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.
Fears faced: Start a blog, share my creativity and write in English.
Struggles: Finding my voice, figuring out what my Fear Year is, writing and sharing quickly. Find myself in all of this.
Lessons learned: Just start somewhere. Things won't be perfect, but you'll figure it out. When in doubt, keep creating and exploring. Dig deeper.
I’m trembling. My heart pounding.
I click send to my 16 subscribers.
I start a Facebook page, invite all my friends and post a link on my private account.
I start an Instagram account for my Fear Year.
Now there’s no turning back. My Fear Year has started.
Start before you are ready
I started my Fear Year with a vague idea of what it would be. I only had a few thoughts I held onto. I knew fear was holding me back from building the creative life I dreamed of. I wanted to share my creativity, but I was scared to. I longed for a challenge and an adventure.
Those thoughts led me to the conclusion that I needed to start a blog andface my fears this year. Tying those two together gave me a name for my blog - Elin’s Fear Year. It felt like a good idea. I mean, it even rhymed!
I didn’t know exactly what my blog would be about. I knew I didn’t want to only write about writing, but I wanted to write about creativity in some way. I didn’t want a lifestyle blog, where the focus was only on my life. I wanted a blog that would inspire and help other struggling with the same things I do.
Moving in the direction of my fear, I bought a sketchbook, pencils and color. I started experimenting.
I struggled with writing a blog post every week. I was used to going over texts many times and often not sharing at all. If I did share, it was to get feedback. Publishing within such a short time felt weird. I was anxious and stressed in my writing. I didn’t know what to write about. After the first article about why I’m doing my Fear Year, the second one was about making newbie mistakes. Because that’s what I knew I was - I was a beginner and I was making mistakes, but I didn’t know what the mistakes were yet, or how to fix them. And still, I put those mistake filled things out into the world. It was scary.
But I kept going, because I had decided to this. I knew that the only way to figure out writing is to write more. I had gone through this both with my novel and with my thesis at university, the searching and testing before finding something that works. Before understanding what I was trying to build.
On January 11, I started a new routine to handle the stress of writing. I’m a born night owl, but I kept reading about people getting up early to write in the mornings, to use the freshness of a morning brain and to get the important done first. I resisted the idea, but I knew I needed to try something. And guess what? It worked.
There’s something not quite right with my blog.
While I love the idea of my website, it feels more like a project. In fact, it is a project. It only represent a part of me. But that’s not what I want. I want to build a home for myself, an online home. And there, I want to be as authentic as I can. I don’t want a cute project, I want this thing to be me through and through.
At the same time, I don’t want the focus to be on me. I want this to be me sharing with others - inspiration, lessons learned, to help. Whatever I write, this looks like it’s about me. And I don’t really want that.
But how the do I build a thing that is me but not about just me? And how do I make this me?
Searching for my voice
When building my first website in December, I focused on the idea of a creative adventure. I’m a nature lover and wanted to incorporate those elements with the creative and quirky. I still love that idea. But I found that it created a wall between me and the world, it became something to hide behind and I craved sharing my thoughts as authentic and raw as I could, while still sharing them in an interesting way.
I like to build and I like to improve. If I didn’t, maybe I’d left it as it was. But I knew I could do better. So I had to. I wanted to completely love my blog.
I knew I could get stuck in trying to listen my way to my own voice. Instead, I tried to withdraw from the world while still writing my blog posts. It resulted in articles named The battle of the distracted mind and The terrifying journey to finding your creative voice. I was struggling. I didn’t want the focus all on me, but I wanted it to be me. I knew I wanted to help, but I didn’t know with what.
I need to bring back the stillness.
Let me read, explore nature calmly, do my yoga. I’m enthusiastic but also calm. Am I hiding and pushing away my own still self?
Why am I really doing this? Is this just a project born out of boredom or something I want to grow and nurture?
I was overwhelmed with the project I’d taken on. Building up my website, I’d been in my super enthusiastic mood and calming down in January made it feel unauthentic. I am that I’m doing this and nothing can stop me kind of person, but I’m also the Hey, let’s stay in, read a good book and drink tea all day. Generally, those are separate parts of me, doing different things, but I knew that if I were to have a blog that always felt like me, I needed to figure out how to join both those parts. I just didn’t know how.
That’s really out of character for me. I’m messy and I generally handle my messiness well. But the overwhelm had gotten to the point where I needed to scale down, throw away stuff. I literally cleaned out my closet while trying to figure out what to do next.
A few concepts surfaced.
I wanted my own flavor of weirdness to shine through.
I wanted my love for books, my nerdiness and cat lady tendencies to be there somehow.
The colors were wrong. I liked them, but they didn’t match the colors I use elsewhere in my life. My clothes and the photos I take have other colors.
I went back to basics. I started a new Pinterest board and started to look at the things I identify with, repinning from old boards. I ended up with a mess of things of course, but still, something different had emerged. I started to work on those things.
Who am I? What is my flavor of weird? How am I different from other people? Do I really have something unique about me? Who am I?
While searching for myself and my voice, I started reading two books. Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I'd saved both of these books for my Fear Year, because I knew I would love them and that they would help me. I had already seen the movie based on Wild a couple of months earlier and been amazed by how well it connected to the novel I’m writing. I read Eat Pray Love a few years ago and it was probably the book that ended my teenage snobbish reader years, since it made me realize how much I love transformational books about strong women.
I wasn’t wrong. Searching and struggling, I held Big Magic in one hand and Wild in the other, creating my way closer and closer to who I really am.
I started finding my photography style.
I explored my weirdness.
A sentence emerged, starting to figure out what I wanted my blog to be.
I help the small creative be strong in a big world.
It was vague, but I held onto it. Digging deeper.
Small and warm like a teacup, strong and wise like an owl.
It joins my still self with my exploring side. Nature and soul. Action and reflection.
Could this be me? Is this what I’ve been searching for?
My inner voice speaking up
I don’t know where Teacup Owls came from.
I had been thinking about different things I like - cats, books, green tea, yoga, graphic t-shirts, owls, nature, Harry Potter, theories, political science, psychology, nerdiness…
And somehow, my brain did it’s things and popped Teacup Owls into my consciousness.
It was like a small flame that turned into a fire. It went a little crazy - in a matter of minutes I knew I would call my community the Teacup Owls and that I could serve them Cups of Owly Tea as exercises. I could make physical workbooks and send across the world with actual tea blends - an Owly Tea IRL Version.
That weekend, my boyfriend was away and I decided to give myself a Creative Lockdown to develop the concepts that were bouncing around inside of me. I was a little bit scared, to be honest. I was cutting off social media and all internet connection except to upload pictures for Instagram and the absolute necessary, to really focus on my own voice. I didn’t know what would arise.
But nothing weird happened. I just created my way through the whole weekend and was finally getting a little bit clearer on what my Fear Year would be.
When the weekend ended, I wrote on Instagram:
I promised myself to take this time to really focus and give my own creativity the room to play. I'm currently working on giving my blog a new home that more aligns with who I am and it's hard to figure out what that looks like when the opinions of the world are so very present.
Sometimes we need to dial back to ourselves, to trust our own creativity and listen to our instincts.
Be our own guides.