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: Started to face the fear of teaching.
Struggles: Finding balance in my creative life, not overworking myself.
Lessons learned: I need to make space for both keeping this blog running and growing in my creativity. But I also need time for rest and recharging.
How do I make time for focusing on my novel, and not get caught up in the daily stuff that goes along with running this blog? How do I find the time to give myself the space to focus? How do I carve out time only for my novel, so I can't use the rest of my creative projects as an excuse not to write?
I need to divide up my day to day things and my big projects and not try to work on both at the same time.
Balancing short term and long term projects
When April ended, it ended with the realization that I need to build a sustainable creative life. Instead of running around like a crazy person, stressed and rushed, I need to find a way to face my creative fears and follow my dreams without burning myself out in the process. I'm in this for the long run, so I need to make it sustainable.
What I found when I started thinking about how to work novel writing into my daily life was a pull between short term and long term projects. The smaller things - taking photos for Instagram, writing blog posts, talking to people on Twitter, writing my weekly emails to the Teacup Owls, pinning on Pinterest - was taking up more and more time. Earlier in the spring, I had been focusing on building this blog, but now that the basics were done, my focus had shifted to running it all.
When my life got filled with short term creation, the space for my long term ideas shrinked. The development of this blog, the ideas I've had for small creative courses, my novel… they were very much on my mind but I struggled with making time for them without overworking myself.
I've always been focused on developing. My instinct to make things better, find new solutions and create thing has been a huge motivation in my life. I need to grow, shape and develop bigger things to be satisfied. So I knew I needed to change something to make room for that part of my creativity.
To divide up my time, I decided to try working on the short term projects during the week and designate my weekends for the bigger projects. It seemed like it could work.
The visual aspect of my online presence is growing more scattered the more I explore my visual creativity. I need to bring it all back together, find a way to make my Instagram and my website feel like the same thing again.
Spring is here and with it, I need a bit of a spring cleaning, a slight shift. I need to rediscover the thread in my creativity.
Bringing together my visual creativity
The first week of focusing on the daily creativity during the week and focusing on bigger projects during the weekend went well. Although, it really helped that the Thursday was a holiday, so I used that day to write the week's blog post. So to be fair, it wasn't really a normal week.
When I designed this website back in February and March, it was part of growing my visual creativity. But it had kept growing after that point, and while it grew, my website and my Instagram was getting less and less alike. I didn't have any drawings or hand lettering on my website and my Instagram was getting more and more of that, as well as more color and lighter images. Besides, I had also cut my hair and gotten new glasses, so I wanted new pictures for my website anyhow. A spring update was needed.
I wanted to bring together my love for photography, nature and my new visual creativity. It wouldn't look exactly alike on my website and in my Instagram feed, and that was okay as long as the colors, the general feel and the elements were alike.
When I did my first version of my website in December, I ended up focusing too much on the nature aspect, so this time, I felt the need to balance nature with my indoor life - my wooden kitchen table where I do most of my creative work, my life-essential green tea and beloved cats.
After a weekend of many, many photos, thinking, creating and redoing, I decided to use a sketch block in most of my Instagram photos with a drawing or something written with a brush, and have it be alternating in nature and in my home. On this website, I decided to make most of the bigger photos of me in my home, with my favorite tea cup, and with brushed text in my colors on the photo beside me. The blog images would on the other hand mostly be of people in nature.
After working through my visual identity, I felt like I once again had taken a step closer to who I really am. Redoing my website and visual brand a few times has taught me that things like this takes time, they need to grow over time. And that's completely okay.
Here it is again, that stress, and my body saying stop. I need to make more time for reloading my batteries.
Time to rethink this plan again, time to rest and recover.
Sickness, rest and a new creation plan
The middle of May brought on a nasty cold and complete exhaustion for a few days. I lay on my couch with a fever, watched episode after episode of Gilmore Girls. I tend to get sick after a period of overload so I took this as my body telling me to make time for rest.
My plan to work on short term projects during the weekdays came crashing down. I didn't get it all done and it made me stressed every night after work. When the weekend came, I needed to do both the things I hadn't had time for and do my bigger projects. My plan was to become less stressed, but it clearly hadn't worked.
I needed a new plan to make my creative life sustainable. After resting through my cold, I decided that I need one night a week for only resting or doing whatever I felt like. Friday nights had already become a little bit like that, and it is a good day not to post much on social media because people is generally doing other things anyway. So I decided that Friday night from now on would be a time to recover and indulge in whatever I wanted but not do creative work.
I accepted that I need weekend time both for short term projects and long term projects, but not at the same time. My idea of dividing up the projects was a good idea, I just hadn't given enough time for my day to day creativity. After some thinking, I came up with a new plan.
I would divide my weekends, focusing on one thing each weekend. One weekend per month would be blog post weekend, when I would write the blog posts for the upcoming month. Writing four posts in two days was not unreasonable and I could use the weekday nights to polish them, jot down ideas and make finishing touches if needed.
One weekend would be my Instagram weekend, taking photos, deciding what to post for the upcoming month, draw, letter and bring what I'd made together. It would allow me to draw and keep exploring my visual creativity without having to think about what to post all the time.
The remaining two weekends per month would Bigger Project weekends, whatever I'm doing at the time. Maybe both would be novel writing, maybe one of them, or both of those Sundays. The only thing I'll keep doing weekly is my Teacup Owl letter, since I want it to be part of my weekly creative journey.
This plan frees up the time in my weekday nights, both for resting and for less forced creativity. I needed them to be flexible and inspiration driven to stop stress from taking over my life. My hope was to write on my novel for an hour or so twice a week, but I decided not to force it for now, when I tried out this new plan.
Where was I one year ago? Could I have guessed where I am today? Where will I be a year from now? Can I guess?
I really can't. And I love, love, love that.
Birthday thoughts and moving forward towards fear
May 21 was my 27th birthday. I had a very pleasant day of creativity, strawberries and a calmness at home with my boyfriend. I thought about the year that's passed and realized I've come really far. I had no plans to start a blog or doing a Fear Year on May 21 2015, and still, here I am building a brave creative life.
During the weekend I created Instagram images for the upcoming three weeks until my first real Instagram weekend. I also wrote my third Dear Self letter, while doubting whether or not I should really keep writing them. My earlier longing for drawing my inner voices wasn't really present anymore. I decided to keep writing the letters for now and wrote: Dear Heart. I want to vulnerable again. It was a letter based on what I'd been thinking about for some time - how important it is for me to show my vulnerability, my struggles and fears for the world. Whatever my doubts were, writing the letter made me once again realize it's a powerful way to talk to myself and to make me discover truths about me and my life. It was enough to keep writing the Dear Self letter, for now.
With a new plan for my creative life, an updated website and new energy, I looked forward again. I realized my fear facing had taken the backseat this month, while I worked through my issues with balance. I realized it was time to face one fear in particular that I'd been toying with but hadn't really faced head on. It was my fear of teaching.
Who am I to try to teach anyone anything? I know nothing about how others learn, how to best teach, what to teach, the structure of a learning process… And I'm most certainly not an expert.
The fear of teaching
To call something I do "teaching" is just as scary as calling it "art". I don't know why really, but I guess it has to do with the impostor syndrome - who am I to tell others what or how to do something?
And still, my vision for this blog of mine, this website, my whole online presence, is to help others be brave in their creativity. I'd had the idea of a small free course to collect the basics in creative fear facing, a way to help others start being braver. Not anything fancy, just a few lessons. Still, it was incredibly hard to get started and I knew it's because I fear making it the wrong way. Which is funny, because the course would contain facing fears just like that one.
I needed to just start. With the encouragement of friends and a sense that it was time to do this, I brought out what I've found really helps me to brainstorm and structure my ideas: post its. I had tried a few times to do an outline of this course through writing it down but I wasn't satisfied, it didn't feel like a good structure. Therefore, I started from scratch with my post its and when I really went into it fully, it didn't take long before I had a basic outline I was really happy with. An outline may not be much but I was very happy. I had taken the first steps towards my fear of teaching, and it actually felt really good.
First blog post weekend done, and I did it! I managed to write four blog posts I'm happy with, plus the week's Teacup Owl letter. This could actually work.
Really, this could actually work.
My first creation plan weekend
I wrote about 6000 words that weekend and even when I at Sunday afternoon thought that well, I just have to get started on the forth blog post, I ended up finishing it anyway. I was tired but felt accomplished and happy, excited for what this routine could help me do. I really loved only writing for a full weekend, that it'd worked.
I felt just a tad unbreakable. Next weekend was the time to really start working on my course and I felt strong. Ready.