Overcoming Creative Anxiety

Ben WorrallINSIGHTS

Creative Anxiety

If I had to identify the most frustrating challenge of my life – it would be creative anxiety.

I have spent much of my life trying to overcome creative anxiety in one form or another, and unfortunately, I’m still on the battlefield.

However, I’m much better at dealing with it than I used to be, hence why you’re reading this article right now. I know how frustrating this issue can be for creative people, which is why I want to share my strategies for beating creative anxiety.

What is creative anxiety?

Creative anxiety could be compared to a never ending creative block. Unlike traditional creative block, the reason you struggle to create is not because you have no ideas, but because your own mind tricks you into resisting the work itself.

Here’s an example of creative anxiety at play for me:

I come up with a brilliant idea for a creative project, let’s say an idea for a novel. I’m excited. I spend a week in deep thought and jot down some notes. Then, suddenly, I realise that I have to transform my ideas into some type of structured outline.  This is where the first bout of creative anxiety kicks in. The creative process is moving away from the joy of random idea generation, and into the hellish nightmare of physical creation. Normally, I don’t make it much further than this. The creative anxiety beats me. 

Sometimes, however, I manage to push past this stage and develop a rough outline. It feels good, but not for long, because it soon dawns on me that I have to write the novel itself. This is where creative anxiety knocks me down for a second time. The thought of actually putting fingers to keyboard and typing the first line fills me with dread. I begin to question the quality of the outline. I question whether I’m really ready to start on the novel. I will grasp onto anything to avoid taking the plunge.

Maybe, just maybe, I manage to gather up the strength to make a start. I sit down and begin to write. It normally starts off painful, but then as I get into the process the pain slowly dissolves, and the writing becomes almost enjoyable. “I’m doing it”, I think, “I’m actually writing”.  I finish off that writing session with a smile on my face.

Then, the next morning arrives, and I’m faced with the prospect of returning to the novel again. This is where things take a turn for the worse. The euphoria has worn off; the creative anxiety is back in full force. Sometimes I never return to the novel. Other times I do return, but I hate the writing from the previous day so much that I close the word document, never to reopen it.

Occasionally, I continue working on the novel for a while but it always ends the same. The creative anxiety beats me down time and time again, eventually it becomes too painful and I quit. My brilliant idea will never see the light of day.

The above is just an example of the type of creative anxiety that affects me, but it comes in various forms depending on the type of person you are and the type of creative work you do. You may be struck down by creative anxiety when in the preliminary stages of setting up a new business venture, or when working on a presentation, or perhaps when composing an original piece of music. Everyone is different, but the force standing between an individual and their creative potential is the same.

For someone with creative tendencies, creative anxiety can feel like the universe is playing a sick, twisted, joke on them. The creative person knows what they need to do, but they just can’t seem to do it, and there’s no one else to blame but themselves.

 

How can you overcome creative anxiety?

This is the big question. How do you overcome creative anxiety? Well, there’s no easy solution, but there are some strategies and mindsets you can adopt to help you start creating. It’s important to remember that even though it might feel like you’re the only person in the world dealing with this problem – you’re not.

In fact, I am prepared to make the assumption that most creative people have struggled with this issue at some point. Many of them still go on to create amazing work, and so can you.

Below are some strategies that will help you on your way.

 

Be a professional

 

“When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The muse takes note of our dedication. She approves.”

– Steven Pressfield, The War Of Art

The first piece of advice comes from The War of Art, a book written by Steven Pressfield. This book is pretty much the official manual for beating creative anxiety or ‘resistance’ as the author terms it. If you’re struggling with creative anxiety, your first step should be to buy and read The War of Art. It will change your whole perspective. It’s been very influential for me personally. The book can be found here.

In the War of Art, the solution to creative anxiety (or resistance) is turning pro.

While there are many facets of turning pro, the main distinction we can make between an amateur and a professional is the act of showing up. When you are suffering from creative anxiety, the most important action you can take is to sit down, every day, with a specific time frame in mind, and do the work. It’s as simple as that.

Note, creative anxiety will not suddenly disappear when you sit down and start working. It will still be there. The trick is to remain aware that the resistance you’re feeling is just creative anxiety – it’s normal and inevitable. You need to accept that creative anxiety will be there, and be committed to doing the work anyway.

You’ll probably be miserable, at least to begin with. Every molecule of your being will be screaming at you to walk away and try again tomorrow. Don’t do it. Remember, you’re a professional now; what you’re feeling is just that – a feeling. Stick to your guns, and you will soon find that the allotted time has passed; you have completed your creative work for today. Congratulations. Keep going. Do the same on the next day and the day after that.

This advice, to be a professional, may sound simple, and it is, but don’t be fooled. It’s a powerful method for overcoming creative anxiety. Just make sure you’re prepared for the fight of your life.

 

Build momentum

Being creative is difficult, and it takes practice. Many creative people, myself included, make the mistake of trying to run before they can walk. They jump into a passion project which is way too ambitious for their current creative ability, and then wonder why it never gets finished. It’s not so much that they don’t possess the required talent. It’s that they haven’t built their creative muscles yet. They have little chance of finishing a big, ambitious, project if they haven’t gained any momentum from completing smaller projects first.

If it’s your dream to write a thousand page novel that changes the world; you should probably start off by completing and publishing a couple of well-crafted short stories, and then maybe move onto a novella, and then a simple novel, and finally the world changing novel that you’ve had your eye on from the very beginning.

The logic behind starting small is not just that it gives you time to master your craft, although this is important, but that you will be building a track record of finishing what you start. Thereby, when it does come time to create your passion project, you will possess the experience necessary to ignore the creative anxiety that rises, and finish the project anyway.

 

Get in touch with your inner child

There was probably a time in your life when you enjoyed the creative process, most likely when you were a child. Think back to that time. Imagine yourself being creative without having to deal with that critical voice in your head.

To reduce the effects of creative anxiety you need to stop taking yourself so damn seriously, and realise that your creative work isn’t about ‘you’. The work is about the work. You’re creating for the love of creating, just like you did as a child.

Try to think of yourself as an unburdened child every time you sit down to create. This is easier said than done, because most of us are not children anymore, but try your best. Thinking of yourself in this way will not only reduce creative anxiety, but also make the entire process a lot more fun.

 

Work on yourself

The only way to completely rid yourself of creative anxiety is through personal growth. Remember, that this isn’t an external problem. Creative anxiety is an internal problem. It’s part of who you are, and it’s your responsibility to fix it.

You need to work on: your neurosis, your fear of failure, your fear of judgement, your attachment to the logical mind, and so on.

If you are serious about creativity playing a prominent role in your life’s work, then creative anxiety is an essential problem to overcome.

The way to start working on this problem is by dedicating a portion of your life to self-mastery. I gave you an overview of the process of self-mastery in my previous article, which you can go back and take a look at. Much of my future writing will be beneficial for those looking to overcome creative anxiety because it will revolve around the overall understanding of yourself and the world – both of which directly relate to your ability to be creative.

 

Why is it important to be creative anyway?

Creativity is responsible for everything that exists.

The words you are reading right now? Creativity.

The device you are reading them on? Creativity.

The planet you are standing on? Creativity.

The Universe itself? Creativity.

If you know that you’re a creative person, it’s your responsibility to create.

If you have a gift to share, then share it.

Don’t let your true purpose be prevented by your self-sabotaging mind; you’ll regret it.

Take a deep breath and dive in. Laugh at the resistance standing in your way, and walk on by.

Be authentic to you who truly are, and you will create.

It’s why we’re here.

Thank you,

Ben Worrall

www.benworrall.com

What is Self-Mastery?

Ben WorrallINSIGHTS

 

self-mastery

As I continue to release new content on my website, my focus is going to be on what I will refer to as the process of self-mastery. I’m interested in discussing self-mastery at length because it’s such a deep and endlessly fascinating subject. I’m convinced that the study and practice of self-mastery, in all of its forms, is not only the most important undertaking for you as a human being, but also the most valuable pursuit for humanity as a whole.

Over the last few of years, I have spent much of my time working on my own self-mastery process, and therefore, I’m speaking from personal experience when I inform you of the often subtle but powerful effects it has on one’s life. My journey started at the age of twenty-one when I became somewhat interested in watching motivational/self-help videos online and also casually reading books related to the same subject. One book that really stands out for me as a catalyst is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. This book is spiritual in nature and encourages the reader to become aware of their true self through inner reflection. While I deeply connected with this book and others, it wasn’t until I was living in Asia a couple of years later that I began to take this work seriously. It was at this point that I had the intuition that mastering myself was the most important thing I could be doing with my life.

Like I explained in my previous article, I can now see how this work is starting to profoundly change me. I’m not the same person that I used to be, and I mean that in the most positive way. Don’t get me wrong, I still have many problems that I’m dealing with, and there are certain aspects of my life have not been improved much. But even so, a definite internal shift has taken place. A shift which has infiltrated my everyday life and continues to change the way in which I interact with the world.

So let me explain exactly what I mean by the process of self-mastery. I have divided it into three separate categories and will give a brief description of each one.

 

Self-education

Self-education is a vital aspect of self-mastery. I have spent countless hours on self-education. What self-education means to me is to broadly educate yourself on how the world actually works, and to do this without relying on a specific educational body such as a school, university, or even your own culture. What this means is studying a variety of material from different sources. You could potentially start by reading quality books by modern authors which may provide you with some sort of grounding, and then you can turn your attention to more obscure sources such as reading books from different times and cultures. It’s important that you stay open-minded when you are undertaking self-education, don’t become trapped in an echo-chamber. Remember, you don’t know what you don’t know, and most likely, there’s a lot that you don’t know.

 

Self-awareness

An individual who is self-aware can make decisions, major and minor, which have a positive impact on their own lives and the lives of those around them. Self-awareness is absolutely key in the process of self-mastery as developing your level of self-awareness will set you on the right path. In a world where we are constantly told who we should be and what we should be doing, one of the most powerful things we can understand is who we actually are. In my view, self-awareness can be divided into two categories:

1.  Knowing yourself – A practical understanding of what makes you tick. What type of person are you? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What type of career is right for you? What are your values? What are your goals? Where are you going right? Where are you going wrong?

If you have never been deeply introspective before, the answers to some of these questions may take a while to crack. However, when you do crack them, the information will be extremely useful as you move forward in your life. You will begin to understand yourself on a deep level, and your actions will arise from a place of authenticity. You will be in a position to design a life of your choosing.

2. Knowing reality – This could also be defined as mindfulness. This, in my view, is a deeper level of self-awareness. Knowing reality or mindfulness is the ability to literally see things for what they are as they are happening. This is particularly useful for becoming aware of the truth behind your own actions, thoughts, and emotions in real time. For an example, if you easily become irrationally angry over small issues, you can catch yourself in the act and become aware of your unnecessary emotional response. This aspect of self-awareness can be practiced by a vigilant observation of yourself and by using certain techniques such as meditation. Over time, practice in this area this will lead to mastery over your actions, thoughts, and emotions. Pretty cool!

 

Self-transcendence

Of the three aspects of self-mastery, this one is the hardest to put into words. I would describe it as being able to see life beyond your own personal agenda. It involves the act of giving back to the world through creativity and service, the capacity to recognize beauty in the act of being rather than doing, and to value the pursuit of truth over all else. Self-transcendence is by far the most profound, the most important, and the most difficult aspect of self-mastery to attain and sustain in your life.

While I have broken up self-mastery into these three separate distinctions, they tend to overlap in practice. For example, self-education helps you to better understand yourself, and understanding yourself makes self-transcendence easier.

It’s also worthwhile noting that all three of these distinctions, to a certain degree, become more prominent with age. In general, older people tend to have a better understanding of the world, themselves, and have realised the value of self-transcendence, however, this isn’t always the case. What I hope to achieve is to speed up the process of self-mastery by spreading awareness of its importance, and by helping people to actively work on their own inner growth as they go about their daily lives.

I think it’s important to remember that the value of our lives does not come from what we possess or even achieve, but from the people we become. It’s only once we have developed ourselves to the highest levels that we are best placed to have a positive and meaningful impact on the world.

“For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories.” – Plato

If the idea of mastering yourself is intriguing to you, which it should be, my advice would be to start by getting into the habit of reading more high-quality books. This will get you started on the self-education aspect of self-mastery. I’m going to be creating a book list in the very near future containing some of my must-read books. Also make sure to subscribe to my email list and follow along as I release more insightful articles and videos on the subject of self-mastery.

My next article will be coming very soon and where I will begin to dig deeper into the specifics of the self-mastery process. Talk to you soon!

Thank you,

Ben

www.benworrall.com

 

My New Mission

Ben WorrallPERSONAL

My mission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the last 2-3 years my values have profoundly shifted. I’m still the same person on the surface, but my psyche has evolved and is still in the process of evolving. This evolution has been partly caused by the process of ageing, but is also due to the amount of time I have invested in introspection and self-education.

For the last year, it’s been my career ambition to become a professional filmmaker. My plan was to master the craft of filmmaking and then work my way up until I was in a position to create my own films. Unfortunately, in recent months my motivation to continue on this career path has evaporated into a cloud of smoke and ash.

I have been asking myself questions like:

-What do I want out of life?

-What’s most important thing I could be doing with my life?

I soon realised that my passion boils down to the communication of ideas, and that I’m somewhat apathetic towards the process of filmmaking itself. I now see that pursuing a career in filmmaking will most likely to lead me to technical position in the film industry, which isn’t what I want to be doing. I still have a real love of films and the art of filmmaking, but I just don’t see an immediate future for myself in this career path.

So what now?

As mentioned above, my passion is the communication of ideas, the activity that I spend most of my time on is the study of self-mastery, and my current professional role is teaching. It occurred to me that maybe I should combine all three aspects of my life into one powerful purpose. That purpose being to teach and communicate ideas which help other people to become the best version of themselves.

But what qualifies me to be teaching people about such a broad subject? I’m just a 25 year old with little life experience, no audience, and average communication skills at best. Who is going to listen to me?

But then I ponder more deeply and realise that this isn’t about me. If I’m going to pursue this path, I shouldn’t be approaching it from a place of ego. The real questions I should be asking myself are:

Could I help others from the sharing of these ideas?

Could I make a positive difference in the world?

And the answer to both of those questions is yes.

The way I view the world has been expanded and enriched in the last couple of years. I now understand concepts that have completely changed my perspective, including a better understanding of myself. At this point, I have quite a few valuable insights rolling around in my head, ideas that have changed me and will help change others too. The scary and shocking thing is that the average person has no idea about most of this stuff. Some people do, and the information is out there in books and online, but most people aren’t seeking out this information. The school system and the mainstream media don’t talk about it and therefore, it remains mostly unknown.

Where this leaves me is with a sense of responsibility. I feel that I have a duty to speak my truth. A duty to share some of the deep wisdom which I have picked up over the last few years and continue to discover on a daily basis. I think about the current state of the world, and I see that it is crying out for wisdom. I see people who have lost touch with themselves, who are caught up in the storm of materialism created by a misguided culture. I believe that what would help humanity the most at this time is less looking outwards and more looking inwards. If every individual used their time to better understand themselves, educate themselves, and develop themselves, many of the problems we face today would vanish.

My personal mission:  “To communicate deep wisdom, helping others achieve inner growth.”

If I am going to take my mission seriously, I need to continue to develop myself further. That development will include the mastery of practical skills, namely written and spoken communication. I have become far more effective in both of these areas, but I am still nowhere near where I want to be. The habit I’m implementing into my life at the moment is to set aside a couple of hours of writing time every single day. I’m more motivated than ever to produce high quality written work which I can be proud of, and as a by-product, improve my writing skills. My secondary concern is improving my spoken communication which I will work on by getting back into making videos for YouTube. I see this as a good way to grow my audience. I’m also potentially interested in becoming certified as a coach. This would allow me to work with people one-on-one, and even make a decent living in the future. My personal strengths go hand in hand with a career like this.

It’s time for me to get started on my mission.  I hope this post inspires you to think about your mission. What is it you want to dedicate yourself to? I also hope that you are inspired to stick with me as I begin this journey into the unknown. If you want to be updated on my future posts as they are released, make sure to become a subscriber.

Thank you,

Ben

www.benworrall.com

A Reoccurring Dream

Ben WorrallINSIGHTS, POEM

The following is a short poem which I got up in the middle of the night to write. It seemed important


I had a dream tonight. A dream where I was a million miles away.

In this dream I was a child again and laughter was abundant.

When I awoke from the dream I couldn’t help but see that my current age is also a dream.

Time is not fixed but rapidly passing and soon I will look back with nostalgia.

I can no longer let time slip away.

Instead, I will nurture the eyes of consciousness and make the most of each day.

Now is the time for creation. There will be no second chance.

I should step out of this trance and become aware of the dance.

A short poem by Ben Worrall.

Babies With Beliefs

Ben WorrallINSIGHTS

Who are you?

It’s easy to get caught up in the illusion of yourself. In an identity which has been shaped over many years, but is this really who you are? Or is this a construction of your upbringing, culture, society, etc.

If you don’t give the premise of your own being constant attention, you will slip into the illusion again and again…and again. The world wants to tell you who you are, will you let it?

Take a closer look and you will see that we are just babies with beliefs.

The Origins of Cinema

Ben WorrallFILMMAKING

When the camera was first introduced it was seen as a tool by theater performers to reach more people. They would place the camera where the audience would usually sit and use it to film a performance. The camera was used to capture the reality of the production and there were no cinematic techniques used (such as varied shot types).

It’s amazing to think about how this use of the camera transformed into the type of film we watch today. If you put yourself into the shoes of the actors and producers of that time, the idea that you could move the camera into different positions to create a more immersive experience for the audience would have been a complete paradigm shift. I can imagine that when this idea was first introduced it was most likely dismissed by people because it was so different to what they had been doing in the past. It may seem obvious to us but the transition probably wasn’t self-apparent at that time. In retrospect, we can see how this creative shift in perspective created an entirely new medium and changed the way that visual stories were told over the next century.

It makes me wonder what we may be overlooking today. Both in the context of telling stories and also the way we live our lives in general. The present may seem solid, it may seem like the best we can do, but this is just because our view of ‘the way things are done’ have been set in stone over a long period of time. In many cases the way things work today are all we have ever known. Our reality is constructed by what we already know.

Never lose sight of the fact that you could be that one brave and creative individual to push forward an alternate perspective. Doing so could change everything.

Writer vs Editor Mindset

Ben WorrallFILMMAKING

Over the last few months I have been doing quite a bit of research into Stanley Kubrick.

Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick

I have been working my way through his filmography. One of the things that stands out to me about Kubrick’s career is the fact that he never wrote an original screenplay and instead only adapted existing material. In an interview with Kubrick he stated how he had a great deal of respect for writers of original material because it was something he felt he could never do.

I found this interesting post on Quora asking the question”Why did Kubrick never write an original screenplay?”

The answer given described how filmmakers tend to fall into one of two categories:

  1. The writer mindset
  2. The editor mindset

The writer draws his/her strength from creating something from scratch. This type of person will likely have little problem getting their ideas down on paper but may struggle to condense them down into presentable and cohesive story. This person is probably more right brained.

The editor on the other hand will have a hard time creating from scratch because they are overly analytical and expect perfection the first time around. However, when given a starting point to work from they will be able to transform it or improve the original material using their critical thinking skills.

Quentin Tarantino is described as having the writer’s mindset while Stanley Kubrick as having the editor’s mindset. This makes total sense and explains each filmmakers approach to their work. Tarantino creating original work from scratch and Kubrick adapting pre-existing material.

I personally found this distinction to be really interesting and helpful. I would 100% consider myself as having the editor mindset but never really thought about it in this way until now.

Once you know what category you fall into as a filmmaker you can focus on your strength. This doesn’t mean that editor types can’t write anything original but I do think it’s helpful to be aware that this might not be their strength. Having a knowledge of this distinction also means that you can collaborate more successfully and learn from other filmmakers who may fall into the opposite category.

Which one are you? A writer type? An editor type? Or a little bit of both?