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Stan Stewart is a pianist

translating fear into creative energy

I had a Twitter conversation recently that invited me to look at the ways that I could use creative outlets to constructively involve the energy from feelings. That’s a mouthful, huh?

Feelings as the energy of the moment

I think that feelings are e-motion or energy-in-motion. (I think I first heard this concept from my friend and mentor, Cynthia Winton-Henry.) I don’t need to become attached to them. In fact, that would be a waste, because they are just going to move on. Like a wave of energy, they are here now and gone in a moment.

Many of us will remember stories from psychology 101 about the fight-or-flight response that is connected with fear. This visceral response certainly makes it more challenging. The impulse is either to respond to the adrenal rush by throwing punches or running away. But in societal situations, we have to try to cope with the fear itself and, for some, this becomes an overriding focus. But it doesn’t need to be. As the e-motion approach to fear suggests, “this too shall pass.”

Keep in mind that much of what I’m saying here can be applied to other emotions (anger, sadness and so on). In my case, fear just happens to be the one that I identify as the main source of creative derailing for me, so I’m focusing on it. Translate to your preferred emotional train wreck, as necessary.

Fear is usually an emotion that’s telling us that something is happening that goes against what we want. (This can also be true of other emotions, of course.) So, my assumption here is that the positive outcome of fear happens when we re-focus our attention on our desire and what brings us passion. If I stay fixated on the fear itself, it will be in control. If I shift my focus to what I want, something new can happen.

Translating emotional energy into creative energy

So how can fear give rise to beautiful music, art, or other creative outlets? It’s going to sound easy. And I’m the first to admit that it’s not easy in practice. Here are a few things that may help:

  • Remove yourself from the fear stimulus, if possible.
  • Take a deep breath. Let it out with a sigh if you find that helpful.
  • Focus on what you want. If what you desire is not clear, that’s okay. Here are some other things to try:
    • point your thoughts in a general direction of the things you like even if it seems challenging in the moment.
    • move your body to another position or location. Watch your mind shift with your body.
    • think of anything that you consider to be beautiful.
  • Use this “wishful thinking” to develop whatever creative ideas you’re working on (writing a song, painting a picture, developing a performance art piece, etc.).

For a simple example, I had a particular rhythm (triplet) to play on guitar in a piece. On the first run-through in rehearsal, I botched it and I felt fear. (My palms literally got sweaty, my thoughts were racing and noticed the impulse to focus only on the fear/botch.) Since it was a rehearsal, I had the luxury of standing up, shifting my body and taking a breath to help me refocus. What did I want? To be able to play a beautiful rendition of the composer’s piece of music. I experimented with possible down and up-stroke approaches until I had seven different ways to play it!

I’m still learning this process myself and it takes practice. My suggestion is to use the smallest moments of fear (like the one in my example) to practice on initially. Expand into larger fears as you are able and inspired.

There are other ways to shift your feelings into creative avenues. One of the best ways is to find friends and a sense of community near you.

Good luck and playful blessings,

11 thoughts on “translating fear into creative energy”

  1. Great ideas, Stan!! They are infinitely better than shutting down, which is something many people do because it’s the EASIEST thing to do at a time like that. Kudos!

    1. Hey, Kathy, my friend!

      Great to see you here in the blogosphere and thanks for the wonderful affirming comment. Agreed, 100%

      Playful blessings,

  2. Nice post, Stan. I like the reference to the fight or flight reaction that you raise. I think I forget that when I get into fear, and so I often leave or shut down. The refocus of energy onto something I like or want is a great way to deal with the emotion. I, for example, am fearful of approaching people about my book – afraid they’ll get mad, afraid of rejection… If I can, in that moment, redirect my energy to think about what it is I want… to spread the message of hope and love… perhaps I can get past that fear. Thanks for the post!

    Carolyn CJ Jones

    1. Carolyn!

      Great to see you here. Thanks for the feedback. And know that this is certainly a “work in progress” for me, too. In some of these situations you describe, beginning to refocus on what you want could be enough to “feel the fear and do it anyway.” And for me, it’s helpful to remember that if I think someone has rejected my creative work (mostly music for me or your book for you), I need to remember that they are not rejecting me. I try to think of my creative work like an adolescent child that I’m trying to send out to find it’s own way in the world.

      YMMV. 😉

      Playful blessings,

  3. And as you are talking about in this above comment, it took me so long to realize that someone’s reaction to my writing or to my music is more about that person than it is about me: the creator. I used to be so fearful of feedback & rejection. When I was a teenager, I even made up an excuse to leave an adjudication early so that I could perform…but avoid feedback! Now I welcome feedback, as I want to learn and improve and grow. So I guess I am doing just what you said in your post – focusing on what I want. 🙂

    I’m loving this conversation on fear & creating – so much to reflect on!

    1. Yes, Susan, you are able to hear feedback. I know from personal interactions with you.
      Good luck with the focus on what you want!

      Playful blessings,

  4. This is a great example of why I love reading your blog and getting to know you. Thank you for writing about this subject which anyone can relate to and also for the tips.

    I still wish the fears would disappear forever, but since they probably won’t, focusing on what I want has worked, when I can get myself focused. If the fears were to help me some way, I wouldn’t mind them as much. That hasn’t happened yet.

    The good thing is the fears aren’t so bad that I’ve completely shut down. When I have a lot on my mind and it affects my blogging, it’s not easy for me to blog or to not blog.

    With me not blogging, I feel like I’m letting my readers and myself down. And yet, well, lets just say I give myself a lot of reasons (excuses) for not blogging.

    Also, the exposure…knowing I have readers is a little scary for me because of my inner critic telling me I’m not a good writer. And yet exciting for me to know that people are interested in what I write.

    Even writing comments such as this one and other unwritten comments can be difficult for me. I’m not sure why that is. In the beginning I might have said shyness, but now…I’ll have to think about it.:)

    This is definitely a must-read blog post and I’m going to go share it as soon as I get this posted.:)

    Musical Blessings,


      1. You’re so welcome. I should be thanking you. I’m honored and blessed by you. Thank you for listening, for responding and for all of your encouragement. And your tips.:)


  5. Hi Stan,

    I read your blog again and my thoughts are different than what I responded above. Part of this is because I just finished a 3-part blog about fear. I was explaining how we do disservice to one in fear, if that fear is associated with emotional pain and hurt, when we ask them to redirect their energy elsewhere, to get on with it. Not that this is what you are proposing… It just comes to mind as an issue, something I have experienced. Ignoring the fear, glossing over it, applies to ourselves, too. If we don’t take the fear out and look at it, ferret out what is behind it, it continues to sabotage us in subtle ways. Given this, how do you draw the line at redirecting the energy and looking more closely at the fear? At what point do you recommend looking at it instead of redirecting, re-channeling it? Not meaning to be argumentative – just curious.

    1. Carolyn,

      I don’t see your comment as argumentative. I see it as dialogue. And your comment caused me to re-read my post to make sure it said what I thought I had written.

      I would never encourage people (myself included) to ignore, avoid or deny feelings. I don’t think my post falls into any of these traps. That’s why I talk about channelling the energy. Energy can be used for good or ill. The feeling may come up unprompted, but my response to it is a choice. (I would also say that fear is the momentary response. If it goes on for more than a moment, I would call that anxiety. And that’s a whole different beast, in my opinion.) So, the intention of my post is to offer one suggestion for how I can choose something creative rather than destructive when I feel fear. I’m not asking myself or anyone else to move away from the fear. Rather, I’m suggestion an alternative for using the impulse of the fear toward my well-being. The more I look directly in the face of my fear, the more constructive and possible this choice will be for me.

      I highly encourage anyone reading this to also read Carolyn’s blog posts about fear. I know that I was inspired and informed by them.

      Playful blessings,

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