“The human being cannot live in a condition of emptiness for very long: if he is not growing toward something, he does not merely stagnate; the pent-up potentialities turn into morbidity and despair, and eventually into destructive activities.” -Rollo May (Man’s Search for Himself)
The Fear of Creating
What’s more important, the anxiety of creation or safety?
I’ve been wrestling with this question for the majority of my life, spending most of it avoiding judgment. As sentient creatures, we tend to prefer comfort over all else, including even love. We’re built to survive, not to be happy, the evolutionary psychologists tell us; therefore, joy seems to take a backseat whenever we’re granted the opportunity for self-expression.
On the one hand, we long for intimacy, in whatever capacity it may arise; on the other, we run from its potential harshness. And that encompasses the natural state of things.
However, something happens when we choose creation… It begins with a tug, an intensifying itch that refuses to cede to our distractions. And as the sound of the foot-steps grows heavier, its weight is felt upon our shoulders. The itch then transforms itself into a gnaw, as our deeper selves cry out for freedom.
Creation’s path begins with a faint resistance, and culminates with a roar.
Are We Really Courageous?
It’s been said that creators are courageous in that they overcome their fears to present the world with hidden aspects of themselves, but I don’t think that’s altogether true. The fear is always there, but it’s counteracted by a yearning. It isn’t so much that people are able to somehow just act despite it: fundamentally, they prefer the terror to the gnaw. So, they choose the lessor of two evils.
For example: has there ever been a time when you wanted to say something so badly that you didn’t want to wait your turn, despite the accompanying fear of being judged for interrupting or saying something stupid? As though if you didn’t say it then, that thought would be lost forever, and somehow, some significant part of you. In that instant, when you belted out what was on your mind, you were a creator. You presented essential information to the world, which can’t be disassociated from you, as you’re the one who said it. It’s your imprint on that time in history, in that specific part of the world, which marks the importance of your existence. Your desire to feel notable overcame your fear of criticism; you caved in to your existential need.
And that’s how and why we create.
Are All of Us Creators?
Rollo May argued that creation was our attempt to conquer death, and I believe he meant that to mean that we try to live on through our work. However, my interpretation of how we use creation to overcome death differs, or is, at least, an addition to his.
For, the relentless voids that each of us feel, the ones that remind us of our mortality, can’t exist for too long; and they need to be filled with creativity, which, in essence, is the expression and acceptance of the self: that is the only genuine form of immortality, when past and future fade away in a full embrace by another.
When we blurt that sentence out, we inform another what matters to us and should be important to them as well; we do the same when we teach, or perform, or recite. Some essential part of us is conveyed through our words, even if it’s simply some historical fact: those words are our creations.
And when we create, we grow, but I don’t only mean that we become better at creating; we grow closer to each other, thus making all of us creators. Conquering the fear of death is about more than just leaving behind a mark of your identity; it’s about the association that mark continues to have with others, the prolonged acceptance and necessity of who you are.
We create because we wish to be important to those around us; we create because we seek to live on in their minds after we’re gone; and we create because we love, pining for its reciprocated warmth.
Creativity is intimacy. We don’t do it because we’ve overcome our fears; we do it because the alternative is intolerable.