Thursday, July 11, 2013

7/12/13—Writing Through The Fear

Today's Draw Classic*: Maker Three from Tarot of Sidhe—Labour's Fruit. Do you ever feel anxiety before you start in on a creative project? Are you ever afraid you're going to fail...or that this is the one project that will reveal you as a fraud? Or do you just skirt the fringes of your true creative potential because the risk speaks louder to you than the reward?

The Maker Three (aka Three of Pentacles) in the Tarot of the Sidhe comes with this poem:

With will and thought and hands as one,
Obstacles may be overcome,
And from a lost and arid space,
Effort's bloom shows her lovely face...

That's a pretty good description of the creative process. I like the thought of the lost and arid space and overcoming obstacles and then finally seeing the fruits of your efforts. 

What I'm about to say might surprise some who know me. But pretty much every time I approach a shiny, new project, I have anxiety that I'm going to fail. Let's just say for the sake of argument that I've written over 1000 ads in my life. The number is probably greater than that. I remember once writing 24 in a day...haha. But let's say 1000. And 100 websites. And a couple hundred brochures, couple hundred promotional emails...I've written a lot. Heck, I've probably written close to 400 of these entries in the year and half I've been doing this every day. 

And each time I sat down at the computer, I had a wave or a ripple or a drop of anxiety fall down upon me. What if I can't do it? What if I don't come up with a solution this time? Even though I always come up with a solution, the anxiety never quite goes away. Sure, it's nowhere near what it was earlier in my career, but it's always there. 

It took me a long time to "own" the good stuff that rolled off my fingers. There was a long time that I felt like a fake. I don't know any other way to describe it, but I think it comes from the focused place that all creators go into. When you come out, you remember little of the process, but there's a completed work sitting in front of you. Who put that there?!

Anyway, I finally got up the nerve to confess all this to one of my creative directors long about 17 years ago and you know what she said to me? "OMG, I feel that way, too! Always afraid I'm going to fail. And I always feel like a fake when I've succeeded." This was very freeing for me because, while I no longer feel like a fake very often anymore, I still get the fearful tinges of failure upon the beginning of a new project. And I know I'm not alone.

So the secret, if you haven't guessed it, is to move forward anyway. There's always a risk of failure that comes with any reward. Our own insecurities are the biggest obstacles we have to overcome. Over the years I've met many frustrated creators who do something less creative because they just don't push past that fear. The secret is just to move forward despite it, "with will and thought and hands as one." The second I "put pen to paper", the fear is gone. Every time. 

The "lost and arid space" is not a scary place, it's the void from which all ideas emerge. Sure, you'll be planting lots of seeds that will never bloom, but while you're poking around in the earth, you'll find the ones you want to water and nurture. My experience is that you rarely come up with an amazing idea without going to that place and planting some seeds. You have to push past the fear. 

And, because all art is subjective, you have to get over the fact that you're not going to create something everyone will love. It just won't happen. Plenty of people don't like my style of writing in any of its iterations—as an author or as a copywriter or as a blogger. And that's ok. I'm happy to write for the people that do. In fact, I'm happy to write just for myself, because every cell in my body says I must. So even if I didn't do it for a living, I'd do it. But first and, for me, pretty much always, I have to write through the fear first. What about you?

*From a post originally written on 11/17/11

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