Anxiously Awaiting You


Urban Sunrise, 9 x 9″ Acrylics & Ink

“But the artist who is more interested in creating deeply than in ridding herself of anxiety will refuse to know too soon.”

– Eric Maisel

In his fascinating book, Fearless Creating, Eric Maisel talks about the necessity for the artist to invite in and deal appropriately with anxiety. While not dealing properly with anxiety at any stage of the creative process can create a block, refusing to allow anxiety in at all dries up the creative juices. You probably know this double-edged sword well – if everything feels too comfortable and familiar, you likely aren’t feeling at your creative peak.

One of the ways that we control our anxiety is through knowledge – when I’m trying to explore new territory with my art, there is a definite feeling of anxiety caused by not knowing what I’m doing. It’s easy to fall back on familiar techniques, styles, mediums, etc. Sometimes at the end of a session I’m confronted by work that isn’t at all what I intended to do and looks alarmingly reminiscent of past work. I fall into the trap of wanting to know too soon what I am doing in order to relieve the anxiety inherent in not knowing.

Albert Camus said in his last published lecture, Create Dangerously:

“On the edge of where the great artist moves forward, every step is an adventure,
an extreme risk. In that risk, however, and only there, lies the freedom of art.”

I’m often aware of the delicious tension I feel inside between the anxiety that pushes my creativity and the anxiety that stalls my creativity. I’m constantly doing things to tap into the former while also avoiding the latter. The space between these two states is where the freedom Camus talks about exists. It’s where I feel the most alive and energized and where I do my best work.

5 responses to “Anxiously Awaiting You

  1. Great painting. Bob! I love the colours, the composition, the structures.. I think 3 basic parameters for a success in a painting. And I think, as long as we try to keep these parameters interesting, we can’t go really wrong and shouldn’t be very anxious of the result, which ever new technique we use. But this s only my opinion and my experience and my taste…
    And, as always, great post.

    I felt this anxiety in the past a lot… no much now… there might be different reasons, one perhaps being me installed too comfortably in my art? It is possible, but I still always try new stuff and new techniques and new colours… so…
    I think the real reason is that I have totally given up any intention of success when I paint. I didn’t do it on purpose, it just gradually happent.
    Except by works on commission, this is still the same anxiety, and it is rarely “delicious”. The reason being of course that by works on commission the goal is very precisely defined and when it is not reached, it is a personal catastrophe, and sometimes a catastrophe for the client too (by portraits for example, when it is meant as a Christmas gift… awful!).

    I totally agree that we should create dangerously. In fact I think we should LIVE dangerously if we want a free and rich life. I have the luck that I always act before fear has time to make me doubt and stop. Kevin is like that too. In Life and in Art and Music. For me it is my most valuable quality, far beyond any artistic talent or whatever.

    I never found any pleasure in danger, but i often lived dangerously. Because the things I love are unfortunately often connected with some kind of danger. But really, it is not the danger I like in them, in fact I hate it. I just love to do the things themselves and when it is not possible without danger, than I have to do with it…

  2. It must be the hour (4:34 AM) because I do not understand reely the citation, Bob. Is it Eric maisel a transvestite? (he – eric – gets “ridding herself” ? ! I couldn<t fiind “deely” in the Dictionnary, also? I’m not trying to be smart or such I just don<t understand…

    I didn’t knew about Camus conference you are mentionning and , I don’t understand must be the hour, again…) what risks, dangers – metaphorical ones, I suppose? – are we talk about?

    There are days like that, when I’m stupid, stupid, stupid…

    I see that miki gets it a lot better. Please, folks, explain me too: what risks and dangers are we talking about? Nietzsche kind of “living dangerously”?

  3. Bob,
    This is a great post. ANXIETY has been one of my most prevalent friends and foes during my life. I have experienced a continual veil of anxiety with every part of my life for many years.
    Yet, I agree with your statement “anxiety that pushes my creativity”. I see my anxiety as an ally most of the time. It gets me going. It makes me want to fight and push on regardless of what I am doing. In fact, if I had had a life sans anxiety, I don’t think I would have accomplished half as much.

    Thanks for this post!
    Sheree Rensel

  4. Miki,

    It’s an interesting question, does the increasing absence of this anxiety indicate progress or complacency or what? I’m sure the answer is very personal and can’t be generalized. BTW I love how you describe how you act before fear has time to stop you – somehow that’s how I picture you! A great state to be in.


    Sorry! I fixed the typo once (should read “deeply” not “deely”) but forgot to hit save. Yes, the risks and dangers are metaphorical and have to do with venturing into expressive territory that is unfamiliar – pushing beyond your comfort zone. There is danger in doing that – risk of failure, risk of facing our own weaknesses, etc. We may not like what we experience in that place.


    Yes, anxiety is a great motivator and, I agree, it can be used to our advantage to achieve more. I’m not sure I like the term “anxiety” used in this way as that word has such bad connotations. But I don’t know a better overall word that includes the frustration, impatience, discomfort, curiosity, etc that all come into play.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s