When deciding to become a content creator, I didn't anticipate the variety of fears I'd end up facing while pursuing my dream. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of not being good enough, and a whole list of other concerns. Fear, like any other emotion, is neither good nor bad in and of itself. It is a normal reaction that indicates that we need to tread carefully. However, when left unmanaged, fear can become paralyzing and in an industry that relies heavily on creative output, this can be detrimental. Practicing not only facing the fear but navigating through it can be tough but it's not impossible. The question I've been asking myself is how to manage my fears in the most efficient way.
The One That Got Away...With Free Labor
In 2017, I tried to dive into my freelancing career headfirst. I was in between jobs at the time and my partner encouraged me to pour my energy into my writing rather than find another job. At first, I was hesitant but I had no other options so I thought "why not. My time is now." I took on clients wherever I could, I was constantly on Craigslist looking for new gigs. I signed up for every writing platform and found myself up to the late hours of the night looking for more work. I eventually found a client on Upwork who promised steady work and I thought "this is it. My chance has finally come." The agreement was $0.02/word and I had to complete six articles a day. The industry minimum is $0.10/word by the way but I thought "this is my first real writing gig. It makes sense that I'd start from the bottom," and decided to work the gig. He said I'd get paid every two weeks, which made sense to me, and asked if we could correspond over Skype. I did not know at the time but that was a red flag.
Let me tell you, I was up until 4 am six days out the week, sipping on off-brand monster energy drinks, with half my body sprawled on the bed and the other draped over my keyboard. At the time, I was pursuing a second degree so to say I was tired is an understatement. "This is the dream so it's worth it," I thought while I caught up on sleep on my only day off. When it came time for my payment, to my surprise and disappointment, the client did not pay me. What's worse, I discovered he had been outsourcing his work to me through another platform for much less than he would've been paid.
As you can imagine, I was devastated. I had given my everything to my dream. 120% of pure dedication and no slacking off and with nothing to show for it. As that was my only project at the time, I then had to scramble but I was able to land a job at a hotel not too far from my home. I didn't write for nearly a year after that. I was afraid not just of being scammed but also of the idea that I tried so hard and it meant nothing. During one of my night shifts, I was struggling to stay awake and I had a conversation with myself. Back and forth I'd go. One side wanting to do more and the other was too afraid to continue.
To be fair to me, that was a scary situation and it still is. However, that does not mean that I need to approach every situation with that same fear.
How to Cope With Fear
I've found that the best way for me to process and cope with fear is by acknowledging and analyzing my feelings, making a plan, and taking calculated actions to work through the fear at my own pace.
Ah! My Feelings!
The hardest thing for me in overcoming fear is to acknowledge that it exists. I believed by admitting I was afraid, I was weak. However, as I continued working at the hotel, I realized this was an existential moment presenting itself. It's far too common for people to abandon their dreams, work a job they aren't passionate about, and spend their life existing. I never wanted that for myself and I knew that if I didn't figure out a way to get over my mental block, that would happen to me too. And we couldn't have that, now can we?
So, yeah I was afraid, and once I admitted that I had to figure out what to do from there. It wasn't just that I was afraid I would be scammed again. Feelings like inadequacy as a writer and shame that I was so foolish to get scammed in the first place also permeated my thoughts.
The Scribe With The Plan
After I understood what I was feeling and why I was feeling it, the next step was to figure out what to do about it. I should note here that this sounds way easier than it was originally but it broke down like this:
"I am afraid of freelance writing because I might get scammed."
Legitimate? Yes. Valid. Totally. People get scammed all the time. But the most common reason is lack of knowledge and I can always increase what I know. Because I didn't know what to look for, I become an easy target so the best solution was to research how to navigate the freelance world. I failed because I had no foundation, no knowledge and I put all my eggs in one basket. I spent a year working on my website, spent more time vetting clients, and researching best practices for freelancers. It took about five years but I've taken my writing in a much more positive direction. There are things I would have done differently if I could go back but every shaky step I took forward has led to right now and I'm pretty darn happy about the path I'm on.
The Hard Stuff
As an ever-growing person, my thoughts and behaviors can change at any time with effort, which means even the most paralyzing moments in my life can be temporary. That doesn't make it easy by any means and I explored many options to try to move past my mental blockages. Confronting yourself is uncomfortable, time-consuming, and draining which is why so many people avoid it. But if you're willing to steep yourself in a temporary discomfort, the benefits are well worth it. There will always be things that lie outside of my control. I can't control if people accept my pitches or if a publication chooses my submission or if I get hired for a contract. Instead of fretting over those things, I instead focus on what I can control.
Methods That Helped Manage Feelings of Fear
Taking responsibility for the quality of my own life has been the most empowering thing I've ever done. I am always learning but the more I explored, the more I realized there were many things I could do on my own to make things manageable for me.
Affirmations: I know that you could throw a rock and find an article for promoting affirmations but they are worth trying. Henry Ford was onto something when he said "whether you think you can or you can't you're right". One of my therapists said your subconscious is like a computer and your negative self-talk is the programming. If you're constantly filling yourself up with negative and limiting thoughts, you're setting yourself up for failure. It's extremely difficult but I try to catch myself anytime I think something negative I say something aloud to combat it. If I'm feeling afraid to start a project, I look in the mirror and say "Hey! I am greater than the fear I feel. It's okay to be afraid. Let's slow down and take our time."
Write as often as possible. Even if it is a sentence. Writing even when I don't feel like it helps me build a writing habit but also builds courage. If the thought of my novel is too daunting for example, I work on a small piece of it instead. If I'm stuck on a scene, I think about what's going on in another part of my world or even what's going on around the scene. I might even take a voice recording of what's happening if it gets too bad.
Alternate between different genres when I feel stuck. I have many forms of writing I can do. If I don't feel like prose, do a poem. If I don't feel like doing a poem, do an article. If I don't feel like doing an article, I'll write a small scene.
Look for inspiration around me. I FEEL inspired by the world around me and that inspiration makes me feel courage. When I start to feel uninspired or afraid, I take a walk and pay attention to my surroundings. I'll jot down two or three things or take a photo of something that I find beautiful. I remind myself that I too am a creator and I owe it to myself and my creations to act. No one else can bring my dreams to the real world.
Become my biggest fangirl. I need to support myself more than anyone. Falling in love with my work and hyping myself up whenever I work, drives me to push past my fears. I gotta do it for the fans. Even if I'm the only one.
Other Techniques That Help Me
Listening to motivational videos on YouTube. (Big fan of Les Brown)
Reading self-help books
For me, the meaning of life is creation. Humans are made to create not just life but also ideas and works. As well, at least in my universe, passionate creation is the ultimate form of play. I believe we are here to play and learn and thus create. Fear, while necessary in some cases, gets in the way of that process. Facing your fears is absolutely not easy but anything worth doing is going to take work. Being able to work with yourself during your highs and lows is a constant conversation. It is, however, one worth having. This is not exclusive to content creators. Most of us have self-defeating thoughts and behaviors that keep us from being what we want to be. Some of them may even be rooted in legitimate situations. However, keep in mind, you have everything inside of you right now needed to reach your goal. You always have the power to change your perspective, work through what holds you back, and taste the sweet taste of success.