You’re kidding yourself if you don’t think you have fears. Fear is useful. In certain situations, fear keeps us performing at our peak – it keeps us alive. But, if we let it go too far and panic, fear can kill us, literally or figuratively. This is just as true in our creative lives as it is in our daily lives. In their classic book Art & Fear Ted Orland and David Bayles address fear as a primary force to overcome in the creative process. In her new book Big Magic Elizabeth Gilbert starts a list of fears – and then cuts it short. She started a creative exercise we would all benefit from engaging. Ask what fears have us in their grip, identify them, consider them, and start holding them (or not) instead.

Get started with this list of fears.

Does some of what’s on my list sound familiar to you? How can the voice inside your head be so similar to the voice inside my head? Is it really our voice? Is that voice of fear just the mind doing what it does? Is that voice of fear just the mind doing what it has been trained to do? What are the fears we all share? What are your personal fears? Which fears are strongest or most important for you?

This list of fears is incomplete.

Modify and expand this list of fears in any way that’s helpful to you. Get it all off your chest.

Curiously, after making a list, just making a list, most people feel better – freer. Newfound clarity brings more choices.

After you make your list of fears give yourself a break. Later, consider the roots of your fears. Where are they coming from? What foundations do they have? What other thoughts, feelings, and memories are they connected to? Are they changing?

If you consider the roots of your fears, you’re sure to find valuable new personal insights. Don’t judge yourself for what you find. Is judgment useful? Only insight is, if it leads to action. If you do this, you may be better able to choose to change the way you think, feel, and/or act in valuable and significant ways. That’s useful!

Self Worth & Character

You’re afraid you’re not enough.
(Insert a word in this sentence, before “enough.” – good, deep, smart, emotional, significant, important, connected, talented, skilled, trained, educated, political, relevant, funded, supported, hurt, angry, wild, energetic, controlled, disciplined, persistent. serious …)

You’re afraid you’re too …
(Insert a word at the end of this sentence. – intellectual, emotional, insignificant, unimportant, unconnected, trained, educated, political, well-funded, supported, hurt, angry, wild, energetic, controlling, undisciplined, serious, light-hearted … )

You’re afraid that your life hasn’t been painful enough.
You’re afraid that your life has been too hard.
You’re afraid that your life has been too easy.
You’re afraid you’ll have to confront your inner demons.
You’re afraid you don’t have any inner demons.
You’re afraid you may encounter the divine within you.
You’re afraid you won’t encounter the divine within you.


You’re afraid you’ll be criticized.
(Replace criticized with any other synonym – ridiculed, mocked, mimicked, embarrassed.)
You’re afraid you’ll lose the approval you’ve already won.
You’re afraid you’ll be called unskilled.
You’re afraid you’ll be called ignorant.
You’re afraid you’ll be called uninspired.
You’re afraid you’ll be called selfish.

You’re afraid other people’s pressures will take the fun out of it for you.
You’re afraid you should feel guilty for having so much fun.
You’re afraid other people will judge you for having so much fun.
You’re afraid that you having so much fun will be take as criticism of others for not having fun.


You’re afraid what you do won’t matter to anyone.
You’re afraid what you do won’t matter to you.
You’re afraid no one will preserve what you do when you’re gone.


You’re afraid that what you do will be compared to something someone else has done.
You’re afraid that what you do won’t be compared to something someone else has done.
You’re afraid that when compared with someone else’s creation your creation will seem less … (Fill in the blank.)
You’re afraid that when compared with your creation someone else’s creation will seem less … (Fill in the blank.)
You’re afraid that when compared with someone else’s creation your creation will seem insignificant.
You’re afraid that when compared with your creation someone else’s creation will seem insignificant.


You’re afraid what you produce won’t sell.
You’re afraid there will be no long-term market for what you produce.
You’re afraid the reward you receive won’t be worth the financial investment you make.
You’re afraid the investment you may now will take away from your family’s future financial success.

You’re afraid you don’t have enough space.
You’re afraid you don’t have the right space.
You’re afraid you don’t have the right tools.
You’re afraid you don’t have enough tools.


You’re afraid you’re not skilled enough.
You’re afraid skill alone is not enough.


You’re afraid you don’t know enough.
You’re afraid you’ll never know enough.
You’re afraid of what you don’t know.
You’re afraid you don’t know what you don’t know.

You’re afraid you don’t know what really right is.
You’re afraid your right isn’t someone else’s.
You’re afraid your right is someone else’s wrong.

You’re afraid somebody else already did it. (Maybe better.)
You’re afraid somebody will steal you ideas.


You’re afraid you’re too young.
You’re afraid you’re not experienced enough.
You’re afraid you’re too old.
You’re afraid it’s not the right time.
You’re afraid if you do it now, it won’t turn out as good as it could.
You’re afraid that you should have done it long ago and now it won’t turn out as well.
You’re afraid it’s too late to do it really right.
You’re afraid you don’t have enough time.
You’re afraid you don’t know how to use the time you have.
You’re afraid the time you invest will be wasted.
You’re afraid the time you invest won’t be pleasurable.
You’re afraid you’ll give up before it’s over.
You’re afraid you’ll give up before you get started.
You’re afraid you’ll give up after it’s over.


You’re afraid you won’t succeed.
You’re afraid that once you succeed, you’ll never have another success.
You’re afraid your success will make someone else look less.
You’re afraid your success will make someone else’s success look less.
You’re afraid it will bring out the worst in you.
You’re afraid that the worst in you will be the thing most focused on.
You’re afraid the best in you will bring out the worst in others.
You’re afraid success will go to your head.
You’re afraid success will go to other people’s heads.
You’re afraid your new successes will undo your past successes.
You’re afraid your old successes will prevent your new successes.


You’re afraid you’ll have to give up something.
You’re afraid you’ll have to give someone up.
You’re afraid you’ll have to give up a part of yourself.
You’re afraid what you get won’t equal what you give up.
You’re afraid that the process will change you. (And you don’t know what that change will be.)


And this list continues to grow! Clearly, there’s no end to fear – unless you put a stop to it.

When you say things to yourself, ask yourself, “Would say the same things to anyone else?” If not, why would you say them to yourself? Ask yourself one more very important question. Is it useful to say these things? If so, how and how much and how often? When it’s not useful, stop doing it.

Acknowledging our fears can be quite useful. Pace yourself. You may find it useful to do this in several smaller sessions rather than all at once. Past a certain point, dwelling on fear can become counterproductive. It can keep us from living the lives we want to live. It can be a form of procrastination. Taken too far, catharsis can quickly become reinforcement. Taken to an extreme it can become a matter of fear feeding fear. Don’t feed fear. Look at fear clearly. Learn what you can from fear. And then move forward. Take the steps you need to take to live the life you want. Make the move you need to make to be the person you want to be.

While you can make some pretty good guesses and make some pretty good plans for things to do to ensure things go the way you want them to go and contingency plans for getting things back on track if things don’t go the way you want them to go … The truth is you don’t know what will happen. The truth is you won’t know until you do it.

Creativity is a process of discovery. It’s worth the risk. Dream. Dare. Jump.

Read more on Creativity here.

Explore The Essential Collection Of Creativity Quotes here.

View The Essential Collection Of Creativity Videos here.


Looking for books on great haiku poetry?

Here’s a list of books on haiku that I recommend.

Six on writing and enjoying haiku.

1   Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands-on Guide by Jane Reichhold

2   Haiku: A Poet’s Guide by Lee Gurga

3   The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku by William J. Higginson

4   The Haiku Seasons by William J. Higginson

5   How to Haiku: A Writer’s Guide to Haiku and Related Forms by Bruce Ross

6   The Heart of Haiku by Jane Hirshfield

Three outstanding collections of haiku; two historic and one contemporary.

7   The Sound of Water: Haiku by Basho, Buson, Issa, and Other Poets translated by Sam Hamill

8   The Classic Tradition of Haiku: An Anthology by Faubion Bowers

9   The Haiku Anthology edited by Cor van den Heuvel

Find the books I recommend on haiku here.

Novelist Amy Tan digs deep into the creative process, journeying through her childhood and family history and into the worlds of physics and chance, looking for hints of where her own creativity comes from. It’s a wild ride with a surprise ending.

View more Creativity Videos here.

Browse Creativity Quotes here.

Host James Day speaks with Ray Bradbury about his career, the importance of fantasizing, his aspirations as a young child, his dislike of college for a writer, his idea of thinking compared to really living, and his love of the library.

Science fiction author Ray Bradbury regales his audience with stories about his life and love of writing in “Telling the Truth,” the keynote address of The Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea, sponsored by Point Loma Nazarene University. Series: Writer’s Symposium By The Sea

Author Ray Bradbury joins Dean Nelson of Point Loma Nazarene University for a talk about his craft as part of Point Loma Nazarene University’s Writer’s Symposium by the Sea. Series: “Writer’s Symposium By The Sea”

View more Creativity Videos here.

Read more Creativity Quotes here.

My TED and Google talks have a lot in common. Both discuss creativity as a dynamic process that we all engage in with our own unique orientations to. While there are classic operations we all perform, how we combine them and the uses we put them to. Experimentation and becoming more versatile is the key to turbo-charging your creative life. You’ll find dozens of tips and lots of inspiration in both of these talks.

Preview my eBook Process here.

Read more in my free creativity PDFs.

Learn more in my creativity workshops.

How artists get there is just as important as where they arrive. My new ebook Process examines many aspects of my creative process – writing, drawing, painting, photography, Photoshop, iphoneography and more. Thirty-three chapters are organized into five sections – Color, Composition, Draw, iPhone, Write – showing how each discipline contributes to the completion of finished works of art.

This ebook reveals that an artist’s creations are produced by not one but many activities in many media and that the creative process is a never-ending journey of discovery that offers surprising insights along the way.

192 pages fully illustrated


$9.99 for Insights enews members

(Email for discount code.)

Buy the PDF here

Download a free preview here.

It helps you to both better understand and to more effectively communicate the nature of your influences if you take the time to state it simply. Usually, this doesn’t just happen instantly. First, it takes identifying who or what the influence is. Next, it takes a series of thoughts and associations. Then, it takes a little organization. Finally, it takes a little editing; cutting the words that aren’t quite right and searching for the ones that are.

Very often the connections between ideas and feelings and their progressions aren’t clear until you start organizing them. Finding these insights is the biggest benefit of taking time to reflect on your influences. (To do this, nothing helps me more than writing. Often, it’s not the kind of writing that I might share publicly; sometimes notes, outlines, and unfinished sentences are more effective. The goal of this kind of writing is discovery and clarity not publication.)

When you’re exploring your influences ask yourself questions. Questions guide explorations away from unprofitable areas and into useful territories. Questions reenergize and sustain processes of discovery. Ask yourself a few of these questions. What is the root of the influence? Is it physical? Is it intellectual? Is it emotional? If it’s many things at once, what is and what is the relative weight of each of those things? Does one influence share elements or qualities with other influences?

Try to state the nature of an influence in one sentence.

And try to state the nature of an influence in one phrase or one word.

Simplicity has many advantages. For instance, simple things are easier to remember and easier to share. Never confuse simple-mindedness with simplicity. Simplicity often represents the height of sophistication, arrived at only after some if not considerable effort and practice. If you can present a complex subject in a simple way without sacrificing essential content, you truly understand it. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why simple solutions are so elegant.

At first it might seem strange to generate a lot of information only to boil it down to a little but if you try it you’ll find that the insights you’re left with will be extremely concentrated. Writers, musicians, and photographers all do this at one or more points in their creative process. Try it when you consider your influences. You’ll understand them better – and your own works too.

Here’s a simple distillation of one of my influences stated in one sentence and one word.

Joel Peter Witkin explores taboo, which sensationally gives a rise that quickly fades, and darkness (not necessarily evil), which disturbs and awakens indefinitely.


Read Why Tracking Your Influences Is So Important here.

Read Ranking Your Influences here.

Find out more about my influences here.


How I Title My Images

July 7, 2012 | 1 Comment |

Illumination I, 2000 

Titles have always been challenging for me. While I always use a working title for a developing series, often, I don’t know what to title the works until I truly understand them – and that can be long after they’ve been created. Sometimes I change the titles of a few of my images after I’ve released them.

Most of my images, being a combination of at least two images from different times and places, don’t fit the typical place date format. To date, I’ve only used this type of title for one series, Antarctica, because I want that work to be seen as more editorial in nature.

Because I want to leave plenty of room for the viewer, I avoid titles that impose a single interpretation on a work of art – Exhibit A : Evidence Of My Failed Relationships. I also don’t want a title to make up for what’s not already strongly felt in an image – Unimaginable Grace.

Initially, I grouped work according to the dominant natural element in it, using a set of six series, interlocking because many images can fit into more than one series, under one larger title – Elemental: Dreaming In Stone; Waterway; Fire Within; Aerial Boundaries; Songs From Wood; and Animalia.

Later, I came to understand there was a further reason I didn’t use standard place/date titles. I want my images to be seen not as records of things (a materialistic viewpoint) but as traces of processes (a wholistic viewpoint).

I’d like to use an active verb for my titles, but the image isn’t the active process itself, it’s some thing made from observing processes. So instead of the word Illuminating, I use the word Illumination.

I use a number to indicate the order of creation in a series.

The date attributed is the date of release, not the date of exposure.

Read How To Title Your Images here.

Read more about how writing can help stimulate your creativity.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Neko Harbor, Antarctica, 2007

(Watch how focus and content shifts when these alternate titles are used – Freezing Point, Glacial Retreat, Blue, Constellation.)

When in doubt, when selecting titles for your images keep them simple and neutral. Less is more, more or less.

Good titles complement works by giving viewers more relevant information that makes their experience richer, indicating it’s creator’s relationship towards a subject and medium and audience, suggesting but not limiting attention to dimensions of a work that might otherwise remain overlooked, all the while leaving room for viewer’s extended interpretation.

Bad titles dominate or subvert works by attempting to make up for what’s missing, focus attention on one aspect of work and deflect attention from others, add heavy-handed interpretation leaving less room for viewer participation, or tell viewers rather than show them.

To avoid bad titles, rather than becoming a master of language, keep it simple. While there are notable examples where this maxim has been defied with success ­– singer/songwriter Fiona Apple titled one of her albums with a complete poem containing over four hundred characters causing a buzz-worthy stir which reinforced her reputation for being both poetic and eccentric ­– at a minimum it takes a significant flair for style or even genius to pull a stunt like this off.

You might be tempted to keep it really simple. Remember, Untitled is still a title. It’s the most neutral to the point of being non-descript and almost uninformative. Sometimes it works – well. Many times, it’s not enough. But eliminating it altogether and simply stating the medium used is almost always never enough.

In a majority of cases, just a little more will do just fine. The classic convention for titling an image is to identify the subject (name the person, place or thing) and add the date of creation: if it’s a photograph use the date of exposure; if it’s a painting use the date of completion; if it’s a composite photograph default to the latter; if it’s an image of an historic event add the date of the event in the first part of the title and add the date of completion of the image.

It’s the times when this convention doesn’t fit that more creativity is warranted.

Use this list as a springboard for exploring your options.

1     List the subject and date, Neko Harbor, Antarctica, 2007 for instance.

2     State a relationship to the subject, yours or someone else’s; i.e. My Mother or Her Home.

3     Use a general category for the subject rather than an individual one, such as Slave or Statistic.

4     Name a formal element in the work – number, shape, color, size, etc.

5     Refer to another medium, such as poetic or musical form.

6     Loosely interpret the subject subjectively; similes and metaphors often work well here, such as Smells Like Teen Spirit.

7     Use a technical term, related to either the subject or the creation of the work, in a way that furthers more inquiry, Ascent or Descent for example.

8     State what the subject is not – Is Not Untitled.

9      Create a contradiction ­– think of Magritte’s famous painting of a pipe entitled This Is Not A Pipe.

You’ll no doubt find ways to expand this list.

It’s interesting to note that when you keep it simple and conventional, specificity works in your favor, yet the more creative and unconventional you get the more ambiguity, sometimes coupled with a dose of irony or contradiction, works in your favor

You may hit upon one ingenious title. If you should be so lucky quickly ask yourself, “Can you repeat it?” One genius title amid a cluster of duds will stand out like a sore thumb. Bodies of work beg some consistency. That said, you may find that varying your titling conventions between different projects is an effective way to further differentiate them.

Consider creating a standard for your titles, after giving considerable thought to both its short and long-term effects on the way audiences will respond to you work. There are many benefits to creating a consistent practice, including the creation and fulfillment of expectations and the reduction of the time and energy you put into resolving new terms. This will also call more attention to the times when you deviate from your standards, which can be advantageous if used strategically.

Like your art, titles are all about communication. Titles become a part of your art. Make sure your titles make a contribution to effectively communicating what you want to communicate. It’s worth the time you invest to put some thought into how you title your work.

How do you title your work?

Read more about how writing can help stimulate your creativity.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Neil Gaiman offers sage advice delivered with humility and humor to the graduating class of the University of Arts and us.

Find more Creativity Videos here.

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