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Sep112011

Fear and golf, how it might relate to art.

I love golf. I used to love fly fishing but since moving to San Diego, I haven't had as much opportunity to go out since there aren't any nearby rivers. I played golf before, but I really didn't like it much.  After my last bout with cancer, I took up the game with my trainer and I fell in love with everything about it. I'm not very good, but that doesn't matter as much as just enjoying the process of the game. I've been reading a book by Dr. Bob Rotella called, "The Golfer's Mind." It's about the psychology of golf, but you can easily change the words golf to life and it will be just as relevant. I was recently reading a chapter about fear and realized that one can say the same things about art. I'm going to repeat the chapter here, but change the words and you'll see what I mean.  Remember this is originally about golf.

"There are two sorts of fear; the genuine kind, and the kind you may sometimes feel when making art.

Let's suppose that you were walking with your child at the zoo and a pride of lions somehow  burst out of confinement and started running toward you and your child, looking hungry. You'd feel fear, the genuine kind, and you'd be right to dos. The fear reaction is one reason our distant ancestors on the African savanna managed to procreate before they became lion food. The passed this trait on to us.

Now let's suppose that you own the only art studio in the world and that you're the only one making art. No one would see your work. Would be ever be fearful when you made art?

You wouldn't of course. You'd have nothing to be frightened of. There are no hungry lions in your studio. So why, then, do some artists feel fear when they make art? In art, fear is usually rooted in the worries about what other people will think of you if you make something ugly or bad. Fear can also be evoked if you feel that your self or your identity is defined by making good art. But remember, fear of making art, (or maybe making bad art,)  is nothing more than a thought that you have chosen to entertain.

Art, at its core, is a social endeavor, and therefore it's inevitably associated with other people's opinions. Your art can evoke respect and admiration. It can persuade people that you have courage, that you are smart, talented and creative. Unfortunately, it can also persuade them that you're quite the opposite too.  In the end, the absolute worst thing that can happen to you is that you might make some bad art, you don't  hit the mark, you make something ugly, and someone says something behind your back or to your face. It's a blow to your ego and nothing more.

Tom Kite once told me his daughter's gymnastics school amazed him. Every time those girls worked out or performed, they risked an injury that could paralyze them. They had reason to fear. But they didn't. The risk was so great that it forced them to put it out of their minds and perform coolly. Maybe if art had that kind of risk, artists would learn to be as clear minded.

But there really is no danger in making art. It that sense it's like basketball, and something Michael Jordan once said is relevant. "Fear is like a mirage. It's an idea you made up. It really doesn't exist."

If someone has a lot of fear about making art, it tells me that they are spending a lot of time away from their studio worrying about never being successful, worrying that they are working their tail off, putting in time and energy, and that they will never be rewarded. They are fearful that they are not destined to have great things happen to them.  (My God, this is me!!)

I repeat the point that if you’re going to think about making art, you got to think about making great art. You've got to think about making art that really matters to you. It's okay to have occasional doubts, fears and worries. But you must not dwell on them. You've got to have the will and discipline to not allow yourself to brood about potential disaster, because the brain thinks that's what you want and that's what it's going to give you in the studio.

However, if your ever in the studio and a lion jumps out from behind a door and starts running toward you, you have my permission to be afraid. Fear will help you run faster."

Thank you Doc' Rotella.

Taken and paraphrased from "The Golfer's Mind: Play to Play Great"  by Dr. Robert Rotella.   ppgs.93-95.

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Reader Comments (2)

Great article!

December 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Thanks for sharing the information, interesting and amazing. . .

April 15, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKunder

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