It’s done. I’ve pulled from my deepest soul. I’ve reviewed with a cool eye. I’ve asked for feedback. I’ve put in the dots and spaces. It’s ready.
It’s time to put this book out into the world, and my hands are shaking as I hit “Publish.” It would be so easy to stop, change my mind, stay small and enclosed. But my life as a writer doesn’t allow that without a cost. . . a cost to my spirit, a cost too high for me to pay.
So I pray, publish, and let go. . . I say as if it’s easy.
For some of us, the pause, the hesitation, the full stop comes before we even begin. For some of us, that resistance comes after the first draft, in the middle of the work. For others, it’s the last spot, the launching moment where we balk.
It doesn’t matter where it comes. Every creative I know, every painter, songwriter, game developer, entrepreneur, and writer has a moment where she must choose between letting the fear win or choosing her art over the fear.
In my writing life, the fear comes before I begin – in fact, I’m at the place of beginning again. Here, I overthink, I try to plan too much, I make excuses about “later” and “when I have more time. All of that comes from fear that this time I won’t have the words or this time I’ll really show that I’m a fake, a failure, a hack. (If you could see the amazing ways I curtail my need to write when I begin a new project, you’d get a good laugh.)
Other people pull back from the art when they get that first draft done. We claim “inspiration is best” in that draft or delude ourselves into thinking that something will be lost if we revise. The fear tells us that it’s enough to stop right there because the next part – the cutting up and reassembling – takes a lot of work and that the work may not be “worth it.”
For some of us, it’s the launching the baby out of the nest stage that’s tough. We want to hold our baby bird-art close to us, keep it hidden in our studios or behind our keyboards. We worry that it will get hurt or be misunderstood.
Creating is an act of bravery. Every single time.
Making something new – be it a product, a sculpture, a poem, or a process – takes courage and vulnerability. It requires that we share something we care about a great deal, and that sharing means that our work might be critiqued or insulted, damaged or dismissed. It’s not wrong to be afraid . . .
But if we let that fear dictate our art, especially if we let it stop us from creating, improving, or sharing our work, then we diminish ourselves as creative beings.
I’m reading Brene Brown’s Rising Strong right now, and her work reminds me over and over again that I want to live life open, not closed off by fear. I want to be bold and strong in my work. I want to be wise, recognizing that I cannot control anything beyond doing my best work, but I also want to trust that what happens beyond my control is not my concern.
I am leaning to trust that my vulnerability, my courage, my honest, soul-pulled art will do the work that it needs to do, even if people critique it, criticize it or dismiss it. My work is not the response. My work is the creation.
So here are three things I’m working on:
1. I’m slowing down, taking time as I create, to be sure the work is as good as I can make it before I put it out there. Sometimes in our fast-paced, “share it now” culture, I find myself wanting to toss something out too soon so that I can get some affirmation, some feedback. But I’m learning to sit quiet with what I create, to let it rest and grow first, before I launch it.
2. I’m setting boundaries. It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally learned that I don’t have to tolerate hatefulness in my space, ever. It’s also taken me a while to learn that I don’t need to read every bit of feedback about my work. I’m taking Elizabeth Gilbert’s advice here:
3. I’m creating the next thing. One surefire way for me to get bogged down in the way my work lives when it leaves me is for me to follow it around. I get obsessed with numbers (which is why I’m not counting right now) and then I don’t write. So I’ve learned to take my friend Laraine Herring’s advice and “start the next thing” as soon as I finish the previous thing. It keeps me honest, and it helps me focus on what matters – the work, not the response to it.
I don’t know where fear sits in your process of creating. But if you are making something you care about – be it a new app, a book, a holiday wreath, a curriculum for home school, a painting, or whatever you love – I suspect you have fear. That’s normal. That’s healthy. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t be anxious, right?
But don’t let the fear stop you. Write that thing. Revise that new office policy with trusted feedback in hand. Then, let it go. Launch it, and watch it fly.
Then do it again.
What part of creating is scary for you? What do you do to overcome that fear and create anyway? Or what would you like to do better in that regard?
I choose to write because I love it and because if I’m going to get critiqued anyway, I’d rather it be for something I really care about than for some menial thing, like eating Peeps. – Writing Day In and Day Out: Living a Practice of Words