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: Going in my own direction. Breaking the rules. Taking a step out of the inspiration bubble.
Struggles: Losing my inspiration and momentum. Finding my own teaching style.
Lessons learned: I don't have to follow the rules, I can make my own ones. In fact, that's what I should do, because that's when I'm enjoying all of this the most.
I just want to crawl into my armchair with a cup of tea and a book, and stay there. Like, forever. Can I, please?
Rest and reading
I had started a new routine in the end of May, dividing my weekends between my creative projects. I'd kicked it off with a blog post weekend, writing the four blog posts for the upcoming month, and ahead I had one Instagram picture weekend and two Bigger Project weekends before I would start over again.
This routine came from being stressed and tired, so I decided to let myself rest during the weekdays for a while. It was really needed, I felt so tired. My brain needed a break from everything, so I decided to dive into something consuming and completely different that wouldn't demand energy.
The Divergent trilogy popped up as a great choice. I'm not that big of a sci fi and fantasy reader, but when I find a series that draws me in, I can get a bit obsessive with it. I'm a child of the Harry Potter generation, after all. I was somewhat skeptical, but still hoped the Divergent books would be a similar experience to reading Hunger Games a couple of years ago, which completely consumed me. Divergent didn't let me down.
Bleh. My writing isn't what I want it to be. I have no inspiration, no energy. In fact, I don't want inspiration. I'm so tired of inspiration. I just want to shut it all off for a while.
My first Bigger Project weekend
I had realized in May that I needed to face my fear of teaching, since it was holding me back from creating a small course I wanted to make. So really getting started on that course was my goal for my first Bigger Project weekend.
But I was just so tired and distracted. I forced myself to rewrite out the first lesson I'd written a while back and was dissatisfied with. It went okay, but it was slow and the result felt meh. Better than before, but still… I wondered if this was just fear or something else.
I squeezed out a Teacup Owl letter I really wasn't satisfied with, but I couldn't make it better. I was a dry well, and writing was like trying to scrape up water that wasn't there.
The rest of the weekend I just read, read and read.
I wonder what I'm really doing.
I feel like I'm coming out of some kind of spell. Like I'm reset, back to normal, to myself. Like all that inspiration drained off me and I'm left with… me. Like the influence from others are draining away.
It feels like I'm standing in front of the next step, like my next level is right in front of me, but I'm not sure what it is yet. I have tried this out now and I'm wondering whether this is really me.
Why am I doing this?
Who am I?
Diving completely into the Divergent trilogy had allowed me to take a step back from everything creative and inspiring. I had been too consumed with it and I was a bit sick of it all. That step back was exactly what I needed.
It felt like coming out of a bubble and it was both a scary and liberating feeling. I wondered what I was really doing, if it was really true to me or if it was just a dream, a game, pretend. Losing inspiration felt like waking up.
The course I was trying to create felt uncomfortable and dishonest in some way, and I didn't know if it was my fear of teaching, or if it just wasn't me. The course felt too much like branding and marketing and I craved going back to a more creativity-focused creation mode. To go into the real stuff, the real me, my deep thoughts.
I thought about my dream of building a small creative business, of selling anything I've created. I wondered whether I could really make that happen with my own, true and bare creativity, or if I needed to just suck it up and follow the rules.
But then I thought:
Maybe I fear going against all advice? Being unreasonable again. Not listening to the others.
Maybe the truest version is also the scariest version. The bravest version. Maybe that's my next step - stripping off the bullshit. Digging down to the core and stay there, openly.
The weekend was an Instagram weekend and I tried to dig deeper, to be more true to myself.
When all that inspiration disappeared, I realized that something else disappeared too. It was a scrambling, frustrated and angry energy I had carried with me during the spring, that came from a disappointment in myself for not living a creative life.
That anger had disappeared, not because I didn't want to live a creative life anymore, but because I realized I was actually there. I was living a creative life. In that aspect, I'd made it. I didn't have to be frustrated anymore. I didn't feel the stress of having to work every single second towards that goal, because in the ways that really mattered, I had arrived.
That realization wasn't a moment of omg I've made it this the most amazing, this is what I've always dreamed of. I guess that's rarely how life looks. Instead, it meant two things for me:
Firstly, I can relax. I don't need work every single minute. I can make room for other things in my life too.
Secondly, I don't need more than this. I've found what I've been looking for and while I want to keep exploring, those next steps should be completely on my own terms, because I already have what I came for. Everything beyond this should be closer and closer to my own core being, my honest truths.
It's time to listen to my own advice.
How can I make this course so completely me? How can I embrace my own strengths and weirdness? What would make me love this course, both to make it and go through it?
What is MY kind of teaching, discarding everyone else's style?
Going in my own direction
It's interesting how we can value something so much and still forget it.
Stripping off layers of inspiration, anger and stress gave me a new sense of clarity, and eventually, inspiration crept back, bubbling and strong again. My purpose was clearer to me, I knew I wanted to dig deeper, be more myself.
With that in mind, I sat down to take a new stab at my small course and while I kept what I wanted to teach, the how changed completely. A simple course called "Creating Bravely" turned into a fiction flavored journey called "Expedition: Daringland".
A voice inside of me told me that people might not get it, that it wouldn't be as much of a learning experience as a story, that I was breaking the rules and I might regret it.
But a much stronger voice said: I don't care. If people don't get it, that's fine. At least I made something I enjoyed creating, that I'm proud of and can stand for. Besides, I think some will like it.
And so the small course shifted completely, and my energy was back again.
It's time to go deeper.
It's time to go bold.
It's time to go big.
Moving forward boldly
When the middle point of my Fear Year grew closer, I thought about what I wanted to focus on for the next six months. With Expedition: Daringland I knew that I'd gotten started on a bigger project for real this time.
After working through all my stress, doubts and frustrations, finding a way to create, successfully building a base for a creative life, it was time to go to the next level. And I would go there as myself, in my own way.
Inspiration was back, with a new sense of direction. It was time for the big stuff. The things I'd avoided. It was time to go bolder.