Be intentional but embrace your messy imperfection

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: Taking an intentional break. Starting to plan for the opening of my art shop. Letting this get messy and painting on canvas. 

Struggles: To stay realistic about my creative schedule and not let stress take over. 

Lessons learned: Intentional breaks from creativity is important to gain distance and perspective. I can actually take a break from writing on my novel without immediately falling into a creative block. Allowing life and art to be a bit messy opens us to freedom, flexibility and joy.

September 2

I know that a break will do me good, but it still scares me for some reason.

I'm afraid I won't be able to get back to writing on my novel when my break is over. But I need it, I know I do. I just hope I can be strong again afterwards.

Taking an intentional break

During my summer vacation in July and August, I didn't take a break from creating. I didn't think I needed to - to create all day was what I longed to do. But when the vacation was over, I knew that a creative break wasn't just something bad that happened unintentionally. No, it was something we all need to gain perspective and reload.

On September 2 I went for a week to Crete, with my boyfriend and his family. It was a trip planned a long time ago, and I decided to use that week to get a break from creativity.

I brought a sketch book and some paint just in case, but after finishing the week's Teacup Owl letter on the train to the airport, I put creating out of my mind and didn't touch it until I was back in Sweden.

It was a week of good food, visiting beaches and old villages, and my intentional break was the best choice I could have made.

September 10

Why is it so hard for me to make realistic plans? Why do I always have to push everything into my schedule and then fail to follow it? 

And why is this tendency so much stronger when it comes to my novel?

Getting realistic again

During my summer vacation, I had let go of my creative routine and after moving and taking a week off, things were still not quite under control. I had tried to write the blog posts for the upcoming month before going to Crete but two were still not done, so that's what I worked on the weekend I got back.

That was a weekend I had planned to use for my novel. I first thought that maybe I could do both, but being tired from travelling, I soon realized it was unrealistic. I sat down to look at the plan I'd made for September and saw that there were gaps. Not enough time was blocked off for creating Instagram pictures, and I was already behind.

When I find the courage to work on my novel, I'm so scared to lose it again that I try to push myself to finish it. Even though I know it's a recipe for disaster. That's how I overwork myself until I stop creating.

I wrote a letter to my stress and wrote about how to design a sustainable creative life, and I knew what I needed to do. I had to get realistic again. 

So I rewrote my schedule. Instead of finishing the current draft in early October, I changed it so I'd be done by the end of October. It hurt, but it was necessary to be able to manage it all. 

September 18

I feel like I've entered a new phase in my visual creativity. I'm gaining a confidence I've lacked before and selling art feels less and less scary.

I've been experimenting and learning for a while now and it's like things are starting to come together a bit. I'm slowly finding a style that is all mine.

There's so much joy in this creativity. So much freedom and play. Every painting is a little project, an idea and an adventure. I love that. 

Gaining confidence in my messy art

It was time for an Instagram weekend, a weekend when I paint and take pictures for the upcoming month, so I don't have to hustle during the weeks to keep up with my Instagram schedule.

Something happened that weekend. I looked back on my Instagram over the last few months for inspiration, and I saw how much I'd developed. I was entering a new phase, one where I started to understand how to make things just a little bit more advanced. 

I had focused on watercolors for a while and I wanted to play with acrylics again. That weekend, I bought Caroline Kelso's newest inspiring creative product, Color Your Soul, and with it came her class Acrylic Explorations.

I used that class to dare to do something I'd been wanting to for a while, but fear and perfectionism had kept me from trying: painting on a canvas. I decided to embrace the mess and it made me so, so happy. 

Thinking about allowing ourselves to be messy made me realize something. The stress that I'd felt the last weeks were actually the same type of perfectionism. I wanted to stick to my schedule and it kept me from staying flexible. I wanted to plan away the messiness and when I couldn't, I got stressed. 

When I released the tight grip on my schedule, I relaxed and let things unfold instead. I allowed for life to be a bit messy and I adjusted to what happened. It made such a difference and I finally found the space to breathe.

September 25

I'm moving closer to some really important moments of this year.

My novel is actually going well, I think I will make it this time, follow my schedule and finish this draft, and that is such a relief.

I almost dare to call my paintings art, and maybe it's time to start selling. Could I do that? Is it time for that next step now?   

Working on this year's last big fears

At my half a Fear Year-mark, I thought through what I wanted to focus on during the last six months. What I came up with was two things: my big projects and selling my creativity. It was the two things of a creative life that I had avoided and not dared to face yet. 

Since then, I've written quite a lot on my novel, without a doubt my biggest project, successfully getting unstuck and then continuing to get back to it after some necessary breaks. In this last weekend of September, I decided it was time for that other fear too. 

With nervous excitement, I sat down to research what it would take for me to open an art shop. I compared prices of fine art prints, looked at shipping costs and packaging. For a while I'd toyed with the idea of an art shop, slowly getting somewhat comfortable with the idea in my mind. Reminding myself that there was room for me too, I now started to take the steps from idea to reality. While it still scared me a whole lot, it felt completely right. 

For the rest of the weekend, I wrote on my novel and I realized something. It was actually not that much left of this fourth draft. I'm actually nearing the end. This draft has been so long in the making, rewriting practically the whole book, changing the perspective from third to first person, starting earlier in time and ending later, deleting one character and adding another, changing the ending and so on... It was over 1,5 years since I started working on the forth draft and now, it'll soon be done. 

This novel was such an important part of driving me into facing my fears this year and seeing it getting closer to done was a feeling of victory.