about how to make movies, but I did all the drama I could in high school. And then I decided that I didn’t like to act – made me too nervous. And you had to do a lot of acting before you could direct. So I gave up the idea of majoring in drama in college and majored in English literature, became a librarian, and here I am!
    Good luck with your interview! Be sure to let everybody know how it turns out!


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Nov 26, 2012 @ 19:40:40

      It went well, I think, but I really believe it will just come down to personality. The group was made up only of students and they will choose whomever they feel they will get along with best and learn the most from.


  2. Jennifer Stuart
    Nov 26, 2012 @ 19:41:37

    Man, I have so many fears as an artist. I feel like at first, I thought I was just the greatest with writing, since I was so good at writing essays in college. Then I started a blog and realized that the social component was something that I had no clue about, but I worked on it.
    At first it was scary to share personal things on the blog, but I continue to find the balance of “too much” and “not enough”. I think there are things people want to see in writing to feel less alone in the world, and I try to share those.
    I think that what I’m realizing for myself is that there are two (probably more) types of art- the type I do for just me, and the type I do to help others or be financially successful. When it comes to the latter, I have to pay attention to what resonates with people and what meets their needs. Kind of like your directing. When it’s the type that’s just for me, it doesn’t matter what a single soul in the universe would think, because it’s just between me and the diary page. But when it comes to making money, I have to be aware of what the audience’s needs are and what parts of my work work best for that. Does that make sense? I’m still striving for the balance, but I think seeing “My Art” as several different and connected-yet-independent things is a useful tool for me.


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Nov 26, 2012 @ 19:44:46

      LOL, I’m impressed that you can narrow it down to just two types of art. I feel like there are a zillion for me (but that might also come from my desire to do so many different kinds of art). Balance is definitely a challenge, because it is so easy to be consumed by what you have to do rather than what you want to do.

      Welcome to my blog, Jennifer. I’ll be by to visit yours right away.


  3. thoughtsontheatre
    Nov 26, 2012 @ 20:49:05

    Beautiful mediation on fear and doubt which can control anyone in the arts. I applaud you on your ability to recognize fear and trudge forward in spite of it! Hope you get the gig.


  4. awriterweavesatale
    Nov 26, 2012 @ 21:09:14

    as creative people here, we all share in your angst. We’re all vulnerable. You’re i good company.


  5. lisaspiral
    Nov 26, 2012 @ 22:48:00

    I’ve got my fingers crossed for you! This post is such a poignant expression of the way we all allow our fears to hold us back. I can say that my only regrets are for things not done, but that’s not enough to get me past those “what if’s”. Sometimes it’s just about closing your eyes and jumping. Be proud of yourself for doing that.


  6. joannevalentinesimson
    Nov 28, 2012 @ 09:19:10

    Go for it Lisa!!


  7. Victoria-writes
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 05:52:16

    Good luck!


  8. Kathy
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 13:33:49

    I so hope you get the job! I am proud of you for naming your fears, for sharing them with others, and for taking the plunge to meet your fear despite the Mind’s attempts to undermine.


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Dec 02, 2012 @ 08:37:31

      I did my best at the interview. I know that this job will really just come down to who those students want to work with. If I don’t get it, its no reflection on me or my ability, but on the fact that the decision was being made by young college students, and that’s okay.


  9. Kathy
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 13:34:09

    P.S. Whether you get it or not, you are a winner in my eyes.


  10. nrhatch
    Dec 02, 2012 @ 11:12:30

    It sounds like the PERFECT project for you, Lisa. Best of Luck! 😀


  11. Chris Edgar
    Dec 02, 2012 @ 16:13:26

    I’m glad you shared this. My own art-related fear tends to be that I’ll “hurt” people with my work and somehow make the world worse off by “putting it out there.” At least today I can say to myself that, if my music or writing makes others uncomfortable, maybe that discomfort will lead to growth. 🙂


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Dec 02, 2012 @ 16:15:52

      In my opinion, as long as your intent is not hurtful, then you’re only hurting yourself by hiding your heart away. Of course, if the art is intended to attack or harm or spread ill will and negativity (as some art does) then the world is a better place without it. I hope you take the chance. 😉


  12. Trackback: Moments of Joy, Moments of Sorrow: The World in Balance « Woman Wielding Words

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