My creative life began in 2016 with a year long challenge: to face my creative fears. If you think that means I’m now fearless, I’ll have to disappoint you. But my fears have changed, and there are new things that scare me now.
In in the end of 2018 when I looked back on the year and set my intention for 2019, one thing stood out to me. There were again ideas I never got around to doing, and just like before it was because they scared me.
I was keeping myself small, because small is safer.
So I knew it was time to give myself a gentle push, as we all need every now and then. And today I’d like to share some of those scary ideas and how I’m approaching them.
Be honest with yourself
Doing something scary starts with admitting that it is, in fact, scary. I don’t believe in putting blinders on and just forcing yourself to do things, but instead being conscious of the fear.
The biggest game-changer for me back in 2016 was a simple mindset flip. Instinctively, we avoid the feeling of fear as a survival mechanism. But survival isn’t really at stake when you’re doing creative work and sacrificing your ideas to avoid fear doesn’t make much sense. In those case, we need to seek it out instead.
When I made fear itself a goal and started to see the feeling of jitters as a good sign, things started to change for me.
With this in mind, one of the first things I did when I realized I want to attempt some scary ideas this year was to put them on paper. I wrote a list of my fears.
In the act of writing them down, I admit to myself that these ideas do scare me, that I want to do them despite that fear, and that I have to keep myself on track if they are to happen.
This is part of the list I wrote (because frankly, some of the points still feel to vulnerable to share):
Create resources, free and paid.
Pitch ideas to magazines.
Pitch myself as a podcast guest.
Hold a real life workshop or speech.
If you have ideas or dreams you’re experiencing doubt or fear around, write them down. With a list, not just ideas swirling in your head, you can start figuring out how to make it happen.
Start with the least scary version
I think we often freeze because we imagine doing the whole, scary thing right away. But you don’t have to attempt the scariest version of an idea first. People talk of leaping, but many little steps can be just as good if not better.
When I decide to start on a scary idea, I think of what that the least scary version or first step can be. This is what it looks like for me right now.
For creating resources, I’m starting with one that will be a free workbook, and I’m not overdoing it. I’m treating it as a bigger version of a blog post with space to answer questions, and that makes it feel much more like something I can do.
For pitching myself for both podcasts and magazines, I’m starting with the ones that feels least scary. Podcast hosts that are kind and feels familiar to me. I’m writing more for the blog, both as a way to build up a portfolio of articles like the ones I want to write and to make writing them feel more familiar.
And when it comes to coaching and holding a workshop or speech, I’ve hit pause on those for now. I don’t think facing all fears at once is the best idea, so I’m saving them for later. They’re also ideas I see as the next step after I’ve done the things I’m focusing on right now.
The benefit with starting with the least scary is that you grow your confidence.
You see that it worked okay and you didn’t die, and you might survive the next to least scary thing. And so on, until you’re doing what felt impossible before you started.
Take a moment to consider, what would be the least scary way to approach an idea you feel fear around?
Treat yourself with kindness
Fear can be frustrating when it stands in the way of working on an idea you long to make happen. But fear is something very human and normal, especially if you want to attempt something you’ve never done before.
Don’t use fear facing a way of punishing yourself for being afraid. Don’t call yourself names. Try to accept that you’re afraid and allow that fear to exist.
Many say that fear never goes away. And yes, we all have fears, but my fears have changed a lot since I started creating regularly. What I found super scary three years ago feels totally fine now.
It’s not just the fact that I’ve tried them. Some ideas feel less scary because I’ve done something similar, I’ve learned useful skills or I’ve done the groundwork that makes me feel more confident in my vision.
So here’s an unpopular idea: if something feels absolutely terrifying, maybe it’s not time for it yet? Maybe you’re trying to jump over a couple of steps, and that’s why it feels so hard and scary? Maybe you need a smaller, closer idea to do first, to use as a stepping stone towards an especially scary idea.
It’s okay to take some time to figure these things out. It’s okay to be afraid and not face all your fears in five minutes. As long as you’re moving in the direction you want and you’re conscious of your behavior, I think you’re okay.