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. I recommend reading the January report first for context.
Fears faced: Changing directions, building a space to help others, admitting my strengths.
Struggles: Finding my own strengths, what I can help with, developing my blog.
Lessons learned: Keep at it. Don't give up. However hard and impossible, you will get through it. If it's hard, stick your path.
I have the idea of the Teacup Owls.
I have the helping small creatives be strong in a big world idea.
Is that a blog? Is that enough? What does that mean? Do I write about every struggle a small creative faces? What is a small creative? It doesn’t sound very targeted.
But what can I really help with? I don’t know much. I’m new to this too.
What is my strength?
During January, I went from having a blog about my Fear Year, to wanting a blog with bigger focus on the reader - the creative facing the struggles I’m facing. And I wanted to help, in some way. My vague idea of sharing lessons learned from my Fear Year was growing and getting a little bit more defined. But it was still very unclear.
I read tons of tips for finding your niche and tried different exercises. I kept asking myself what I knew something about. I kept coming up with the answer not much in this area. I was doubting my own abilities.
I didn’t see what was staring me right in the face.
Is this fear I’m experiencing?
Fear of what? Not being good enough? Being a fraud?
Rather than fear, isn’t something else? Lack of confidence? Self-doubt?
Self-doubting my way to an answer
In the middle of my frustrating search for what I actually knew something about, I got sick. The tired, mildly feverish kind that kept me on the couch watching TV series for three days.
I’d had a nagging feeling for a little while that I was holding myself back by overthinking and doubting my own ability to help others in their creative endeavors. While lying grumpy and tired on the couch, I forced myself to write a blog post about self-doubt. I needed a post for that week so I had to write something. I could just as well write about my own struggle.
Later that week, I published a picture on Instagram related to the blog post about self-doubt with the text Who is making your creative decisions? You or your self-doubt? When I woke up the following morning, I saw that it was my by far most liked picture, and I’d gotten a lot of new subscribers too. At that moment, I realized I was onto something.
That was what had been staring my in the face. I could help others face their creative fears. Looking back, it's a little bit silly that I didn't think of fighting fear when I searched for my strengths. Maybe it was just too easy. Maybe I didn't see that it was something I could help with.
Okay, self-doubt could work as a niche. I sure know how to self-doubt, but I also know how to get past it. I have done it lots of times after all - starting my novel, starting to blog… And isn’t this pretty much what I’m doing with this Fear Year, getting past my doubts and create anyway?
But I need time to develop it. Writing blog posts every week doesn’t give me much room to develop my new blog. I need more space to work on it.
Could I take a break in publishing blog posts, for a little while? Would that be me breaking all of my rules? Is it me backing out on a promise? What if I keep sending emails to my list but not publish blog posts? That would give me time to write and get ahead of my own schedule. It would be so so good not to scramble every week to get a post done.
Daring to change directions
After thinking back and forth, doubting my own decision and wondering whether I was just chickening out, I decided to pause publishing blog posts until I had gotten my new blog up. It gave me both the time to really focus on it and a kick in the butt to get it done as soon as possible.
I wrote my About page and rewrote it. Rewrote it again and rewrote that. I took pictures for it. I tried to figure out what the first three articles should be. Couldn’t come up with anything good. I wrote and erased. Thought I might start working on a small free e-course about starting a scary project. It was somehow easier, but I soon realized it was getting way too long for a small email course. And it was taking up all my time, so I took a break from it.
I did some more thinking, writing and erasing.
I’m so tired. So so tired.
Will this ever be anything remotely good? It’s not good yet, that’s for sure.
Walking on like a soldier
I started reading War of Art by Steven Pressfield, a book I’d picked up for my Fear Year. That’s what my creations felt like at the moment - a war.
Slowly, slowly my new website started to take shape. Or at least if felt slow. My starter blog posts didn’t seem very eager to write themselves, it was like walking through mud. But still, I moved forward. I fought on. I read and forced myself.
I knew this. I had been here before. I had to do the work to get through this. I knew it, Steven Pressfield knew it, my blog knew it. Keep trying, keep trying, keep trying. Don’t give up. It will get better. Stick your path. Walk on.
So, I did.
Why won’t that sentence leave my mind? It’s not a bad idea, but it’s not a starter blog post. I can write it later. But why won’t it leave my mind?
When the words start flowing
Finally, something was starting to release. I was working on a blog post about creating with self-doubt and it was slowly getting somewhere, but this other article kept pushing into my consciousness. Until I one day couldn’t keep it off anymore.
It’s called Dear Doubt.
I feel very blessed that I usually can get myself into a state of flow by forcing the first part. But this time was different. The flow was there whether I wanted it or not. I seriously could not stop writing. When I had to do other things, I wasn’t really present. My mind was so damn determined to get this thing out it wouldn’t give me any peace until I had.
So I wrote and wrote and wrote. I poured all of my feelings from the last weeks into it. Before I knew it, I had a letter to my doubt that was just me through and through. I had given my doubt a personality and I was over the moon.
Maybe that was the moment I found my voice? I don’t know. At least, I gave the part struggling with self-doubt a voice, talking back to that other voice I’ve heard so often, the doubts. Now, I had a voice that stood up to fear. Finally.
When I publish this, Dear Doubt is not yet available, but it will be next week. And oh it’s still my favorite thing I’ve written this year.
It’s my heart speaking up.