Why is it so Damn Scary to Create Something Great?


“Does my creativity matter?”

It’s a question those of us with creative aspirations ask ourselves at least once (a day) as we toil to give our ideas form.

In that moment, it is easy to be scared. Scared of failure. Scared that our work has no value. Scared that we are past our prime.

Some give in to that fear. Many simply push it away, into the shadows of their mind where it lurks in wait for the next chance to strike.

The rest? They stare these fears in the face, acknowledge their presence, then come up with a plan to conquer them.

Not through success, fame, or a long career as some of us might expect, but through the trials of the creative process itself.

This is the basis for illustrator Christoph Niemann’s 99U talk. Niemann – as you might recall from his appearance on the Netflix series Abstract: The Art of Design – is an award-winning author and artist whose work has appeared on the front cover of The New Yorker, Time, Wired, The New York Times, and a range of other prestigious publications. Talented, hilarious, and a little neurotic, Niemann is at the top of his industry, but he nevertheless comes off as humble, and touchingly vulnerable.

“How can it be that I have this great job, and then I spend 90% of my time sitting at my desk, feeling terrible?” Niemann asks in his presentation. Ultimately, he explains the answer in three parts, and offers a solution for each:

Don’t think your work is good enough? Practice, and become better.

Don’t think your work is relevant? Worry, doubt, and agonise over it until you find a solution.

Don’t think you have any more ideas to share? Create. Take the leap. Start, and the ideas will come.

Fear is an integral part of creativity. I don’t believe we can develop as creatives if we don’t question our ability to create. And sometimes, we just need to be reminded of that so that we can find a way to carry on.

Watch the video, accept the challenge, and get to it.

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