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I have had my share of sleepless nights and it is still a scary time. There really is no blueprint for this career, no set office hours, no rules or expectations.
It is the definition of uncertainty.
So it was brilliant to read Jonathan Fields' new book, Uncertainty, and gain some insight into how others deal with this time on the edge.
Here are some of the key points from the book that I think will also resonate with other authors/creatives.
Uncertainty, risk of loss and criticism.
- Success as an innovator or creator is partly determined by “the ability to manage and at times even seek out sustained high levels of uncertainty, bundled lovingly with risk of loss and exposure to criticism.” This seems to me what writers have to deal with all the time but perhaps it never gets any easier. There will always be a risk in writing a book. Often you spend months or years with your work and then release it to a market that may or may not want it. There is a risk of loss financially and also to self-esteem. Taking criticism seems a fundamental part of being an author and something I have struggled with personally. This book makes you feel part of a bigger crowd of creatives out there in the world, hammering away at their craft, trying to produce something marvelous. It makes it ok to feel this way.
- Google's 20% time as an example of the time needed to play around the boundaries of what we are working on, to give us space to not be judged. I need this because I used to work as a freelance IT consultant where every day was billable. I think of time as something to always be filled with something busy. But as a creative, I need to slow down more and realize that some time is just playing and may or may not end up with a specific result. It may also generate the best ideas. Being busy is not necessarily productive towards the goals I now have for myself.
- Fear of failure and going to zero. In giving up the regular income, the fear of losing everything is acute. Even after saving up a safety net, doing the sums on how much time I have before the well runs dry and having a supportive husband, I am afraid of ending up with nothing. But this doomsday scenario thinking is crazy and I know that. In the book, Jonathan recommends naming the monster and writing it all out. For me, the worst case scenario is that I get another job in 6 months if this doesn't work out. I will not be starving on the streets. I will just be embarrassed in front of you guys. I can't let that fear of failure stop me from trying in the first place, and neither can you.
Ride the butterflies.
- “If only we'd learned how to harness and ride the butterflies that live in the gut of every person who strives to create something extraordinary from nothing.” This is the essence of coping with the fear that sometimes threatens to take over. It's recognizing that it is entirely normal and then living with it in a manageable way. It's also good to think of these feelings as butterflies, beautiful and not a threat. Just there. A mentor of mine, Robert Rabbin, helped me in a similar way with fear of public speaking. The ‘nerves' (similar to butterflies) are reframed as ‘shakti', a creative energy that can be used as fuel to help with authentic expression.
Using certainty anchors.
- In an uncertain life, ‘certainty anchors' can help create a structure or ritual around the process. This is something I am learning pretty fast. As an office worker for 13 years I was very used to the morning commute, coffee, lunch at a certain time, meetings, weekly reports, the rhythms of an office life. As a creative entrepreneur and author, I make my own routine which is fantastic but also dangerous as the hours can run away with you.
- Meditation as an anchor but also a way of training your brain to get to the deeper levels of creativity, receptiveness and emptiness. I am one of those people who has dabbled in meditation but haven't made it a daily practice. I do it when everything becomes too much and it helps immeasurably. Making it a more regular practice would be the next logical step so that I don't get to that frenzied state. I shall report back on how that goes! Interestingly, I think my resistance to it already proves it's something I need to do.
The myth of balance.
- I don't believe there is such a thing as balance when you are trying to achieve something, or pursuing a goal, so it was good to read this in the book too. I don't know about you but I am constantly bombarded with ideas – for books, for blog posts, for videos. I see opportunity everywhere, the world overflows with it! I write most of this down in a notebook, but with my current novel in progress, Prophecy, it's the same. There is no specific time spent thinking about it, the book intrudes into all my time, and that is a good thing. Why would I want balance when I am happy in this state? I'll rest when it's done (and then I'll start the next one!)
In conclusion,”uncertainty, risk of loss and exposure to judgment are necessary parts of the quest.” This book will help you see your path through them. Highly recommended (yes, that is an Amazon affiliate link below because it's a great book).
You can find all the details about Jonathan Fields' Uncertainty at TheUncertaintyBook.com
You can also find Jonathan at his blog and on twitter @jonathanfields