Clowns are scary. Okay, I admit it, I fear clowns or rather I used to fear them. Most clowns have creepy smiles. Evil smiles. Smiles that strike fear in your heart and give you a foreboding feeling that they are plotting against you. Shudders. Methinks a clown’s smile is just a veneer for the malevolent thoughts it harbours. Plus I think there is something disturbing about a man who dresses in bright (often garish) colours and big shoes to entertain children. I find it very disconcerting, don’t you?
Anyway, between the ages of 5-8, I used to be taken for many of those kids fun day events. I didn’t like them much. My mom would always insist I get my face painted. I hated face painting. My face was sensitive to the paint and I’d itch for hours afterwards. But because I didn’t want to disappoint my mom, I’d get my face painted. Because getting my face painted showed I was having fun like the other kids and not being a spoilsport. Then again, I was just a kid and I didn’t know a thing about assertiveness.
The face painting was bad, but the clowns were worse. Most of them gave me the creeps. At one of those fun day events, a clown walked up to me and thought it would excite me by cackling and making funny faces. It didn’t amuse me, rather, it frightened me. The cackle was creepy and the clown’s funny face seemed to be filled with malice. And for a long time, that clown’s face was engraved in my mind. Its face and laugh haunted my dreams. It gave me nightmares. And that’s why to date I don’t like clowns.
Clowns frightened me. But nothing compares to the terror I faced later.
In primary school, I dreaded swimming. I have Mr Albert to thank for this. I’ll never forget him. He was my swimming instructor in primary school. Mr Albert was a burly man who always shaved bald. If he wasn’t a swimming instructor he’d probably have served in the military. Because apart from his muscular build, Mr Albert had this intimidating aura about him. He always spoke in a commanding tone. When Mr Albert said jump you weren’t supposed to jump. You were supposed to first ask how high then jump. That’s the kind of man Mr Albert was.
In Standard Three, I was a fairly bright chap. I quickly grasped stuff in every subject but I just couldn’t wrap my head around swimming. Floating is a concept I struggled to grasp. But Mr Albert didn’t care about my ineptitude.
Because I hated swimming, I’d come up with all sorts of excuses not to swim. I’d often feign illness, deliberately leave my swimming costume at home and hide in the toilet before the bell rang to signal the beginning of the swimming lesson. But all my attempts to miss swimming failed miserably. Some kid would always snitch that some of us were hiding in the toilet. Damn snitches. They would always sniff us out as if they were going to be rewarded yet they weren’t. No wonder they were called teacher’s pets. Then there was this one-time Mr Albert made me swim in my underwear. So, after that embarrassing incident, I never failed to carry my swimming costume ever again and I accepted my fate—swimming was inevitable.
During swimming lessons, to teach me how to swim, Mr Albert would throw me into the deep end. And as I’d struggle to float and grope the water, Mr Albert would stand beside the deep end and shout “Head underwater! Kick! Kick!” But I was clueless. I’d flail my hands and try to kick but it’s like something was dragging me to the ground. And as I’d try to float without much success, Mr Albert would just watch me like drowning was a spectacle he enjoyed seeing.
It’s only when matters got out of hand that Mr Albert would throw me a pole to cling on and swim back to the rails. Mr Albert may have been a callous man. But he taught me how to swim. He also taught me another important lesson: overcoming fear.
For the longest time, I haven’t felt like writing. And to put off my writing I came up with lots of “logical” reasons for not writing. As a result, I didn’t write much. Gang, the worst thing you can do is come up with “logical” reasons for why you aren’t doing stuff. Because logical reasons sound legitimate, but most of the time they aren’t. If you come up with logical reasons not to do stuff, you’ll struggle to accomplish what you want to do. Some of the “logical” reasons I came up with for not writing are:
- Writer’s block: This is the number one excuse for most writers who are supposed to be writing but aren’t. I kept telling myself I didn’t have ideas and I didn’t feel inspired. I lied to myself that I’d write when the inspiration came. But the inspiration didn’t come. And it wouldn’t come. Because like most things, writing is more about perspiration than inspiration. I had to put in the work and I wasn’t willing to.
- Unpreparedness: I wasn’t ready to write. In my fourth year of campus, I put off writing because I was focusing on my project. When I finished campus, I made excuses not to write because I was busy looking for work. And consequently, I didn’t write because I supposedly wasn’t ready. The time wasn’t right. But is there ever a right time for anything?
- Perfection: I wrote lots of articles but I left most of them midway. My writing felt nondescript. Everything I wrote felt inadequate. To resolve this issue, I read numerous books on how to write well. At the beginning, these books helped but as I continued reading more of them voraciously they only exacerbated the situation. I envied the writers. I was jealous of how they could produce such excellent content effortlessly.
But the above reasons were just secondary reasons as to why I wasn’t writing. After much contemplation, I realized that the core reason I wasn’t writing was fear. I was afraid nobody would read or care about my work. I was scared my work wasn’t good enough. I was afraid of mediocrity. Above all, I was frightened of that juggernaut all writers, creatives and anyone who gives a shit about their work fears—failure.
But fear can only be overcome by confronting it. Thus, I’ve decided to confront it. If you’re a creative you’ll be doing yourself a great disservice by not tapping into your talent. Tap into it. Not everyone will love your work. But as long as you’re doing it and refining it that’s all that matters.
“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if its good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”—Andy Warhol
And this doesn’t apply to creatives only but to everyone. We all have fears. Some are rational while others are irrational. I had a rational fear of swimming but I overcame it. I also had an irrational fear of clowns but I overcame it too. You can overcome your fears too. If you’re afraid of heights climb a mountain, if you’re afraid of enclosed spaces use a lift, if you’re afraid of cockroaches put one in the palm of your hand. Plunge into the deep end, it’s the only way you’ll learn how to swim.