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, start with the January report and the February report.
Fears faced: Showing my silly heart, let it guide me, launching my new website and starting share it actively.
Struggles: Deciding how much to show of my weird and silly personality, keeping confidence while sharing with the world.
Lessons learned: When the project is ours, we get to choose how to make it. One way is to take the fun road and it's always worth it. When things get hard, return to why you're doing it.
I loved writing Dear Doubt. I loved giving my thoughts a personality - it connected with my fiction side. I have this picture in my head of how my doubt looks, a brown and hairy little monster, scared with big black eyes.
I’d like to draw him. Give him more life to be able to handle him. I want to call him Spooky. Could I sketch? Could I make a little Spooky comic?
I have a silly heart. I like to talk serious, I love the deep subjects, but my heart always comes back to silly. I want my website to be both serious and silly. I want to create both.
Daring to be silly
My idea of drawing my doubt as a little brown monster was silly, and I loved it. But I needed to focus on finishing my website, so I let the idea rest.
Designing my new website was a back and forth journey between yes silly silly and no no too much. I know I love a little silliness, but I also love the serious, deep, introspective subjects. Trying to marry those two sides into one project has been a challenge. To be honest, it scared me to be publicly silly. But without the silly, it wouldn’t be the whole authentic me.
I decided to talk about creative weirdos. The people who identify with the different, the odd, the silly-hearted. I didn’t know if it would work or if people appreciated being called weirdos. I knew it would make me sign up, but what about other people? Would it be a turn-off?
I decided to trust my silliness and move forward with it.
Visual creativity is interesting. But can I?
I never intended to make this year a year when I explore visual art, but somehow… It keeps poking me. I can’t leave it be.
Finding creative playfulness
My pull to visual play took over and gave me a weekend of exploration. I got a whole lot done for my new website, plus a bunch of pictures that made my heart flutter with happiness.
Somewhere, a realization was dawning on me. This should all be fun. Creativity should be fun. Struggling with figuring out my blog in January and February was so bound up with self-doubt, it really was a struggle. While these things are hard, they should also be fun. My Fear Year isn't some I have to do, I do it for myself. I can do it however I want and I can choose the fun way. While still facing my fears.
I got so far, I realized I could be done with my new website in a week. I gave myself the next weekend, and then I was going to launch.
Back when I started thinking about creativity and self-doubt, I wrote a blog post called 8 signs self-doubt is keeping you from creativity. After publishing it, I realized the tone was quite harsh and it could be viewed as patronizing. While I can enjoy harshness, that’s not who I want to be. I want to lift people up, not break them down. I didn’t know how to change the article though, so it sat and waited for a while. With my launch date coming closer, I needed to deal with it.
I asked myself How could I make this fun and silly?
The answer came in a weird form that I realized probably wasn’t very strategic. But I didn’t care. I made it my way, and rewrote it so the reader is a detective trying to find out if doubt - in this case a sneaky mind-reading cat - has peed on the reader’s creative projects. It turned into the weirdest, silliest thing that not many may understand. But it was mine and I kind of loved it. The new title was Is self-doubt peeing on your creativity?
Tired. Stressed. Nervous. Will they like it? Will it work?
Okay, here we go.
The post-launch fatigue
I worked hard to keep my launch date. I had a lot of fun finishing it, but on the actual launch day, I was just tired. Once again, I posted on all my social media channels and watched the few reactions I got. Positive, but quite mild. On Facebook, my profile picture change a few days earlier got more attention than my new website.
I wasn't surprised, but tired. I knew my launch wouldn’t be particularly exciting. I hadn’t really put any focus on spreading my blog, I had been in the middle of changing it. Now was the moment I would start sharing, trying to get some readers. I quickly realized I had a long way ahead of me to get my blog somewhere. I felt like I'd ran a marathon just to find myself at the starting line of an even longer one. And I was tired.
The following days after my new website went live, I kept doubting my decision to talk about creative weirdos. Would people really like that? What if potential Teacup Owls were turned away by it? The mild attention for my website reinforced my doubts.
Why am I doing this again? Why am I seeking fear? I doesn’t feel very good at the moment. Aren’t I supposed to seek happiness? Is this making me happy?
What life do I want to live?
Rediscovering my why
When I developed my new website, I didn't think about what would come after. I just worked. So when it was done and things slowed down, I found myself lost again. Why the hell was I doing all of this?
I realized I needed to do two things. First, I wanted to do Fear Year Reports - like the one you’re reading now. Secondly, I needed to define my why more clearly.
I wrote the reports for January and February during the weekend, looking back on what I’d done so far. Slowly, I felt better. I saw that I’d actually come quite far in two months. That I'd already faced a whole lot of fears. It was worth it. I just needed to get going again.
I scribbled thoughts in my notebook about why I’m doing this Fear Year. It didn’t take me long to find my answer.
I don’t want to be the person who lets fear stand in the way of my dreams.
It was so deeply, deeply true. I knew I could easily be that person. I’d been that person. But it was not going to be the end of the story. If my dreams were never to come true, I didn’t want to be the reason. I knew I would regret it.
So I kept moving forward.
Will this ever work?
Is all of this just a giant waste of time?
I want to create, not market. This is the first time I feel that way.
I should probably keep trying. Keep trying. Not give up. Ugh.
Taking my own advice
Growing traffic to my blog felt hopeless. It was hard. It was a new area that I didn’t really understand or enjoy.
I knew though. This was the process. I'd been here before. It was always the same process. Hard, hard, hard, then a breakthrough. I read my own words from the February Fear Year Report.
Keep trying. Don’t give up.
Of course I didn’t give up. I’m many things but I’m not a quitter. I kept trying. I trusted the process, just like I’d written over and over again in different situations. I let it be hard.
And then, it worked.
I thought dizzy with happiness was just a saying. Now I know it’s not.
Seriously, universe, I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this. I’m so incredibly grateful. So so grateful.
When it suddenly works
It was finally time to publish Dear Doubt, the blog post I'd written almost a month earlier and liked so much. At first, it didn’t get much attention. But then, on Twitter and Instagram, I got a glimpse of what all this could be like.
It’s not like everyone went crazy, but a few people really seemed to love it. A few joined the Teacup Owls, I found myself connecting with wonderful people and being invited to situations I’d only wished for.
I was so grateful. I made silly happy dances, I laid down on the floor and just let the feeling fill me up. In that moment, it was all worth it again. Every damn struggle. It was my little success. My win. All through facing my fears.