Feel the Fear

I’m told by some very intelligent people that creativity is about having lots of knowledge and plenty of technique. But every time I hear this, I shake my head in exasperation. Don’t get me wrong, knowledge is important in creativity, because it allows us to connect up old ideas in a new way, or to think up completely fresh ones. Technique is vital for expressing our ideas coherently, so that other people understand what we mean. If I didn’t know what I was talking about, if I couldn’t write properly, no one would read what I write. But while knowledge and technique are very important for self expression, they are not the essence of what goes on when we are creative.

People often tell me that they would love to write a book. The people who say this have the knowledge and the technique to do so. But there is something stopping them. What on earth could it be? Certainly, time is a factor – it takes a good long while to shape your thoughts and get them down on a page. But we tend to make time for what we really want to do (if we can only get past our tendency towards procrastination). So, if it’s not time, then what is it that stops us from tapping our creativity? Why aren’t all those skilful, knowledgeable people writing books or painting pictures or inventing something new?

I have a fear of heights. I don’t like that feeling of being out of control; that sense of being about to topple over. There is a jetty in Ponte de Lima, the town very close to where we are staying. In the summer, people line up to jump off the jetty into the deep river pool below. There is no way on this earth that I could jump off the end of that jetty: my fear stops me from taking the leap. But I know someone who can. I know someone who will jump again and again and again, who loves that feeling of flying through the air. The loss of control, the sense that, no matter what anyone else thinks, you are just going to do it. The reason he can make that jump is because he knows how to feel the fear and do it anyway. And that, my intelligent, knowledgeable friends, is what creativity is all about.


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9 Responses to Feel the Fear

  1. thequirkyteacher says:

    Who are these people who say that creativity is about having lots of knowledge and technique? I think the general consensus (and many still question this) is that knowledge and technique are prerequisites that allow creativity to take place (which you have just confirmed) in any particular field, not that creativity = knowledge and technique.

    Some people think that knowledge and skills are not needed, and that ‘creativity’ can be taught through the medium of art, drama. Said people deny how important it is to teach the knowledge that is a prerequisite for true creativity, the sort of creativity that saves lives through new medicines for example.

    Your assertion that creativity is about ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway’ actually contradicts your initial argument. I would’ve said that ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway’ = risk taking. Creativity may include risk taking, but does not equal risk taking. I feel a Venn diagram coming on.


  2. S. bandon says:

    what!? It wasn’t an argument, Sue was using it as a way of communicating to us, a metaphor, an educator’s tool. I remember an unbelievable lecture of fear from Tim O’Brien at the Institute of education years ago where he walked you through how children can fear learning, amazingly insightful, then linked it straight to your own fears, then showed you how to actually remove fear from the children and from your own head. never forgotten that. I used to be frightened of going in a lift. Learned about fear that day, etc etc, no longer frightened of getting in lifts. This is a great post Sue. enjoy your holiday in Ponte de Lima. Its even sunny here today in Colchester,


  3. thequirkyteacher says:

    It’s a quote, not a metaphor, and it has absolutely nothing to do with creativity.


  4. chrismwparsons says:

    Sorry if this has ruined your holiday Sue! I’m not sure if Quirky Teacher has read my post which triggered this, but I appreciate his defence if he has. My point was that creativity which succeeds in making practical societal innovations requires knowledge (or luck) – I didn’t say that knowledge is sufficient for these things!

    The thing is, I think you are right about the importance of ‘just get out and do it’. That’s why I started blogging and why I think I will indeed try to extend my writing. For me though, I do feel the need to overthink things if I’m going to want to write a book, because of the kind of book I am wanting to write. I don’t want to say something unless it is original and has value to people. I can only know those things if I have a good grasp of the domain I’m talking about. You could argue that I can’t know that it will have value to people until I get it out to them, and that might be true about my poetry – or indeed my ‘philosophy’ (which is why I’m blogging). Ultimately though, the solving of practical challenges is not likely to just emerge from a clamour of creative outpourings – except through luck! We know monkeys given enough time could randomly type Shakespeare – but who would ever know? Who would spot the stroke of genius amongst the millions of random outpourings? They would be lost, ignored or just missed.

    Happy holiday, and thank you for caring so much and writing again – I don’t get much feedback on my creative thoughts – and knowledgeable evaluation will hopefully make them more useful to people!


    • thequirkyteacher says:

      I think the ‘just get out and do it’ thing has absolutely no link whatsoever to the whole creativity debate going on at the moment.
      I could just as easily attach ‘creativity’ to ‘bursting into song like Julia Andrews on a hillock’, call it a metaphor, but that still wouldn’t change the fact that I would be wrong.


    • suecowley says:

      Hi again Chris, the thing about just letting it out is you don’t do that and then say ‘I’m finished’. You do it 99 times and then usually on the 100th time you get somewhere close to what you had hoped for. But doing it is the only way to get better at it (well, it is with dancing and writing, which are two areas where I’ve been creative at a professional level). Thanks again for the discussions. 🙂


  5. Pingback: ORRsome blogposts April 2015 | high heels and high notes

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