Working with Creative Anxiety

Like so many people, I have creative anxiety. Creating, performing, and sharing your art requires vulnerability. Being vulnerable can incite a lot of emotional and physical distress. Creative anxiety can hurt or help our art. 

When it Hurts

Anxiety can curb your creativity. I have often fallen into procrastination because I was afraid to finish and share my work. I am the cruelest critic of my own work. I self-edit to the point of stifling my ideas. This lets fear control my creativity. The fear of starting too late. Self-doubts about whether an idea is worthy. The worry that all my efforts will be in vain. Fear can prevent you from sharing your work. I have missed opportunities to show my work in festivals because I was afraid to apply.

When it Helps

Believe it or not, anxiety can fuel your creativity. You want to create things that you care about – that have a message. Your creative anxiety can be your barometer to tell you if you are creating meaningful work. If you feel completely calm and cool about your art, are you pushing any boundaries or challenging anyone’s ideas? If you are taking risks, you will feel it! Feeling anxious about your art can tell you that you are on to something important and worthwhile.

How to Deal

Comedian John Cleese refers to creatives working in either “open mode” or “closed mode”. In open mode, you don’t edit or refine and you go with any idea that comes to mind. I’ve yet to achieve this, but I find this concept useful for letting yourself practice your craft with no end result in sight. Creating for the experience and not the product can help you manage the push-and-pull of your creative anxiety.

It also helps to think of your creativity as a muscle. If you don’t exercise it regularly you’ll feel the pain when finally start a project! Personally, I like to work on multiple projects (in multiple disciplines) at one time. When I am critiquing myself or second-guessing my work I can switch projects to squash my negativity and keep myself going in open mode.

I don’t fight my creative anxiety. I learn how to work with it.


Heidi Vandenbroeke
DGTL Timmins Program Lead