Do all the little steps and let go of the rest

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: Actually working to make my art shop happen. Finishing the draft of my novel.

Struggles: Figuring out all the little things that goes into launching an art shop. Working through resistance. Not letting perfectionism take over.

Lessons learned: Launch jitters comes with the territory, but it doesn't have to be so scary. When focusing on the work and keeping perfectionism and expectations low, it can actually be a calm process. Letting go of everything other than the work makes launching less scary.

November 2

Okay, this is getting really real now. Like, VERY real.

And oh am I getting nervous. Fear sneaked up on me when I wasn't looking. This is like launching all over again. Of course, am I launching something. I guess this comes with the territory. 

Still, it's not such a bad fear. It's more like excited jitters.

Getting the launch jitters

After planning out what I needed to do to launch my art shop before the year was over, I started to make things happen. What I didn't expect was a new wave of fear that I soon realized was launch jitters. I approached it with kindness and accepted that it would probably be there, until I'd launched. 

November started with a cold that kept me home from my day job. At the same time we got a delivery of furniture and I got a new desk for my creative room. Drinking tea, reading, looking out at the first snow and resting was so good for me. I felt my energy restore and through the launch jitters, I rediscovered something I'd lost between stress and resistance in my art: my love for photography.

Apart from writing, photography is the craft I've been doing the longest, on and off for many years. I found it again when I started my Instagram account this year, but I'd lost track of it somewhere. I had focused so much on getting things done and on the painting I did for Instagram that photography just became a part in the process. Now I again leaned into that old fondness. I realized I wanted more of those pictures, more of life and nature for my Instagram. Beyond stress and hustle, I wanted to focus on the slow way of living and let it spill over into my creativity. I found a strong joy there.

November 6

The draft really is done. I almost can't believe it, it feels surreal. It's been such a long way going and now I'm finally at The End. For the second time.

I'm so grateful that I managed to start writing for real, and faced this big fear of mine. So, so grateful.

Finishing the current draft of my novel

One of the biggest reasons for this Fear Year of mine was the fears surrounding my novel. Through crippling self-doubt and impossible demands on myself, I kept blocking my ability to work on my novel happily and consistently. I started writing a very, very different version of it in 2011, changing almost everything and starting over in 2012. In 2013 I was done with the first draft and started to go through it for revisions. 

There I got stuck and it took me a few unfinished revision drafts to figure out how to make it better. It wasn't until 2015 that I really got started with a big revision including changes that forced to rewrite practically every word. And it was slow, so slow. After a year, I had only gone through a third of the novel. Perfectionism was holding me back.

That's when I started my Fear Year with the hopes of working out my blocks surrounding writing, and after avoiding my novel for some months, I started to slowly take it up again in April. Then I again didn't write anything until July. But after that point, I was able to take up my writing again and again, with intentional breaks and writing every other weekend.

This was new. It was a longer period of consistent writing where I during September and October actually didn't struggle much at all. This ability to calmly keep writing and to not immediately fall into a block every time I took more than a few days breaks, it was what I'd been trying to find for years. It gave me a deep sense of happiness and hope for the future of my writing.

Finishing my draft was so fantastic for me. It was one of the most important things I'd done that year. Now my novel would rest, for a month or so. Then I would go back and read the whole thing, to see how it turned out.

November 19

Hi Resistance. I hear you. 
I know it'll pass, but it's still hard.

Is there any point in me opening this art shop? I want to do it before 2016 is over, but is it too soon? Will anyone want to buy? Is my art good enough?

Working to make my art shop happen

Much of November was spent figuring out all the parts that went into opening my art shop. I chose a service that made art prints, then changed my mind and chose a different one, pushing my launch date from December 1st to December 5th due to shipping times. 

I designed thank you-notes and had to force myself to just go with a design, and not get stuck in perfectionism. I decided to have stickers, then decided not to because it's kinda expensive, but then changed my mind again and decided it was worth it. I made digital files of my art for the art prints, got test prints and changed the file. I painted mini art and forced myself again to not let perfectionism take over.

The whole time, I had no idea if anyone would buy anything. I'd decided early on that I wouldn't have much expectation at all, because my art shop would be as much practice as anything. If I sold just one or a few products, I'd be satisfied. Still, what if I didn't sell anything at all? Would I be able to be okay with that and see it as a learning experience? I hoped so. If I didn't sell anything, it would be a lesson I had to learn.

Hardest to understand was the exporting rules, because every description talked as if you were a big company. It was confusing, bureaucratic and I was afraid I'd get it wrong. But one step at a time, I figured out more and more and the pieces of the puzzle started to look like a picture.

November 27

I'll be ready soon. But am I ready for this? Am I?

I think I am. As ready as I can be at the moment. As ready as I need to be for a small launch. Not everything has to be perfect, I know that.

Isn't it weird that the launch jitters were worst when I started to work on this, and I get calmer the closer I get to the launch? I guess the jitters will come back in time for launch day.

Getting ready to launch

Things were falling into place. I'd found a printing service I was happy with, the mini art was getting done and I'd decided on my packaging. There were still some things I was waiting on - the hard envelopes and the stickers I'd ordered. A few things needed to be done, like testing the payment process and taking photos for the shop. But most of the work was behind me and the launch date was getting closer.

Somehow, I felt quite calm. Maybe it was because I had figured everything out and I trusted I'd be able to fix things if anything went wrong. I knew I could push my launch date if I needed. Or maybe it was because I had such low expectations. Whatever it was, I was happy for it.

It made me realize I'd come quite far this year. Selling was a big fear of mine, but now when I knew I'd probably be doing it in a week or two, I was completely okay with it. In fact, I felt calm with whatever happened when I launched. Maybe it'd go well or maybe it'd be hard. I had let go of trying to over-control the outcome, letting whatever happened happens.

That wouldn't have been the case just 6 months earlier.
My Fear Year really was working.