The very last exercise in Make It Mighty Ugly is one I actually started here on the blog well over a year ago. It was so interesting, and seemed to be so effective, that I put it in the book.
That exercise is to write me a letter. And in that letter, to name your creative fears, discomforts, demons. Name them, shove them into an envelope, and send that envelope to me. I, in turn, receive your letter. And in reading your letter, I become one other human being in the world who knows what plagues you. Who will, by virtue of my very existence, make you less alone. And then, if it’s cool with you, I might write about what you wrote (anonymously or not, your choice); or destroy your letter and never tell another soul about it.
This week, I received my first letter since the book came out.
Keetha wrote about something I’ve struggled with pretty much forever (in no small part because I once received the worst [well-meaning] advice ever, which I’ll write about another time), and I’m very grateful that she said I could write about her letter, because I have a feeling this will strike a chord with many of you, too. Here’s what she wrote:
My fear is that I let my fear stop me. This morning I’ve felt sickening, heart-racing anxiety: I have a free day to work on fun, holiday mixed media projects that I’m excited about! And can’t wait to dive into – except the fear that I will let myself down. Unrealized potential, ideas not acted on, dormant creativity, not ever trying because of fear – that is my fear.
I know, right? I honestly don’t think I made headway with my very similar fear until this year. In fact, I’m pretty sure the act of writing MIMU is what finally got me into a mindset that allows me to pretty much always start something I’m excited about. I used to be total shit at doing things I was excited about. It was as if the excitement was just too much. I was sure I’d screw up the act itself, so I’d just allow myself to bask in the excitement while not actually doing the exciting thing. I was constantly twisted up about this. It’s part of why I got into the habit of making audacious proclamations publicly – then at least I’d feel like I had to do a thing, you know?
The nail in the coffin of this habit I used to have of not making things has been #yearofmaking. I worked through so much of my own crap writing the book, that when I had the idea to make something every day, I was just sitting there ready to take all that work I’d done and, uh, put it to work. Keetha’s letter made me realize that my ugly voice pretty much never chimes in about this anymore. He never tells me I shouldn’t bother because I won’t be able to create something that even remotely approaches my idea of it. He doesn’t tell me my time would be better spent continuing to daydream instead of just doing. Nope. I’ve quieted him, at least on this one topic.
Now, when I have a free afternoon and a hankering to spend a few hours making something, I make it. I can’t stress enough how freaking awesome that feels.
If you’re reading this, Keetha, drop me a note sometime and let me know if you’ve made headway confronting this fear, eh? I’m rooting for you!