This project scares me.

The videos I’ve been doing for it scare me.

The idea that I’m hitting publish on work I’ve rarely had the chance to read, let alone edit, scares me. Retinart is my home, as long forgotten as it may be, and the idea putting less than perfect articles on it scares me.

Putting my face in front of a camera and talking scares me. The lighting is bad, the audio worse. Like most, I’ve never felt confident in how I present myself, let alone how I communicate ideas. I hold onto threads worth discarding, defending them when it’s best to cut through.

These two things scare me. Yet they might be the two most important things I’ve done for myself, in a professional sense, in years. And I’m only six days in.

The Importance of Side Projects

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that fear is something I haven’t had at my day job in quite a while. It’s so easy to find boredom, yet fear is a rare commodity.

Of course this isn’t true for all of us, there are many who find it daily and develop their skills at an incredible speed because of it. But they’re the lucky ones.

For the rest of us, fear is best found in side projects. It doesn’t matter what kind, as long as it holds the parts that’ll help put you in a place you’d rather not be.

It could be a Back to the Future tribute site, or it could be a book chronicling your family’s tales through World War II.

The decisions you make as you develop your project are of significant importance as they determine how scared you’ll be. The scarier, the better.

Perhaps it’s a story. Perhaps what you need to tell is a story so honest that you’ll receive word that it caused tears to fall, that it broke hearts, that it shredded a reader’s beautiful soul.

The moments I hold most proud aren’t ones in which I was praised or produced a piece of work that was of fine quality. They’re nice moments, but not ones filled with pride.

Those are the ones in which I conquered a fear. There aren’t many of them, which is probably why I feel as if my skill-set has started to stagnate and I’ve moved little in the last few years.

Fear in the Jungle

Fear in the jungle is a good thing. It keeps us safe, it’s our mind telling us to not head towards patches in which something feels off.

It keeps us from being killed.

But we’re long removed from the jungles and plains, and are now sitting behind computers, doing creative works.

At worst, if we venture towards what our brain is screaming at us to avoid, we’ll have unsuccessful outcome. Whatever we’ve made might be ugly. Gasp! It might not work. Horror!

When we’re producing creative work, fear is simply resistance screaming at us. I don’t understand resistance, I’m just grateful that Steven Pressfield helped me to see it. But it’s that part of us that stops us from doing great things, from doing things we can’t do for sure, that stops us from doing the things we know we’re likely to do well.

It’s a monster of smoke and anguish and spite and bitterness and fear is its best tactic in stopping us.

And every time a creative person ignores their monster of resistence they do something great. Not something good. Something great.

The quality mightn’t be good, the originality might be shallow. It might not be good work, but they have at least done something great with themselves.

Hunt, beg, steal for these opportunities.

Do Something that Scares You.

Start small. Maybe it’s a menu. Maybe you can build a whole site, but you always do average menus. Or maybe you’ve never been able to get define hierarchy to your liking so you do the easy and obvious. Or maybe its pairing typefaces, or picking colours, or using photos.

Maybe it’s emailing someone you admire. Maybe what scares you is saying “thanks.”

But do something, anything, that scares you.

Hidden in the fear you’ll find strength enough to conquer empires, strength you felt barely imaginable, strength that can do more than simply redefine who you are, but redefine what you could be.

Doing something that elicits in you a guttural fear offers the opportunity for a kind of savage originality, one, for most of us, which is long forgotten. It forces you to swing your arms out with all the might you can muster and hope that you’ll land a punch, that you’ll hit your target.