Fragility: The Reward for Creative Faith?

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Sometimes the only pay-off for having any faith
is when it’s tested again and again everyday.
– Fall Out Boy

The creative life is a funny thing. You trudge down the trail day in and day out, giving every step your all, dreaming of the moment when you’ll look back and gasp in awe of how far you’ve come.

But what if the view doesn’t turn out to be what you imagined?

I’m having one of those moments right now.

The year of 2016 is well under way. January left like a thief in the night. February has now announced its presence, loud and clear. Over the last month’s posts, I explored tools and techniques that are helping me stay on track with my scrappy storytelling goals. (Things like my word of the year, the lunar calendar and multitasking creativity.)

Those tools did their job.

Now that February is here, I should be feeling really good about what got done in January.

Emphasis on the should be.

Don’t get me wrong: I am on track for my goals. Even ahead of schedule in some areas. New possibilities have opened up that I couldn’t even imagine a month ago.

Except I don’t feel good about my achievements at all.

I feel more like I’m going to shatter.

This is not about burdening you with “woe is me.” It’s about being real with all of you, about a major consequence of really getting down to this business of DIY creativity.

Because I think we’ve got productivity all backward.

The reason most of us struggle endlessly with staying productive is not that we lack motivation or discipline. It’s that we’re afraid of what will happen when we really get serious.

Yes, my friends. Our brains are perfectly aware of what awaits us further down the trail.

I’m feeling that fear right now.

You see, when I started out to seriously pursue creative goals, everything was new and fresh. I made progress, and that progress encouraged me to make more.

But the more progress I made toward my goals, the more scary things I had to do, and the more time I now spend every day actually working against the current of my fears (versus just dreaming about what it would be like to overcome those fears—someday).

Think of this like the middle of the hero’s journey in a story. This is where the “rubber meets the road” and the real transformation happens. But in case you hadn’t noticed, most heroes aren’t real happy during this part of the journey.

It’s uncomfortable to start doing the uncomfortable every . . .  single . . . day.

You read me on this?

At some point, we all get to the point where we finally get to pause and look back. This is the moment we envisioned when we were daydreaming. From this height of achievement, we realize how far we’ve come through the wilderness. Then we look ahead and realize how many higher mountains we actually have to climb.

All the while, right above the peak we’re standing on, a storm the size of Texas is brewing. And we forgot to bring an umbrella.

This past week, I realized how very much I’d forgotten my umbrella.

Not only are things moving, they’re moving fast. New challenges pop up every day. To make it even harder, old projects have resurfaced, forcing me to (finally) face old fears that I’d previously put a band-aid on, instead of stitching them up properly in the first place so they could heal.

I find myself lying awake at night going, “Can I really do this? Do I have what it takes? I’m kidding myself, right?”

I am so, so kidding myself.

And I’m so not.

Which makes me think that Fall Out Boy had it right after all when they wrote in their song, Immortals:

Sometimes the only pay-off for having any faith
is when it’s tested again and again everyday.

I thought that a sense of power and control would follow my leaps of faith.

But the real result is a sense of fragility.

I’m not giving up in February, of course. And I’m certainly not going to slack off just because the journey has gotten really . . . well . . . real.

But I thought it was worth taking a moment to acknowledge my personal fears, my 24/7 racing pulse and the nights of lying awake, sleepless, wondering if I really do dare to do that next thing on my Master Plan or weekly to-do list.

Isn’t there a braver, smarter, more strategic person than me who’s supposed to be doing this?

Maybe.

Or maybe all this is just my pay-off for having faith: the fact that it’s being tested again and again every day.

Fragility is the result. And the call to keep going.

The view from this point isn’t as exhilarating as I imagined it to be, but I can see the distance clearly. And despite how I may feel inside, there’s still very much ground beneath my feet.

What about you? How do you handle the fears
that naturally come along with actually
working toward your dreams?

 

3 thoughts on “Fragility: The Reward for Creative Faith?

  1. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from “The Horse and His Boy” that I just referenced again today: “if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.”
    And the only answer is to keep on running the race. But hey, at least it means things are happening! I’d rather be swimming hard to keep up than to be stuck or sinking.

    Like

  2. This post really resonates with me. I just finished reading Big Magic (on audio book, because I don’t have patience for hard copy creativity how to’s) and it was so encouraging and worth my time for getting me revved up to create what I’ve been afraid to create. But last night I lugged home my stack of research materials for my new novel project from the library and sat and stared at the pile on my coffee table and just felt afraid. It doesn’t help that there’s a significant element of horror in this project that I’m completely scared of, but need to write. I’m not sure how to get over my fear of my subject matter, much less my fear of actually working on the project day after day. I wish I had ideas or tips, but I don’t. Except that I have also been reading Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before and she says doing things in small increments, or setting aside a time with a catchy name for the scary stuff can help. She calls it the power hour and does it once a week. I’m wondering if 10 minutes a day on the scary part of my project might be doable enough to get me started. Then I can increase it over time. This doesn’t necessarily work for tasks that need more time or to be done more often, but it’s a start. Anything to legs out from under the fear a little bit.

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