Extending Sympathy and Asking for Help in Navigating Fear and Failure

Week 9, Day 4 of The Artist's Way

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Today, let's practice acknowledging our fear and dissolving it with compassion.


In dealing with our creative U-turns, we must first of all extend ourselves some sympathy.

Creativity is scary, and in all careers there are U-turns. Sometimes these U-turns are best viewed as recycling times. We come up to a creative jump, run out from it like a skittish horse, then circle the field a few times before trying the fence again.

Typically, when we take a creative U-turn we are doubly shamed: first by our fear and second by our reaction to it. Again, let me say it helps to remember that all careers have them.

A successful creative career is always built on successful creative failures.

The trick is to survive them. It helps to remember that even our most illustrious artists have taken creative U-turns in their time.

Have compassion. Creative U-turns are always born from fear—fear of success or fear of failure.

It doesn’t really matter which. The net result is the same. To recover from a creative U-turn, or a pattern involving many creative U-turns, we must first admit that it exists. Yes, I did react negatively to fear and pain. Yes, I do need help.

Once we admit the need for help, the help arrives.

The ego always wants to claim self-sufficiency. It would rather pose as a creative loner than ask for help. Ask anyway.

Faced with a creative U-turn, ask yourself, “Who can I ask for help about this U-turn?” Then start asking.

(The Artist's Way, 2016, p. 156-158)


Read the following affirmation out loud with purpose and intent:

I acknowledge my fears and ask for help when I need it.

I extend myself compassion in my creative journey and understand that U-turns are a normal part of the process. I remind myself that even successful artists have had creative failures, and it is important to survive them. I admit my need for help and ask for support when facing a creative U-turn.

I acknowledge my fears and ask for help when I need it.

download printable affirmation card


Choose an artist totem.

It might be a doll, a stuffed animal, a carved figurine, or a wind-up toy. The point is to choose something you immediately feel a protective fondness toward. Give your totem a place of honor and then honor it by not beating up on your artist child.

“Learning is movement from moment to moment.”

– J. Krishnamurti


What is a creative “failure” you have survived and learned from?

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