I’ve been reading (Kindling?) a book by Jonathan Fields called Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance. I recommend it to anyone who is struggling on the edge of their comfort zone – he is a most creative man, and the book is packed with good advice.

One section of the book resonated strongly with me. Fields is talking about those times when you hesitate on the brink of taking on a new creative or challenging project, or get to a crisis point and are thinking of giving up because it is all too scary or hard or uncertain or whatever (you know, THOSE times..). He advises asking yourself three questions:

What if I go to zero? What if I fail completely, what if I lose all I’ve invested, what if people laugh, what if I realise my work is complete crap?

Imagine that scenario now, paint a picture in your mind of how that would look, feel, what the consequences would be. Make it as realistic and vivid as you can. (You will likely find this pretty easy – most of us have pictures like this floating not too far from the surface of our mind.)

Then comes the most important bit. Do the same picturing and imagining for this question: How will I recover? How will I pick myself up, put the pieces back together and move on with my creative work? Because of course we will fail somewhere along the line, not everything will go to plan, we will discover that fear, failure and creativity are inevitable companions.

But we can recover, we can learn and grow and rebuild. We can tweak our project (or re-invent it completely) and we can keep prototyping  until we work out how to make it better. But only if we don’t give up, which leads to question two.

What if I do nothing?

We can easily fool ourselves into thinking that we can leave our creative dreams for a year (or ten) and they will be there waiting for us when we have more courage or time or skills. But in fact, they won’t – it is in the nature of things to atrophy without care and attention. So, imagine what will happen to your dream or project or business idea if you do nothing about it for ten years – you will be older, the world will have moved on, your skills will get rusty from lack of use. Keep picturing til you can see the dust…

What if I succeed?

Now comes the fun bit. What might success look like? Picture your book launch, your successful business, your new home, your art exhibition or whatever success would look and feel like for you. Make it come alive, feel yourself in a typical day as a success. Really let yourself imagine it.

If you go through each step in this exercise, you will be well on the way to reframing your creative process, to naming and taming the monster that stalks all those who embark (or dream of embarking) in creative endeavours, to making a new story about your possibilities.

I’ve tried it – and it works. So, what about you?

Joanna Maxwell


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