The first chapter is about fear and how it stops us from having a more creative life. We have many fears in our life that are valid, eg, fear of getting mauled by a bear. At the same time, we also have fears that do not help us but instead keep us back. These are fears like "I fear I will not be successful", "I fear people will see me as a loser", "I fear that I will fail". Elizabeth Gilbert singles these out as fears that we should not harbour, as they hold us back from having a more interesting and creative life.
This I am all too familiar with. For example, my film photography hobby. If I want to take good photos, I have to, well, take photos. If I want to take photos, I have to use film. But film is getting rarer and good film is especially hard to come by, like my favourite Lomography XPro 100, which is out of production. (Sacrilege and travesty!) So whenever I think of taking photos, I will think,
"Are you sure you want to do that? What if your whole roll sucks? You would have wasted an entire roll! Keep it there until you are sure of your skill."
This goes against the words of Henri Cartier-Bresson, whom I admire:
"Your first 10,000 photographs will be your worst"
This is the part that keeps me back from fulfilling my full potential. Cartier-Bresson's point is that we have to keep practising and practising many times before we start to take good pictures. My fear doesn't want me to start at all, instead preferring that I do better first before I take more pictures. But then,
How do you know when you are actually good enough?
Do I wait till I get 10,000 likes on my Lomo or Facebook account? Do I wait till I hold an exhibition? Or until I sell my first photograph?
Put these words on paper or a computer screen and they seem ludicrous. Yet the fear of failure in them is palpable enough. Stand a few minutes with this ping-pong ball in your head and no wonder lying on the sofa with the TV seems preferable.
So yes, sometimes you have to tell your fears,
"I acknowledge what you are saying, but I am going to go ahead and do it anyway."
Take the example I mentioned of film photography. One of the very first photos I uploaded on the Lomography website was this:
I might have never started to get good stuff, like: