“Don’t breathe no mo’!” Never have four words relating to a near-death experience been so funny. Anyone familiar with Richard Pryor’s legendary 1979 show Live In Concert will know the routine I’m referring to: Pryor walking through the yard when suddenly he suffers a heart attack. Not funny. But funny when the person telling the story is a comic genius.
After announcing the publication date for my novel Leaving Sadie (February 29), I’ve often had moments where I’ve heard those four words bellow between my ears; this all being relative to what I can only surmise is some form of very minor panic attack (Don’t breath no mo!”). Although panic attack is too strong a term for such moments; there’s no genuine anxiety coursing through my veins, no heart palpatations, no hyperventilating; just a recurring bout of what I’ve coined the Shit Fears.
Every writer experiences the Shit Fears. Not just every writer, any creative individual who shares someting they’ve made, experiences the SFs. To sum it up in a few words, it’s basically “what if people think this work is a piece of shit?” Cue Pryor: “Don’t breahe no motherfuckin’ mo’, you heard me!”
But the Shit Fears are not something to be ashamed of. They are only natural. Creative Anxiety Syndrome (CAS) is another term I’ve coined. This can be used as a more-appropriate-for-public-speaking Shit Fears synonym, although it’s valuable to note that while the terms might be used interchangably, they are, in fact, two different conditions. While the Shit Fears are relative to post-publication (or post-sharing) anxiety, CAS is a body-permeating apprehensiveness experienced intermittently during the creative process, from start to finish. After all, it’s not unusual for creative people to experience higher instances of anxiety, according to PyschCentral, at least.
However! I believe that I’ve found a cure to both the SFs and general CAS in the form of this individual:
I first experienced Tyler, the Creator around eight or nine years ago when he appeared on Jimmy Fallon performing ‘Sandwitches’, accompanied by fellow Odd Future member Hodgy Beats (now simply Hodgy). The performance was raw, intense, full of energy, and it reminded me of the first time I’d encountered N.E.R.D; the heavy percussion being a major factor.
While Tyler’s quirkiness was apparent in his performance (and his debut record Goblin), nothing could have prepared me for his most recent effort Igor. With this album, blending hip-hop with funk and neo-soul, Tyler fully embraced his idiosyncratic creative nature. Donning a blonde wig and garish two-piece suit, Tyler presented to us his alter-ego, Igor. With this character, he delivered, for me, the most interesting and enjoyable album of 2019.
But how does Tyler act as the panacea for all things related to Creative Anxiety Syndrome? Well, simply, look at what the man has put out there; look at how he’s placed himself in the firing line. For Igor, he could’ve been mocked, ridiculed, laughed off of the Billboard Charts, never to return. Of course, Tyler must have had confidence in his work (how could he not?), but he was prepared to take risks, to take a different approach both musically and personally and artistically. And he did it.
For me, the SFs and general CAS can be alleviated, if not expunged, by looking at people like Tyler, and how they’ve been brave and bold enough to share their creations with the world.
My novel Leaving Sadie is ready to go. It will be available on Kindle and in paperback on February 29th, 2019. The SFs are almost gone, and Richard Pryor’s beautiful voice now speaks to me: Breathe, motherfucker. You heard me!