Courtney M. McSwain, Writer

Nancy Belmont…On Fear

124b60fPhoto: Courtesy of Nancy Belmont

In past blog posts, I’ve made reference to the “creative coach” who helped me recognize I was living with some pretty big fears. That coach is Nancy Belmont.

Nancy heads the brand- and culture-building company, Belmont, Inc., and I met her quite serendipitously. While looking for an office to rent, I came across a space Nancy’s company was subletting. Their sunny office, decorated with inspirational words and phrases, made me feel instantly at ease, and I signed up immediately. As it turned out, Nancy also acts as a coach, helping leaders define who they are, what they stand for and how they want to show up in the world – all areas I needed to work on. How convenient?! I worked with Nancy at the beginning of this year, and her coaching provided a looking glass, a sounding board and some guided direction toward a much more meaningful understanding of why I decided to start my own writing business. One of the biggest discoveries I made was the presence of fear.

Recognizing and learning to deal with creative fear has been a total game changer for me. I couldn’t keep Nancy’s insight to myself, so I invited her to share her thoughts on fear for other artists and changemakers. Here’s what she had to say.

What role does fear play in the life of a creative person?

Fear helps let you know that you’re doing something that really matters to you. When you feel that fear, you know that you are stretching beyond your comfort zone and taking a risk. You know that your heart is in it.

Has there been a time when you hit a wall of fear and overcame it? What happened and how did you persevere?

Sure, I’ve run into the “fear wall.” The most important thing is to realize that’s what it is. Sometimes it shows up as procrastination or an uninspired feeling. If you believe the problem is that you’re uninspired, you don’t have any power. Once you recognize that fear is the culprit, you can put it in its proper place. Don’t get me wrong – the fear is still there; but once you acknowledge it, you can disassociate the fear with your ability to get the work done.

A trick I’ve used is to thank the fear for showing up, invite it to sit across the table if it insists on staying, and then get about your work. The fear is not you. The fear is simply a signal that what you’re doing matters. Another tactic I’ve used is to tell myself that this is going to be the very first draft of something so it doesn’t have to be anywhere near perfect. I do a rapid fire to get as much as I can down on paper then go back and look at it later. Usually, it’s not bad!

What practices help you deal with fear in your daily life as a creative person?

If I’m worried about someone else judging my work and thinking negatively about it, I applaud myself for putting my work out there. There is a great quote by Theodore Roosevelt called Man in the Arena that helps me build my courage and protect me against the real or imaginary critics.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena. . . who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

If my fear is rooted in feeling like I have nothing new to add to the body of work that is similar to mine, I remind myself that I have a point of view that could be just different enough to touch even one person. As long as I believe I am making a positive contribution to somebody, it builds determination in me to move forward.

Do you have conversations with other artists or changemakers about fear? What lessons do you take away from those conversations?

I don’t think many people would automatically name the issues they’re facing as fear. I hear a lot of individuals talk about writer’s block or a shortage of time, or a lack of resources. Every day I hear people give reasons why they can’t do something or claim they have no choice. There is always a choice; you just have to open your eyes. Once you realize that every action or inaction is a choice, you can see how the fear has twisted you up into thinking you have no choice. It’s easy to see this in others, but not so easy to see it in yourself. So the lesson I take away from those conversations is to ask myself, “What are my choices in this situation and what’s holding me back from doing what I want to do?”

What advice would you give artists and changemakers on how to recognize and confront fear?

Know how fear shows up for you. Sometimes it appears as an inaction – people feel stuck but can’t determine why. Other times it looks like a lot of action around the wrong thing. If you feel stuck, ask yourself the question, “What might I be afraid of that has me stuck here?” Name those fears. Write them down. Then ask them to take a seat and be quiet so you can get on with being the creative genius you are!

Thanks Nancy for sharing your story! Be sure to follow Nancy online through her website, Facebook and Twitter. Also check out Belmont, Inc., on the web, Facebook and Twitter.

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