How we dare to create where fear and passion is strongest

Sometimes, creativity is more than fun.

Sometimes, creativity is an expression of our deepest self. A calling.
Sometimes it's a heartbeat. Vibrating, bleeding, strong and vulnerable at the same time.
Sometimes it's what we've dreamed of for years.

Sometimes we care so much, we can barely touch it.

It’s so loaded with hopes and longing, we get scared of it. We get scared we can't do it, that we'll fail and all those hopes will come crashing down. If that dream disappears, we don't know who we'd be.

Our dream gets trapped in a state of inaction.

In this state, both fear and passion is strong. They're fighting for your attention.

Passion screams

Do it! Do it! Moooore!

Fear grabs your leg and cries

STOP STOP! DANGER AHEAD!

Which voice is stronger? Which do we listen to?

The Fear-Passion Quota

Let’s for a moment view our life just in these two aspects. On one axis you have fear, on the other passion.

Everything you do could be placed somewhere on this axis.

Every point in the Fear-Passion Quota is different. The four corners are the four extremes.

The horror corner

High fear, low passion

I have no desire whatsoever to go bungy jumping and my fear is extremely high. The likelihood that I would do it is very slim. 

The boring corner

Low fear, low passion

Brushing my teeth is something I have no particular desire to do, but I’m not scared of it. So if I am to do it, I need something else than passion to motivate me, like routine and the threat of the dentist (which lies in about the same place as bungyjump).

The omgomgomg corner

Low fear, high passion

Harry Potter is a deep passion for me, but there’s nothing scary about it. Well, with the exception a few chapters and movie scenes (Dementors, anyone?), but even those are pleasant fears.

The most important corner

High fear, high passion

In the top right corner rests my novel. It’s my lifelong dream, my passion project, the hardest and the most wonderful thing I’ve ever worked on. It’s the corner I dream of, the corner I avoid.

Where's your threshold?

All of us have some kind of normal fear tolerance. For some it's higher, for some lower. It's the moment we decide we won't do it. It's not a flat level, but it changes with the level of passion. If we're more passionate, we tolerate a bit higher fear levels.

Let's say my normal threshold looks something like this.

 

This means there's a lot of things I'll never do, because of my tolerance for fear. It could end here. I could doom it impossible and move on. A lot of people do. They want to do something, but they're scared and decide not to. The dreams over the threshold gets left undone.

But that's not the only way.

Manipulating the Fear-Passion Quota

Let's say I still really want to find a way to work on my novel. (I do.) What can I do to change the situation?

There's three ways.

  1. Lower my fear
  2. Make my passion grow
  3. Change my threshold

In fact, trying to change all of these three is our best bet to make ourselves dare. Let's have a look at what that looks like.

Figuring out what rises and lowers the level of fear

Some say this is impossible, but I don't really agree. We humans are wired to fear the unknown. We fear what we haven't tried or are convinced we're bad at. Things we've heard is scary and dangerous. The thing that no one else is doing. What we might fail at.

When we figure out what scares us, we can try to change those things.

Let's say big horses scare me. Then, I'll start with small horses and then meet bigger and bigger ones.

Let's say I fear doing what no one else I know is doing. Then I'll get to know a few people who does it.

Let's say I fear failing. Then I'll change my concept of failing.

Of course, all of these things are easy to say and may not be as easy to do. But nobody said it was going to be easy. Facing our fears is challenging. We wouldn't be here if it weren't. At the same time, we don't have to make it more complicated than it is. Even small changes in what we fear can make a huge difference.

Growing passion stronger

Since a strong passion can outweigh fear, growing our passion is one way to tackle something. Of course, in that most important top right corner, passion might already be super strong. But we can still need to remind ourselves of the passion we have, when all we can see is fear.

Usually, Passion has it's own mind about what it likes and don't. Often, we feel like victims to its whims and quirks and volatile nature. We hate what we should love and love what we should hate. When we're staring at blank pages and really need the presence of passion, it's nowhere to be seen. When we don't have time and need to sleep, it shows up uninvited.

However, we can influence passion. We can be the one to whisper in its ear and lure it in. You probably know it as inspiration.

Reading, watching, hearing and smelling things that inspire us, collecting what makes our hearts bounce, it all works for growing passion.

Another way is to look at what we are passionate about already, try to understand it and design our new thing after passion's preferences. Cleaning the toilet may be even a little bit fun if you do it with a pink, sparkly toilet brush while pretending to be magic fairy, making the shit go away with a whip of your wand.

A third way is to keep your why close. Usually, there's some reason for wanting to something (duuh). Maybe you want to write a fantasy novel because fantasy helped you survive high school and you want to pass on the magic to the next generation. Passion is usually a part of your why. To pump it up and keep it close helps passion to stay strong.

Finally, doing more of something might strengthen passion. Of course, it could go the opposite way, but when we dive into something that first just interested us, it can quickly become an obsession (Netflix binging, anyone?). Trying something and giving it a bit of time can be a very strategic choice if you want to see if your passion can flourish.

Changing our fear tolerance

This is both the hardest and the easiest.

Fear makes us, by definition, try to escape it. It's our brain's way of telling us to walk the other way. Every level of fear forces us to make a choice if it's worth it or not. We may fear flying, but deem it worth it to go on a trip. We may fear being left by a loved one, but deem it worth the risk and go ahead with a relationship anyway. It's always a choice.

At some point, we start saying no.

Where is that point and why there?

Rising our bar for fear-filled activities is really a matter of changing our choices. Preferably, we start by lowering fear and raising passion. But when that's all done, and if we're still too scared, we need to change our choice.

It's hard to tell someone how to do this, because in the end it's just a leap of faith. But I have three points that helps me.

Question fear's assumptions

Fear usually makes up vivid scenarios of what will happen if we act against it. These scenarios are usually quite unlikely. Actively question if we'll actually get laughed at, freak out or die in the process may help with taking fear a bit less seriously. 

Decide it's worth it

When fear is really strong, it can blind us. We can even forget passion and just try to run the other way. To get out of it, we need to decide that it's worth it. It's worth the scare and the risk, to get to the other side.

Accept that it will be scary

We want to run away from fear, but at some point, we need to stop running. We can't completely escape fear. Instead, we need to accept it. Stop trying to find ways to make it go away and accept that it will be there. When we stop fighting against it, we can move on with other struggles.

Accepting fear and moving towards it instead of away from it is what my Fear Year is based on. Making that decision has helped me immensely in raising my tolerance for fear.

My most important creative work

In that heart-pounding, frighteningly passionate top right corner is my novel. 

Oh that damn, dear novel. 
Will I ever finish it?

Yes, yes. I believe I will.  

Writing this, I'm 1/3 through draft 3. The groundwork is there. It's taken me 5 years to get here, but here I am. It sure didn't have to take that long. If I add together the periods I actually worked on the novel, it's probably less than a year.

When my third draft is done, I need to check if I messed something up. Probably do a fourth draft for the finer details. After that, it should be ready for test readers, revisions and eventually translation to English. 

I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I still believe most of it is done.

But I don't want it to take another 5 years.

I started writing this blog post when I realized I'm doing my Fear Year and still avoiding that corner. I've been filling my time with the less scary and less passionate creative work. Important work, but not as important. I need to figure out how to do consistently dare to create in that corner. 

Lowering my fear

My novel is not always on the highest fear level. Every time I've started working on it with active persistence, it falls down on the fear axis. As soon as I take a break, it climbs back up. In the case of my most important creative work, consistency really is key

Just making a plan has never worked, but together with my other manipulators, a path helps keep fear calm. Then I know what the next step is and not everything is unknown.

Raising my fear tolerance

To build a consistent routine again, I need to start with my fear high. I know two things will help me. 

Having an outside accountability connected to my path helps to make me dare. It creates a feeling of oh well now I HAVE to. It's harder to ignore the sense of must than the sense of should.

Focusing on the current part of the process makes me dare, because it's something more specific than "finishing the novel I've dreamed of and always wanted to write". Not every sentence needs to be perfect yet. I'll focus on this draft for now. 

Moving forward

It's time to work on that most important creative work.

Today, I jump in on what's worked before, the thing that's helped me get to the point where I am now: Camp NaNoWriMo, the April Camp of the wonderful writing challenge National Novel Writing Month. I'm starting late and my goal is to write 25 000 words, half of what NaNoWriMo usually is, about a third of my novel, and I'm so so excited. 

I'm aiming to be 2/3 done with my third draft by the end of April. When I get that far, I will by damn keep this routine up and figure out how to move this novel forward to completion.

I will not give up this time.