On the 13th of March, two AP Lit classes and two AP Lang classes wandered down to HHS’s library and sat down at the tables in the back corner, there to listen to their guest speaker from Seattle talk about her book. Her name was written on the board in Ms. Zadeh’s neat handwriting:
“Jacqueline Moulton, writer, artist, teacher.”
Jackie, as Ms. Zadeh called her, stood shorter than about three-quarters of the kids in the room. Her large red-rimmed glasses matched her lipstick. She paced back and forth as her royal blue skirt swirled beneath her, and presented her ideas about the fear that inevitably comes with the creative process. Her soliloquy came with genuine earnest and cat-lady humor. She spoke, unscripted and enthusiastically, about fear and creating and failure to an audience of slouching English kids, all mesmerized by this colorful and Miss-Frizz-from-the-Magic-School-Bus-but-with-tattoos-like-person.
Her book “The Day I Was Too Afraid to Jump Off the Highdive & Other Tales of Fear and Trepidation,” presents her numerous ideas about fear in a collection of poems, prose, and pictures. Fears of silly things, like cardboard tampons or stubbing a toe. Fears of big things, like loss, loneliness, unknowns of life.
Ms. Moulton’s long-titled book declares everyone’s vulnerability to fear—herself included.
Even in coming to Heritage, she confessed, she faced the fear of failure that grips and strangles the best creators.
“Before I came here, I was trying to think what to say to you,” she said to us slouchers. “And I thought: ‘Well, I have to be impressive. I have to have this brilliant message that will change your lives.’ And with that pressure, I couldn’t think of one thing to say.”
This same pressure, the pressure after publishing a book and having to come up with a new and better book, was crippling her writing process as well.
“I’m always undone by that—the fear of failure,” she confessed. “We have this idea that ‘I’m good if I succeed, and bad if I fail,’ and that those are the only camps you can live in. But if you take failure and success out of the equation, it helps you a lot more.”
Her talk centered around the idea of writing, but she expanded it and applied it to ideas of creating in general—something we all do.
We create friendships and relationships. We create jokes and ideas and ambitions and dreams.
We create ourselves.
And when fear dominates the equation for any of those things—especially our selves—the results are crippling.
“Creating is risky, it’s scary—it costs a lot of you.” Ms. Moulton said. “But you can just do what you can do—and you can trust that that will be enough.”
A lesson she herself admitted to struggling with. A lesson all creators—writers, painters, video-makers, dancers, potters, musicians, teachers, parents, students, people—every single person must face and deal with.
“You’re all uniquely made to love this world in your own way,” she said. “You are not responsible for the outcome, but you are responsible for following the flicker in your hearts.”
The only way to deal with the fear of creating, she tells us, is to create constantly and in spite of that fear. Just ride the wave, and be nice to yourself.