Every once in awhile we come across a movie that stays with us for a very long time. I recently watch such a movie, “An Unfinished Life” starring Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman and Jennifer Lopez. This is one of those meaning of life movies in which every scene is so real and filled with truth that we don’t dare look away and risk missing something.
The movie has many themes running through it, but the most powerful theme that lies beneath all the others is the effect fear can have on us if we let it overcome us. By the end of the movie, I couldn’t help but realize that at various times of my life, I have been very much like the characters in the movie…I have let fear stop me from being all I could be and doing the things I really wanted to do.
Whether it’s fear of looking stupid, of feeling pain, of making mistakes or even of creating something ugly, fear can paralyze us and prevent us from moving forward in our lives. So what can we do about it? There is a lot we can do to manage fear…but we cannot eliminate it from our lives. Nor should we want to. Rather, I think we should embrace fear; shake hands with it and meet it halfway. Fear serves a genuine purpose; it prevents us from walking into traffic, trying to befriend wild animals, and lets us know we are venturing out of our comfort zone. However, if entrenched within us too deep, fear can prevent us from doing the simplest of tasks…like doing something we love to do: creating!
How can we make fear work for us instead of against us?
Fear can be a useful creative tool if we invite it in for coffee; if we understand its power and tap into it’s energy. Think of how it feels riding a roller coaster or watching a scary movie…the element of fear builds adrenaline in our bodies which increases heart rate and blood flow; high levels of adrenaline not only decreases the effects of pain, it enables us to do amazing things.
This is why denying our fears does not work…denial does not make our fears go away. Rather it buries them deeper in our psyche and allows them to increase in size and surface as anger or frustration. The only way we can move through our fears is by to greet them head on and name them. recognize them and then over time, change our reaction to them.
If you participated in last week’s exercise, then you’ve already taken the first step by writing your fears down. If you haven’t done the exercise yet, there’s no time like the present! The simple act of writing down your creative fears — defining them — is amazingly powerful. I say this because when we look at what we have written…we are looking at words on paper that we have given meaning and power. Yes…we give our fears their power…more power and more of us than they deserve to have.
This week, we are going to build on week #1′s exercise. However, before starting this week’s exercise, please gather all the supplies I’ve listed below so that you can move through the exercise at a steady and fairly rapid pace. The goal with this exercise has nothing to do with the beauty of the outcome…it is simply to move through the exercise without thinking too much…without letting fear set in, causing you to deliberate and wonder if you’re doing it right.
Also, I’m not posting my results today because I don’t want to give any direction of what this exercise should look like…there is no “right” or “wrong” look to it. If the thought of no visual guide to follow makes you uneasy, take a deep breath and tell yourself that you are doing an exercise not a “challenge”. I don’t call these challenges on purpose because a “challenge” implies the outcome will be a failure or a success…there is nothing and no one to judge your work here. These are exercises; an exercise is defined by Webster’s as “an effort performed to increase skill.” I like that…doing something to increase our skills.
Please note that I’ve been specific with the colors to use and which letter stamps or stickers to select. I’ve done this to elminate having to make too many decisions because to many decisions can easily become the breeding ground for fear.
Week #2 Exercise
- small surface to create on (no larger than 8-1/2×6); paper, canvas, journal, etc.
- permanent marker (Sharpie)
- white acrylic paint
- decorative stamp (doesn’t matter what design or size, just pick a favorite)
- large letter stamps or stickers (black) “X, Y & Z” (the largest you have is fine!)
- black permanent ink pad
- colored markers or pencils or watercolor crayons: blue, green and purple
1. write the answer to one of last week’s questions onto your surface with the permanent ink pen; write as large as you’d like.
2. paint 1 thin coat of white paint over the entire surface; allow to dry (acrylic paint should only take a few minutes).
3. stamp decorative design anywhere on surface 1-3 times with permanent black ink.
4. create multiple circles of any size with the colored markers/pencils or watercolor crayons. do as many as you’d like, stop when you are pleased with the results.
5. finish the piece by stamping (or adhering if you’re using stickers) the X, Y & Z one time anywhere on the surface.
6. Put it away as quickly as you can when you are finished. Do not look at it again until tomorrow…
Without giving too much of the movie away, I was struck by the reality of one gripping scene: The 11-year-old girl says to Robert Redford’s character, “I’m afraid…” and he replies, “That makes two of us.” By admitting their fears to each other, they derive the strength they need to continue doing what they know they need to do…Powerful stuff.
Whoever thought that admitting our weaknesses can be our greatest strength…and inspire others to do the same.
We’re all in this together…thanks for stopping by. Now go have fun and create some “ugly”!