Fashion is the way I introduce myself to the world, every day, without saying anything.

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Five years ago, I was offered a creative opportunity I really wanted.

Here was my first reaction: Holy @#$% YES!!!

Here was my second reaction: Holy @#$%, I can’t do this.

Well I did it and did the best work I could, but I was haunted the entire time by feeling number two. What Brené Brown calls “gremlins,” what Steven Pressfield calls “Resistance,” what Craig calls “bullshit,” all of those thoughts crept in and around my creativity. I wasn’t free, I was looking in on myself, I was stifled and scared and plain old MEAN to myself. I considered all the terrible things people might say about me and told those things to myself first so that I was prepared. Prepared for what was surely going to be my inevitable demise and destruction by virtue of me simply showing up on the playing field. I left satisfied with the work I did, but feeling like I lost an important part of the creative act: the courage to be seen, or, authenticity.

mary oliver 2So five years came and went with a lot of what Marc Maron calls “Thinky Pain.” I earned some recognition. I got married. I didn’t work for a painful stretch of time. I was depressed. I got over it. I recommitted myself to the fact that my life’s work and purpose have nothing to do with stability and security (and certainly not affirmation). I redefined success as authenticity.

And then something happened. I was offered another opportunity I really wanted. And once again…

My first reaction was: Holy @#$% YES!!!

My second reaction: Holy @#$%, I can’t do this.

Because the lesson will keep showing up until you’ve met it face to face.

There was a time I thought I’d finally be free from fear – that I would know so much, or have so much experience that my confidence would be effortless. That I wouldn’t feel like a fraud. That my abilities would speak for themselves and the gremlins would quiet down. Now I know that despite the knowledge I develop, the experience I gather, the abilities I hone, the gremlins stick around. I know enough to know, I will never know enough.

And that is okay.

Five years ago, the unknown mystery of what I could possibly produce and accomplish frayed my nerves. I suffered because instead of embracing what I couldn’t predict, I fought against it. Nowadays, all I know is that I don’t know. All I can do is jump in with a full heart that includes both YES and I can’t do this. And somewhere in the battle between both feelings, work emerges. A bigger story is told. And the bullshit, while still along for the journey, takes a backseat to authenticity.

mary oliver

What’s the scariest part of creativity for you?

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