Just a Little Thing Called Fear

A few years ago, I helped my friend Suzanne sell her photographs at art fairs.  The photos were gorgeous shots of flowers, spectacular close-ups. Water_waterfalls_fall_270904_l

People would walk by and say, "I don't need to buy one of those, I could take a photo like that."

Um, really?  You could get the settings on the camera right so that all the detail popped out, and you also had the eye that could make the creative angle of the shot pop out?  Really, you could?

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I were flipping through the TV channels on a Friday night when we landed on the coverage of Nik Wallenda's tightrope walk over Niagara Falls.  Talk about inspiring.  But news reports featured people's doubts because ABC made him wear a harness:

"Onlooker Gary Neal was disappointed.

'I reckon I could do it myself with a safety harness,' he laughed. 'That takes the excitement away for me.'"

Really?  You could stroll on over that high wire, with spray from the Falls blinding you and wind whipping you?  Without any training?

Both of these are examples of naysaying.  And naysaying is an example of fear. 

Naysaying is what we sometimes do instead of creativity.  We say, "yeah, but" in order to take down the person who has actually gone out in the world and done something creative, the person who walks the highwire or takes gorgeous photographs. We want to take them down to make them more like us, we who are not actively being creative and daring.

I've found myself doing it with other writers: 

"Yeah, but, even though the book is a bestseller, it's poorly written."  (Fifty Shades of Gray, anybody?) The fact remains that the book has struck a huge chord and its an enormous accomplishment.

We do it in order to somehow diminish the other person's accomplishment.  And what it really does is diminish ourselves.

Fear is like that.  It's a sneaky bastard, and it'll overwhelm you in a variety of guises.  One way it acts is to make you inauthentic, to make you scared of being yourself. Because diminishing yourself and your authentic creativity is the ultimate naysaying act.

Which is why I am THRILLED to announce a class that I'm offering with Karen Caterson, better known as Square-Peg Karen, on Authenticity + Creativity.  It's an affordable one-session class coming up on July 10th and we'll be getting to the heart of this topic.

I won't recap all the details here, when there is a perfectly lovely page that explains it all that you can click over to right here.  We'd love to have you join us!

What about you?  Have you ever naysayed before?  Or do you diminish your creativity in other sneaky ways?

Photo by agentoseis.

14 Responses to Just a Little Thing Called Fear

  1. Barbara Shallue 06/26/2012 at 15:45 #

    Very good points and yes, I’ve been naysayed! When my first essay was published, I had several friends who decided they would write essays, too. And they found out (as i had when I started writing them) that it’s not as easy as it looks. And they also decided it wasn’t worth the effort. I’m usually the naysayer on my own photographs, unfortunately.

  2. Charlotte Dixon 06/26/2012 at 16:15 #

    Barbara, I'm sure I wouldn't have been as gracious as you about the friends who suddenly decided it would be easy to write and publish an essay.  And I hope you aren't too much of a naysayer about your photographs–from what I've seen on your blog, they are great.

  3. Barbara Shallue 06/26/2012 at 16:49 #

    I bet you would have been very gracious and supported them as much as you could, from what I've seen on your site! I know writing can be very therapeutic, so I encourage everyone to try it, even if they never plan to be published. Some listen. Most don't. :) And thank you about my photos!

  4. Sandra / Always Well Within 06/26/2012 at 17:07 #

    This is such an insightful point: the way that fear can be so sneaky! I think the “naysaying” can become a very subtle part of one’s daily self-talk. I know I’ve done it in myriad ways. But I’m attempting to be more conscious and turn that around. Thanks for these deep insights.

  5. Charlotte Dixon 06/26/2012 at 17:14 #

    I'm with you–encouraging everyone to write at least for themselves.  But I see so many wannabe writers who assume that the publishing game is going to be easy for them!  Thanks for the nice compliment about me.

  6. Charlotte Dixon 06/26/2012 at 17:15 #

    You're welcome, Sandra, I hope they are helpful.  I think the key with naysaying self-talk is to keep turning it around when you catch it.  Eventually, it gets easier.  Kind of.  :-)

  7. Barbara Shallue 06/26/2012 at 20:38 #

    That's very true! Man, I wish it was easy!

  8. Barbara Shallue 06/26/2012 at 20:40 #

    That's very true! Man, I wish it was easy!

  9. Ronak 06/27/2012 at 13:05 #

    A very good article. You have shared your experience well with us .

  10. Charlotte Dixon 06/27/2012 at 13:10 #

    Thanks, and thank you for stopping by.

  11. Giulietta Nardone 06/29/2012 at 06:49 #


    Congrats on your class with Karen! All my favorite blogger folks seem to be connected to each other.

    I’ve been naysayed and have naysayed, since that is what we are taught to do in life. We can only be good if someone else is bad.

    Ridiculous. I’ve pretty much stopped doing that, which is why when I ran my first photography show I invited photographers with all different levels. Everyone has to start on their creative journey somewhere. We all need encouragement.

    Read about your idea of balance on Patty’s site!


  12. Charlotte Dixon 06/29/2012 at 07:11 #

    Hey Giulietta, good to see you here and thanks for the congrats.  I hate when we feel the need to naysay others, to make them bad so that we can be good.  Partially it's human nature, but I also think it's just a bad habit we've picked up because we didn't know any better.  And I'm so pleased you read Patty's references to me, I'm so glad she's back.

  13. Heather Jenkins 06/29/2012 at 11:51 #

    This is such a powerful post, Charlotte, and something I have read numerous times this week. My apologies for chiming in so late in the game, but I’m working myself to death.

    Fear is beastly and stifling. Naysaying, in its simplest form, is arrogance. As if we can deign to know what another person will like or, even more demeaning, what they SHOULD like. I’ve watched grown women cower under the bitter, presumptuous, bombastic tongue of “well-meaning” naysayers who liken them to imbeciles for liking the newest Nicholas Spark film or getting hooked on the Twilight saga. I say that woman can make her own decisions and shouldn’t shamefully whisper in the dark alleys of society about her love affair with a book series. Who gave the proverbial “them” permission to determine what is good, anyway? Can’t a person make that decision on her own? Isn’t naysaying an in-your-face censorship of ideas and the dream of being true to oneself? If we fear “they” will chop us down and use us for kindling for liking something, then we will base our decisions on others’ opinions rather than what we know, love, and feel. And how can we possibly write – from that blessed, pure, unabandoned, carefree place of authenticity – if we don’t even know what WE like?

    See what you did? Now I’m all riled up!! Your class on authenticity is exactly what we need to learn how to trust ourselves again.

  14. Charlotte Dixon 06/29/2012 at 15:02 #

    I often say that the comments are better than the post and once again you've proven that.  Thanks for this fabulous addition to the conversation, Heather (doesn't matter when it comes in, you're always welcome here).  "Naysaying, in its simplest form, is arrogance."  Love, love, love that, and it is so true.  We had quite a discussion in my writing group about Fifty Shades of Gray when one member wrote an essay defending it, but you put it best and most succinctly in that one line.  Thank you.

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