The Decision to Face My Fears
On a bright day in late June, I sat in a vacant classroom at the school my mom founded and wondered why I was feeling stagnant. I was working smart, so why was my momentum flagging? Surrounded by the bold drawings of children, I stared at my laptop and saw task after task I’d rescheduled repeatedly.
They all had one thing in common: they scared me.
I realised my problem wasn’t that I hadn’t been working hard enough or smart enough; it was that I hadn’t been working bravely enough. I hadn’t been facing my fears.
Lululemon has a shopping bag with a bunch of sayings on it. One of them is, “Do one thing a day that scares you.”
I’ve always been irritated by that suggestion, probably because it’s the advice I most need to follow.
You should do what the bag says, I thought, and you should do it every day for a week and write about happens.
So I did.
Day 1: Contacting people I think are too cool for me
- I emailed a bigshot painter and business mentor for artists asking for an interview. She ignored my request.
- I also emailed photographer and Death to Stock founder David Sherry asking for an interview. He got back to me, we chatted a week later, and it was awesome.
- I pitched myself as a guest for a new podcast. The host sounded interested and asked me to reach out again after I’d launched my book.
At the end of the day, I felt giddy and light.
Day 2: Slacking
I figured that since I did three things the day before, I could take the day off.
Day 3: Building a team
Although Tara Gentile’s CreativeLive.com course on eBooks emphasises the importance of assembling such a group, I’ve always found it easier to slog through projects on my own than to ask others to join the party. I put it off for weeks. What if no one applied?
I needn’t have worried. Applications flooded in, and I assembled an all-star team of 13 people.
Day 4: Driving the “Roundabout From Hell”
I’ve never been an enthusiastic driver. I didn’t get my license until I was 27, and only because my then-boyfriend’s mother handed me a cheque for $300 and said, “It’s for driving lessons.”
I’m 34 now, and I’ve never had my own car. My partner Kevin and I share an old Japanese camping van with the steering wheel on the wrong side. He drives it 98% of the time.
One time, when I tried to drive it through Winnipeg, I kept turning on the windshield wipers instead of the signal light whenever I wanted to change lanes, and when it happened for the fifth time, I had a full-scale nuclear meltdown. Kevin had to coax me into a parking lot so he could take over.
So yeah. Driving. Not my favourite. Which is why on Day 4 I got behind the wheel of my parents’ Toyota Echo, popped in an Arkells CD, and drove the 34 km round trip to and from my family’s cabin in Brentwood Bay, British Columbia. The route back included a little spin around what I like to call the “Roundabout from Hell,” an 8-armed, 2-laned monstrosity. The last time I’d driven it, I got screamed at for almost sideswiping a guy.
And you know what? This time, it was glorious: I focused on my breath, the music, the moment, and the warm wind ruffling my ponytail, and I made it all the way to the cabin and back without killing or even seriously irritating anyone.
Day 5: Being a leader
I mentioned under the writeup for Day 3 that my inclination is towards lone wolfdom, which is why leading any kind of pack freaks me out. But now I had my Launch Team, and they were waiting for me to step up, so on Day 5, I created a Facebook Group for them and sent a welcome email.
I realised I’d spent the previous few days feeling alive in a way I’ve only ever felt while conquering fears. I felt it most acutely in journalism school, when every day required talking to strangers and showing up in unexpected places. Back then, I was stressed to the max, but I was also present and awake in ways I hadn’t been on a daily basis since then — until now.
Day 6: Facing feedback
You know what else is scary? Getting feedback on your creative projects. There’s always the possibility people won’t like it, or that they’ll suggest it needs more work than you’re prepared to put in.
It’d been about a month since I’d received comments from beta readers of my upcoming book, Creative Unblocking: Bypass Self-Doubt, Tap Your Genius, and Complete Your Best Work. On Day 6, I actually went through those comments, and they were 98% positive, but I’ll be honest: some of them were critical, and they stung.
And they helped make the book better. I realised it’d been missing a vital element: me. Sure, I gave lots of examples and brought in snippets of my story, but I hadn’t laid out the whole narrative of how I got from a place of cramped stuckness to where I am now, able to step easily into my own creative current almost every day. I tell the story now, and the book feels complete in a way it didn’t before.
Day 7: Facing the possibility of rejection.
As artists, if we want our work to affect people, we need to build audiences. As a blogger, if I want to build my audience, I need to write guest posts. And if I write and pitch a guest post, the target blog might reject it.
I hate being rejected.
On Day 7, I submitted a guest post to Drew Kimble’s blog, The Skinny Artist. The article is about how the reality of inspiration differs from the myth, and it’s based on some of the ideas from my upcoming book. Kimble promptly wrote back that he loved what I’d written and he’d be delighted to publish it. You can read the post here.
Days 8 and onwards:
It’s been a few weeks now since I sat in that classroom and decided to be brave. I’d like to say I’ve been brave every day since, but the truth is that when day 8 rolled around, I was hugely relieved. I needed a few days of calm.
I remembered what the week brought me though, which is why:
- When my friend Katy invited me to play rec league soccer with her even though I hadn’t played in 15 years and I was terrible even then, I said yes, and it was fun.
- My Launch Team is now hard at work helping my book find greater numbers of emerging creatives looking to get unstuck.
- When I got a chance to ask filmmaker David Lynch a question during a Skype session at the University of British Columbia, I jumped on it, and I loved what he said.
- My book is now available for pre-ordering on Amazon (and if you buy it before it’s released on August 1st, you’ll save 15%).
Actually, everything I’ve done this month has really just been warming up for the release of that book. I wrote it to help emerging artists overcome writer’s block, painter’s block, philosopher’s block, and any other obstacle that stops them from bringing the beauty inside them out into the world.
But if it’s going to reach those people, I’ll need to keep terrifying myself on a regular basis for a while. I’ll be contacting media, hosting a webinar, launching a Facebook ad campaign, and generally putting my shiz out there in ways I’ve never done before.
Scaring ourselves is the best way to go beyond what we know, and embracing the unknown is how we become more than what we are, so I’m going to keep doing it.
Want to join me?
To give another kick in the pants to myself and anyone else who needs it, I’ve decided to host a 7-Day Courage Challenge, starting August 2nd. I’ll email you every day for a week telling you about the scary thing I’ve just done and offering a small challenge for stepping out of your own comfort zone.