Elizabeth Gilbert said in an interview with Oprah recently that all the questions she gets asked by artists come down to some form of fear. I found these six things helped me move through my own fear and get on with the creating and promoting of my own work. May you find something that helps you manage your fear too.
There is only a limited time in each day. I want to get the most out of it. Focusing my attention on what is truly important is hard. There is a constant barrage of interruptions: the phone keeps ringing, the emails keep coming, and the to-do screams my name. The interruptions can be managed but I also struggle because my energy fluctuates during the day. Sometimes I feel really energetic and maybe even able to leap tall buildings and other times I feel foggy and drained and not even able to remember something I just read. This is where energy journaling comes in.
There are times of the day that my energy is naturally higher. I am a morning person and I have all sorts of electric vibes from 6am-11am. At around 3pm I am not much good for anything but a quiet coffee. I pick up again around 7:30pm but it is short lived and at 8:30pm I might as well call it a day. But these are not the only energy fluctuations.
My energy can be affected by who I spend time with. Some people get me excited and help build my confidence and other people diminish my resources and leave me empty. Places can do that too. I love a warm coffee shop to boost my mood but stuffy office cubicles make it really hard for me to tap into my enthusiasm. And finally there are tasks or activities that can leave me bolstered or blue. Surfing Facebook is a sure trip to the doldrums but listening to my music or doing some yoga lifts me up and renews me.
I had to keep an energy journal for a while to get clear on all of this...activities, times of day, people and places. It is simple enough. Check out an Energy Journal template here.
If we can not only tap into our naturally energetic times of the day but also shift our energy through our activities, company, or location, we can make more of our moments. I want to make the most of mine and I want that for you too.
From a young age I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. You probably were too. It is the easiest way we label people in our society. He is a teacher, she is a lawyer, they are baristas, bus drivers, salespeople, and astronauts. It is clear; the contribution I make to the world is through my title.
But what happens when you don’t have a specific title? What happens if the work you are doing does not fit into the defined pigeon holes of our culture? Are you not making a contribution? Are you unrecognizable?
I’ve made up a title or two for myself (Opportunity Cultivator was one) and this only leaves people scratching their heads. I don’t fit into a box for them. They are unclear about what I do. My work seems inexplicable and irrelevant.
When you are working on a few projects, that are nothing alike, how do you craft a neat little title that encompasses them? Or do you have to choose only one traditional title, one facet of who you are, to placate the asker and shrink into a single piece of who you are?
I am a dabbler who follows many paths of curiosity at a time and this leaves me struggling with my contribution. It is as though I am walking through a library and reading only the first chapter of every book. I don’t want to finish each book; I want to see the context and connection between the books. How do the first chapters compare? What is the same? What is different?
The world does not welcome dabblers as contributors. I have no specialization they can point to for my years on earth. I have fallen short of the 10000 hour rule in countless disciplines. Does this mean I have not made a contribution?
No. It means I must find my validation internally. The world cannot be my yardstick. It will never understand my need to peek inside the cover and then move on to the next book. It will never recognize the many contributions I have made and how the collective of these gives me a unique viewpoint on the world. The world cannot define me in a pigeon hole.
I am not a pigeon. No loss there. I don’t want to be a caged bird anyway.
I am a fan of a few people doing some cool stuff out in the world. Sometimes what they share or create makes me hit reply to one of their emails. I might even go out of my way to find their contact information, and send them a note of thanks for bringing their unique viewpoint to the world. No pitch, no ask on my part...just a genuine note of thanks for being who they are.
Of course there were people who didn’t write back. I had no expectation that they should...but here is what I am learning: I feel differently about the people who wrote back.
I feel connected to them and their message even more deeply. I feel like they are real people not just platforms. I believe their marketing as honest communication between two human beings not just a mouthpiece blasting out to a faceless audience.
And I want to follow them even more and further support the work they are doing in the world. I want to tell other people about them. (I included them in this blog post...so you could check them out too.)
I am learning about better marketing from their examples. Marketing is about relationships. It might seem time consuming and trivial to reply back to an email sent your way...especially if you get thousands.
But why are you marketing? Aren’t you trying to engage your audience and make them into raving fans? Aren’t you trying to connect to your audience and truly hear from them? And even if you have thousands of fans, don’t you want them to stick around?
Sometimes the best form of marketing is already right in front of you: the fans you already have.
The power is there for you to let your voice be heard. You can have an opinion on a global stage. You can judge and rate and critique others until your fingers wear out. I am all for free speech and customer feedback. I am all for holding people accountable and challenging the status quo. But there is a difference between speaking out against human rights violations and social issues and just being a troll.
I loved to read self-help books in my twenties and thirties. They got me through. They gave me hope and helped me dream and aspire to bigger things. I don’t doubt that some of my ability to embrace change came from hearing inspiring stories of people who either overcame great obstacles and found happiness or some rags to riches story of someone creating opportunity and success out of poverty.
I really don’t like fear. Mostly I really don’t like the feelings I get in my body from fear. My tongue gets wrinkly and my pits get sweaty. My tailbone gets prickly. I can hear my heart in my ears. And my legs feel a bit like two boneless slabs of meat that I couldn’t stand on let alone use to run. This is hardly an ideal body state and worse it happens in situations that make little sense.