Using fear to bring your work to the next level.
Every time I start a project, I get this tiny moment of panic. It doesn't last long, but even now, after years in this business, I still notice that it happens.
It has a long and technical name, but in portfolio school, we just called it "fear of the blank page." It's that anxiety-inducing few moments right before getting started on something. I may have had 253 ideas buzzing around my head after a client meeting, and I am excited to get started on the project, but inevitably, and just for a short moment, this blank page panic happens when I sit down to get started.
What Makes A Blank Page So Scary?
In the blankness, the page carries endless possibilities, which is great, right? On the flip side of that, one finds internal resistance and a fear of failure. Your mind will tell you, "Hey, it could be great…but then again, it could also be total disaster." As humans, we are built to avoid the thing that causes fear. This aversion to fear is what has kept us alive for thousands of years.
For as long as I can remember, I have had a love-hate relationship with fear. For me, recognizing that fear was the only thing keeping me from doing a thing, and then deciding to do it anyway, has pushed me. Pushed me way, way, WAY out of my comfort zone at times. And it turns out that is a great thing. All of the achievements I am really proud of in my life were things that would not have happened if I had given in to my fears.
Why then do I still get that tinge of fear, even after all of these years for something as simple as getting started on a project? My thought on that is simple. It means I still care. I still want the outcome to be amazing. I still want to go past what I know and explore a new place, which is still scary, but worth it.
Taming That Tinge Of Fear
Like most things, you get better at it with practice. Fear works the same way. If you keep leaning into it, it may still be there, but the time it takes to push past it dwindles. Say you are skydiving. The first time you jump, it probably took a whole lot longer to be ready to jump out of a plane than it did the 100th time. It is still the same element of danger, and same fear, but you have practiced taming it.
Now, about putting it into actual practice. It's very simple, stupid simple actually. I start with a brain dump of all the ideas in my head after a client meeting or about the project in general. It is an easy way to just get something on paper. It doesn't have to be perfect or even logical. It's just for you. The act of getting started IS the practice.
The rest of the work will fall into place once you get pen to paper. Some ideas you work on growing, others you let go. With practice, leaning into your fears gets easier to do, as does tackling the blank page.
If you have strategies you use for getting started or pushing past your internal resistance, I would love to hear them!
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