Facing fear, 2: On courage and confidence
Facing fear, 4: On risk and uncertainty

Facing fear, 3: Stepping out of one's comfort zone

Lowlands 1

From Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland:

"Fears arise when you look back, and they arise when you look ahead. If you're prone to disaster fantasies, you may even find yourself caught in the middle, staring at your half-finished canvas and fearing both that you lack the ability to finish it, and that no one will understand it if you do.

Lowlands 2

"More often, though, fears arise in those entirely appropriate (and frequently recurring) moments when vision races ahead of execution. Consider the story of the young student -- well, David Bayles, to be exact -- who began piano studies with a Master. After a few months' practice, David lamented to his teacher, 'But I can hear the music so much better in my head than I can get it out through my fingers.'

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"To which the Master replied, 'What makes you think that ever changes?'

"That's why they're called Masters. When he raised David's discovery from an expression of self-doubt to a simple observation of reality, uncertainty became an asset. Lesson for the day: vision is always ahead of execution -- and it should be. Vision, Uncertainty, and Knowledge of Materials are inevitabilities that all artists must acknowledge and learn from: vision is always ahead of execution, knowledge of materials is your contact with reality, and uncertainty is a virtue."

Lowlands 4

"Conditions for creativity are to be puzzled, to concentrate, to accept conflict and tension, to be born every day, to feel a sense of self."  -  Erich Fromm

"Don’t be afraid to expand yourself, to step out of your comfort zone. That’s where the joy and the adventure lie.''  - Herbie Hancock

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As I said about yesterday's post, there is much food for thought here for those of us who aren't writers or artists too.

It's remarkable how much fear we can carry around each day no matter what we do - are we doing it right, are we doing it well, does it really matter, does it make a difference, will it ever match the expectations I have for myself, do I know what I'm doing, will I _ever_ know what I'm doing????

I can see how these questions are especially fraught for those of you working in the arts, where the measures are more subjective - where for me, on the farm, my measures are immediately tangible: did the farmwork get done, are the animals healthy, is the gate repair holding, etc. And yet there can be fears in any chosen vocation. I talk to local men and woman whose families have been farming for generations and I can feel like such an imposter, or that my community status comes only from my marriage to a man from one of these families rather than from my own years of work, accrued knowledge, and ideas. And of course, how does any woman raised in England ever really feel confident?

I so envy you American women, who seem (and I'm generalising wildly here, but this is what it seems to me) to have such a stronger sense of self and self-pride. Though in raising my boys, I see that maintaining self-pride can be a problem for them too, increasingly so as they grow older and are exposed to more advertising, with its goal of making us all feel so unsatisfied with ourselves and our lives that we'll go out and buy some product or other to fix it. I think perhaps a lot of the fear in our lives is false fear, manufactured by the culture we live in.

What's the antidote for that? For me, turning away from mass media and to the quieter worlds of books, art, music, and the land, the blessed land, instead.

Whew, a long one from me today! My first impulse is to apologise for that, but that would be so...English. Instead, I'm going to let my words today take up space. There. I've done it.

To Cynthia: Very well said. Please take up space more often. And my wife, a Frenchwoman living in Northern Ireland, agrees with you about the remarkable strength of the American women she knows.

To Terri: As my wife will tell you, I'm a worrier by nature. I worry about everything. My writing. My life. My students. The state of the world, which of course I'm responsible for too. So here's my practice: when I go into my study, I visualise Worry (the cousin of Fear) as a horrid, sour-faced, malevolent little man and I show him the door. Firmly. Every time. Otherwise, I'd never set pen to page.

And because I'm a worrier, I continually worry that some of your readers might be missing the extra text in each post hidden in the picture captions, which is often the best part for me. I particularly like the last picture and picture caption today, both of which made me smile.

"False fear', yes!, and so often promulgated by those who want to 'sell' us something - a car, a boob job, a political brand, a religious dogma (as opposed to genuine faith). And yes, I agree, art is one antidote. And authenticity. And one-to-one communication. And for me: music, played live and local. It's what I live for.

Well said, and thank you for saying it, Cynthia Rose. One of those fears I think many women have (not just English women) is of claiming and inhabiting a more expansive space, instead of just squeezing themselves into what is left by others, and staying in the background. Which is, claiming your voice, and standing up for it, to yourself first, as being valuable and worth being heard. Another ongoing lesson whether or not one is an artist, because it is about living as a whole person.

Drat. One of the disadvantages of only being able to read Myth & Moor on an iPad is not being able to see those picture captions...I guess it doesn't have that functionality, much to my regret. I'm going to have some catching up to do when I get home!

As a fellow worrier, I think that visualizing that voice of negativity is a great way to be aware of, isolate and face it down—pouring love on it can be a helpful technique, too. "Yes, sweetie, I know you are worried, but what is the worst that could happen? And is that really likely?"

This is exactly what I'm needing these past few days in facing my fears and first rejections of my art in a long, long while. I cried, I hiked, I got a headache from all the crying, I napped, I shopped, and now I'm ready for more. Thank you for these reminders, as always.

> 'But I can hear the music so much better in my head
> than I can get it out through my fingers.'
> To which the Master replied, 'What makes you think
> that ever changes?'

If someone had told me that when I was first learning a musical instrument, I might have stayed with it. No one said that to me, however, and I was only ever praised for succeeding at things as a child, never for the attempt.

I think this needs to go on a wall someplace where I can see it every day ... perhaps altered to reflect writing rather than music, since that is where my happiness lay.

This series of posts has been great, Terri... and the photographs today are just stunning. Something about the early spring green tangle and the overcast skies enhancing the earthy colors, I'm lost in them.

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