2016 is the year I face my creative fears. I call it my Fear Year. Every month I publish a report, looking back on the month, sharing my thoughts, fears and lessons learned. If you want context, you can read more and find the earlier reports here.
Fears faced: Working on my novel. Taking a break when it's going well. Painting whole scenes.
Struggles: To keep writing, to focus on the draft.
Lessons learned: Focusing on the draft makes everything easier. It releases us from the perfectionism of being good from the start and lets us experiment and try different things to slowly get better, draft by draft.
I need to keep writing. I really really need to.
This is the test. This is what my Fear Year is about. It's time to put all my practice to test.
Fighting to keep writing
July ended with a three day writing sprint. I'd written 9000 words and was satisfied. I knew that those days of intense writing was a great start to get back to my writing, but that the hardest part was to keep writing. That was what I always failed at eventually.
The first week of August, I kept writing but not every day, 3000 words in total. I made a prettier painting of the words just keep writing and planned to make an art print out of it eventually. I search for and found a word count tracker similar tracker to the one NaNoWriMo has. The one I found is on the website pacemaker.press and it helped me plan and track my writing. Focusing on word count goals have always helped me to keep writing when I struggle.
Why is it so damn hard?! This is taking too long. I suck. My painting suck. I will never ever get good at this. How can I be so bad at this?
I should just give up on this stupid stupid thing.
Dealing with creative frustration
When I didn't write, I painted a lot. I wanted to use my vacation to practice and one project was the illustrations for Expedition: Daringland, the story-based course I was developing. I wanted to paint a stormy sea and found myself completely incapable of painting it.
My illustrations forced me to practice painting whole scenes, something I'd avoided because I knew it was harder than just painting one thing at a time. It was challenging. Scary even. It woke the sleeping fear of drawing and painting that I'd faced earlier this year.
I had a complete creative meltdown, and after calming down I realized to remind myself of the importance of drafts. I knew this already, but it's easy to forget when we reach for our dreams and goals.
Over the next days and weeks, I kept reminding myself that all I should focus on is the current draft. Just making it a tad bit better than the one before. Not obsessing over details because they can be fixed in the next draft. It's a mindset that has helped me write many times, and now it helped with both writing and painting.
It's still not easy, but it's working. I'm writing. I'm not giving up. But soon these days will be over and I won't be able to write like this anymore. That's the time I really fear.
Oh if I could live like this.
Living with space for writing
I wish I could say that I wrote every day, but I didn't. I went to my family's summer house to focus on my novel and I wrote, but still not every day. It was the last week of my vacation and I looked at all I had hoped to do, and realized there was no way I would get it all done. So I focused on my novel for those days close to the sea, with rain and wind keeping us inside the house.
I realized what a huge difference it actually makes to be able to focus on writing, not just pushing it into little spare moments. No matter what people say, having a good amount of time makes a huge difference. I'd then written 8 000 words during August.
When I went back home I had so many things to do before I got back to work, blog posts, painting for my Instagram account and packing for our upcoming move, that I didn't have any energy left to keep writing on my novel. I knew that us moving would demand a break and I was dreading what it would do to my writing. With just 15 000 words left of my current draft, I promised myself to get back to it when the break was over.
This is the start of something new. A new page. A new space. Who knows what will happen in our new apartment. Who knows what I'll make in that creative room I'm getting.
This is so right. I know it.
Moving and painting walls
On August 15 we got the keys to our new apartment. We had already planned to repaint our bedroom and the room that was going to be my creative space, but when we got to the apartment we realized we needed to paint the hall and living room too. Since we were moving in a week later, we really wanted to be done with those rooms, so the bedroom and creative room had to wait.
My boyfriend and I worked so hard that week, with packing, stripping down old wallpaper, and eventually moving. The tiny bit of spare time I found, I used to finish that week's blog post and write the Teacup Owl letter.
When we were finally done with the living room and hall walls, we were exhausted and fully moved in. But through that exhaustion, I was really glad we did it ourselves. Looking at the walls gives me a very similar satisfaction as looking at creative projects. Not perfect, but done by us.
I'm tired, but I need to get back to my creative routine. I know I do. There's a reason I built it, and it's the way for me the get back to working on my novel again. This needs to work, it just do.
Getting back to my creative routine
After two weeks of almost complete focus on my day job and moving, I finally had the time for creativity again. During the freedom of my vacation, I had broken my creative routine and I needed to get back to it. My usual monthly routine was to have one weekend for writing the month's blog posts, one weekend for making Instagram pictures and two weekends for bigger projects. I needed to write blog posts, so that's what I had planned for the last weekend of August.
I was still really tired after the sprint through our move, so it took me until Sunday before I got the energy to start writing. When I'd written two blog posts the weekend was over and I once again felt that dread. The dread that I wouldn't be able to keep up with my schedule, which I knew would keep me from working on my novel. I needed to find a way, I just needed to.