Skye Hillgartner of Bloomsbury Books, and the author

Before reading, Ashland 2.16.17

Creativity is a dance of fear and excitement. There I’ve said it. What I’ve experienced and known for a long time, but never fully acknowledged – even to myself – before.


I’m starting my book tour, spreading the word about King of Doubt. The other night I had a delightful time at our wonderful, local bookstore, Bloomsbury  Bloomsbury is the place to buy books if you’re local to Ashland. I did a reading followed by a lively Q & A. For several days before the event, I had bounced between fear and excitement. Will anyone show up? Will they like the book? Will they like me? Will they ask any questions?What questions will they ask? Will I have answers? Do I have anything to say? Will they think my performance routine is silly? I have such a terrible memory. What if I forget what I was going to say?

I could go on, but blogs are supposed to be short, and you’re busy. You get the picture: the waves crash in; the waves flow out. It wasn’t all fear, there was excitement, anticipation too. People are responding really well. I believe in this book. I enjoy showing it to people. I’ve worked hard to get here. I want to enjoy this phase of the work. I appreciate the opportunity to read my book in public. Doing “performance readings” makes it more creative and more fun than the average author reading. Part of me is a performer and I want to celebrate and live that part, too.

But the fact is that our minds, after millions of years of conditioning and habit, are sucked in so quickly and  easily to fear. To threat. Fear grabs the psyche and holds on like a bulldog. The oldest and deepest part of the brain, what’s often called the reptilian brain, is all about fear.  It is concerned with survival, always scanning for threats. This part of the brain may be primitive, but it is powerful. The slightest provocation can “trigger” us into the well-known flight-flight-freeze syndrome. FEAR.  Help, I’m going to die! Fear is unavoidable.

So who am I? Am I my fears? Am I my excitement and passion?

How to handle the dance?

I’ve gone through many phases, trying to understand and adapt to this dance of fear and excitement. I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to conquer, fight, deny, and generally shun my fears. Turns out, none of these efforts work. The harder I fight against my fears, the larger and more dominant they become. I’m coming to realize that fear is not the enemy. Fear is a part of me.  Like my toes, like my nose. Fears are there for a good reason. They have an important function. Fighting them is a losing battle. So, I’m learning to dance with them. Enjoy the music and do the dance of fear and excitement. Welcome the dancers. Join the party. Accept that I am neither my fears, nor my excitements. I am something far beyond either.  I do best when I listen to the music, recognize and join the dance. Dance with the fear. Dance with the excitement. Surely, one can dance with two belles at the same ball.

That’s where mindfulness comes in. Step one is to notice. And acknowledge. Once I accept my fears, they lose their power over me. They actually become my allies. Fear, after all, was the impetus for this piece. If it weren’t for my fears, I would have never written this blog post. Fear actually motivates me to do my best. Fear makes me sharper, keeps me on my toes.

Someone, I don’t remember who, said, “You can’t turn off the waves, but you can learn to surf.” Surfing is pretty much fun. So is dancing.