Use the fear holding you back — don’t be used by it
When beginning any undertaking, I rarely see in advance what it will look like or how big it will become. Nor do I see all the steps I'll have to take. If I did, I probably wouldn't dare begin!
Usually I hit several bumps along the way, lose my mojo, and come face to face with Fear. And each time fear shows up, I find my way around it because it's important for me to live my dreams. I use the fear — and don't let it use me. Let me explain.
"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." — Martin Luther King Jr.
Back in 2008 I had begun work on my second body of art (cement frescos). By then I’d reflected enough on my first body of art (mosaic) and knew the time was finally right to publish what I'd learned in an in-depth book that I’d started writing in 2002. But there was a catch. Making it the best book possible would involve putting out an international call to artists, and that terrified me. Why? Because putting myself “out there” felt like a GIANT risk.
Doubt led to fear and questioning myself.
What if no one submits images?
What if I don’t get enough submissions?
What if no one buys my book?
What if people buy my book and hate it?
What if…? What if…? What if…?
There were enough fears to stop me before I even got started!
Despite the fears swirling around me, I pressed onwards because I reasoned that all the other times I’d taken a big risk it had paid off in one way or another. So I clung to my belief that everything always works out well in the end, and that was enough to get me to the starting line.
So here’s what happened next. Before I publicly announced the open call, I casually posted on my then-blog that I was “working on a book”, without giving away the title or offering any details. To be honest, I didn’t think anyone was reading my blog, yet a prominent artist sent me several images right away. Maybe it was just Lady Luck intervening, but I took that as a sign to announce the international open call to artists.
Time for an aside. My reason for sharing this next bit is to help you understand the secret to achieving your dreams. Know this: it's so WORTH doing! Read on.
Lady Luck shows up to get the party started, and often times we call these occurrences flukes. Thing is, it's not a fluke. It's a spark to ignite your passion! (Read more in the Passion issue.)
It's great when Lady Luck arrives, but she usually goes home early from the party!
When Lady Luck leaves I've learned to draw upon my inner resources to carry projects to completion: passion, determination, resourcefulness, creativity, and resolve. With extra emphasis on resolve.
Please don't be one of the people who mistake the departure of Lady Luck as the stars no longer being aligned or something. What really happened is that she left the keys to the party venue safely entrusted in your capable hands, and it's now up to you to make the rest of the party a success! That doesn't magically happen just because you showed up to the party, BUT with a little work, success will be yours.
Success is rarely served on a silver platter. And if success comes easily, the receiver often loses it quickly because they weren't ready for it. Alas success does not arrive with a user manual!
Now back to our story. Even though that first submission to my book came in easily, I had to work to get the rest of the images. Are you surprised? Well, not many people knew me or my work back then. (Spoiler alert: this turned out to be the book that put me on the map.)
The book project was an uphill climb the whole way. (Like I said, extra emphasis placed on resolve.) Many artists were personally invited to be a part of my book project. Not everyone accepted. Two even pulled out of the book after I’d done considerable work to showcase their art in individual chapters. I quickly filled the one open chapter, but what was I to do with the last one? After much debate I chose to show my own work, which was not originally planned to be featured prominently. But since I was doing so much work I figured why not?
The lowest point came when I realized I had to re-write the entire book because the original manuscript was...well...boring to read. Fear came banging on my door, and I was afraid that I might have to abandon the project if I couldn't write something worth reading.
It was painful to start over, but I did it because I knew in my heart that it needed doing. The whole process including re-writing, doing the graphic design, and proofing the book took me three months working full-time, including weekends. I did everything, myself, and would start work in the morning and stop when it was time to go to bed. Sure, I was fully committed to the project...but I used the fear of quitting to keep me moving forward when it looked like things were going nowhere. (There seems to always be one or more "dark nights" in any of my big undertakings. I've come to see them as tests of commitment.)
If you've read this far I congratulate you! Now you get to hear about the rewards of taking what felt like such a terrifyingly big risk.
Now, the book going straight to the bestseller list and staying there for several weeks was nice...but it was NOT on my list of Top 5 Rewards. That said, I was happy my marketing efforts paid off.
So what was the biggest reward? What I learned about myself.
The many hurdles taught me that I will always use a stumbling block as a springboard. I also learned to ask better questions! Fear tells you to ask “what if…?”, but a much better question is “why not?”
Why not write that book?
Why not share your knowledge with the world?
Why not acknowledge and validate other artists' work?
Why not help other artists get their work in front of a bigger audience?
Why not expose readers to art they might not otherwise see?
Why not? Why not? Why not?
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” — Joseph Campbell
Here's the summary:
1. The greater your resistance and fear, the closer you are to success.
2. It’s your job to use the fear...and not be used by it.
3. Reach inside and find all your inner resources. Use them, too.
4. Know that you can live your dreams...but you have to work for it.
5. The rewards will be greater than you can imagine.