“Fear is good. We view fear as a disease. It’s not a disease.” Psychologist Robert Maurer
“I don’t do anything anymore that feels safe. If it doesn’t scare the crap out of you, then you’re not doing the right thing.” Sandra Bullock
Fear is a simple label for a variety of experiences from mild discomfort to real terror, sometimes helpful for personal growth and creative work, but at other times or in more intense forms like anxiety, limiting or destructive.
But fear does show up for all of us at times, even for those who are accomplished and talented.
Michelle Williams commented about working with Ryan Gosling in “Blue Valentine” that when director Derek Cianfrance wanted them to improvise and “surprise” him with their acting, rather than simply following a script, she felt a lot of fear.
Williams said, “I mean, it’s exciting when you catch yourself in the moment and realize you’re not thinking and words are coming out of your mouth and you’ve never done that before. And I feel like I grew so much. But it never stopped being terrifying.”
[From Michelle Williams, Ryan Gosling ad-lib on 'Blue Valentine', by Glenn Whipp, Los Angeles Times January 5, 2011.]
In our interview for her movie “Halloween H20″ (1998), I asked Williams whether she enjoys the experience of fear and seeks it in park rides or scary movies or anything else, and Williams joked, “I do it every day driving in Los Angeles.”
She noted that the fear element of the movie was part of its appeal: “I think that’s what is great about this film is that it’s a rush. And it’s pure, unadulterated, fabulous escapism. And we all need that.”
Part of being creative
Natalie Portman once commented, “Fear is intrinsic to everything you do as a creative person. You’re constantly putting yourself up there to be trashed. If I thought about it too much, I’d just be crippled. I’d rather create.” [Los Angeles Times Oct 15, 2009]
Many years ago, she talked about experiencing stage fright – a variety of fear or anxiety that many people have at times, including actors and other performers, as well as public speakers.
“When I was little, I was so uninhibited I could do anything in front of people, but now I have terrible stage fright. I’d love to do a play, but I have nightmares about missing lines onstage…”
“The anxiety I now feel about acting has nothing to do with movies, though — it’s just a part of getting older. You become aware of your body changing and of the fact that people are judging you — and you’re really aware of that when you’re in the public eye.” [LA Times, approx. 1997]
Alan Alda wrote in an article of his, “When I’m faced with a kind of character I’ve never tried before, the fear can rise to the level of terror.
“But, it’s a terror I look forward to, and I don’t like to take on a part unless it scares me a little. I’ve found a tremendous value in this kind of fear… I don’t just scare myself with playacting. I scare myself in the rest of my life, too.”
Robert Maurer, PhD, a UCLA clinical psychologist, has interviewed many successful actors, writers and other creative people, and researched social and neuropsychological aspects of achievement and creative expression for many years.
An article about him said, “Maurer tries to teach writers to accept fear as a natural part of the creative process. He tries to get writers to lose their fear of failure and of taking risks.”
Maurer notes, “If you find the right relationship, does fear go away? No. You publish your first novel, does that make fear go away? No. So your skill at being able to nourish yourself and give yourself permission to make mistakes and learn from them is your single greatest attribute as an artist and as a human being.”
“Fear is good,” Maurer has declared. “As children, fear is a natural part of our lives, but as adults we view fear as a disease. It’s not a disease. Children say they are afraid or scared, but adults use the clinical terms anxiety or depression.
“A writer should not view fear as something bad, but as essentially doing something right.”