Transform Fear into Fuel for Creative Work

by Jessica Lyons

“There is no illusion greater than fear.”
― Lao Tzu

overcoming fear_mountainEvery single Monday through Friday, fear showed up at 8:45 a.m., fifteen minutes before my students arrived at school. My hands would start shaking. Waves of nausea would send me running to the bathroom at the last moment. My mind would run through a loop of “what if?” as I frantically crossed items off my to-do list.

I worried each morning about whether the children would like the lessons. Would they be inspired? Was I really the right person for this job? What if I couldn’t help the lowest students get to the right grade level?

My anxious thoughts + the rambling “what if?” question loop are what I call a “fear gremlin.”

We all have one. He pops up just as you’re jotting down a topic for a new blog, (What?! No one will read about that!). Or when you try a new swing dance (You have two left feet! You can’t dance!). Or when you’re renting a car and you suddenly have to buy every insurance package ever made (WHAT IF A GROCERY CART ROLLS ACROSS A PARKING LOT AND DINGS THE CAR?!).

At best, fear gremlins make you question simple decisions. At worst, fear gremlins halt your growth for years by keeping you from starting that new blog, project, or book.

Here’s a secret: Your fear gremlin is actually holding the fuel you need for your creative work.

And here’s a process for transforming your fear and moments of negative self-talk into the fuel you need to keep creating:

  1. Acknowledge that you feel afraid.

Casting a mental light of recognition helps dissolve the looming shadow of fear creeping into your thoughts, your actions, and potentially your words. Rumi said we should invite our fears into our house and make friends with all our emotions. Just being with your fear cuts down its power.

  1. Take a deep breath.

When we are feeling fear, we are in flight-or-fight mode. Our bodies literally think that we are facing death. Most likely, if you’re reading this, you are not dying. So take a deep breath. And another. And another.

  1. Oh, you sweet thing!

I learned this trick from Leo Buscaglia who started a revolutionary (unpaid) class called “Love 1A.” Whenever he made a mistake, he wouldn’t let himself get bogged down in the shame and guilt (leading to more fear!). He would say something like:

Oh, you sweet thing. You were in such a hurry this morning, you put on a blue shoe and a black shoe. Well, we’re all safe and sound anyway. Notice that he refers back to #2: We’re not dying.

And then he would move on with all the important things he had to do in his life. The key? He would move on.

  1. Movement = transformation

Get up and create a new pattern for your body + thoughts. Go for a walk. Get a cup of coffee. Change your chemistry and you can change your feelings. You are changing your neurology for success when you feel fear and move through it. Adding movement can transform fear into courage.

Don’t let your fear hide. Vulnerability studies over the past twenty years show again and again that sharing your fears with people you TRUST don’t make us feel fear less but they do make us feel less alone.

How does fear show up in your work? How do you overcome your fears to keep producing? Share your techniques for transforming fear in the comments section below!

Jessica Lyons is a life coach who is dedicated to exploring + embracing joy. Check out more at

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