Given a chance to plan out a new spinning project, I often look through my stash to be inspired, find something I’ve forgotten about and allow the creative juices to flow. I think about the wheel or spindle I want to use for the project. I dream about the finished yarn and knitted fabric. Usually, I start searching patterns on Ravelry to match my thoughts to the yarn, which informs what fibre I will ultimately choose. But sometimes fear sets in. Sometimes I’m afraid of the process. Sometimes I worry about the yarn and knitted project. It’s a natural, normal response to embarking on something new or unknown.

What if the project fails? What if the yarn is terrible? What if I don’t like the knitted object and never wear it? What if it’s so ugly, I don’t want to share it with you guys?

This is usually how I know that I am on to something.

This is how I know that a project is going to be something new. Inspired. Different. These thoughts and ideas that run through my head are really important because it means there are warning signs flashing, saying Uh-oh! This is new! I don’t like this! We should run away! To which I am able to say, Yes. This is new. I hear you.


By acknowledging the thoughts and inherent fear, I am able to move on. Move into the project, fear and all. How else do we move forward? How else do we know we are going somewhere new?

I don’t love this uncomfortable feeling that comes with being truly inspired by a new project. It’s scary and uncomfortable! But the more I am able to ease into it – be okay with not feeling particularly comfortable all the time – the more I am able to see that there are really cool things happening out there in our community. Some really inspiring people are doing some really inspiring things that in turn get me thinking and chatting which in turn (hopefully) gets you thinking and chatting. And we aren’t necessarily talking to each other. We might be talking to new people, which draws in more new ideas and inspiration. And so, our community grows. Isn’t that neat? I think so.


The fear that I’m talking about isn’t a fear of failure per se. I am aware that many of the things I try might not work out and may be fit for the compost pile. And funnily enough, I’m actually totally okay with that – more than okay with that – but I didn’t used to be. In the past, I was very worried about the possibility that something might be ruined or wrecked. I worried that it might reflect badly on me as a person but in fact, there is no other way to learn and grow but through my mistakes or failures. That unintentional thick and thin starts to become more consistent. The uneven, clunky long draw begins to become rhythmic and meditative. Those little, indeed tiny, failures that happen along the way are profound learning experiences. I just have to be okay with the fear of the fear of failure – that the fear in and of itself is uncomfortable when in reality, there’s nothing to be afraid of when I embark on a new project. The reality (that my brain doesn’t take into consideration because of the pre-historic amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for saving us from saber toothed tigers) is that the project will work out because it is not over until it works out. There is no true failure. Ever. And that has revolutionized my creating these past two years.

How do you deal or cope with fear in your creative journey?

Join the Conversation

  1. With lots of stops and starts. Sometimes, I need to set it aside and think about the process more. Sometimes I need to set it aside and look for more information, inspiration, or education. Sometimes it does not work – and the project I wanted to work on becomes something else. But, when it works, it is magic. I am excited and happy I stayed the course – even though it was a fretful journey. Learning something new is, in the end, an exhilarating process no matter if it was successful or not!

    1. You’re so right that it’s exhilarating! The tension of learning and moving forward in the end is a wonderful thing!

  2. shellssells says:

    I really enjoyed this post, but we are very different people. That same point that you feel fear? I feel overwhelming obsession. I get an inspired idea, and I suddenly cannot think of anything else. I get obsessed, I get antsy, I can’t wait to get home, I start to pace if I can’t get home right away. I can’t wait to sort through stash, or plan a project, or get started. It’s SO overwhelming for me. But, differences in people are exactly the reasons why community inspires creativity! And really, your fear and my obsession drives the same type of bus, moving us forward into learning and creating. Pretty cool stuff!

    1. That is so interesting! That tension we feel when we are on the brink of something manifests in different ways for different people. I love that!

      1. shellssells says:

        Your post was very valuable to me actually, it goes a long way to understanding why “in real life” friends react differently to trying new things, despite the fact that they are really good at trying new things once they get started. Great descriptions of feelings.

        1. I’m so glad!

  3. I’m afraid that I’m a wreck less abandon type of creater. When I hit a snag the project moves to the back burner while I chew on the problem in the back of my mind. More than once there has been ripping back and a restart, but usually I’m happy with the final product. :-)

  4. Jennifer Horsley says:

    When I was a painter, I had a lot of fear about starting a new project. I knew where it came from. My grandfather was a well-respected painter and teacher in these parts. His studio was in our back yard. I didn’t have the fear as a child. I took his direction and ran with it. It came to me in young adulthood. It stifled me. I decided to learn piano instead. I practiced so much that, in conjunction with being a court reporter, I got a nice case of carpal tunnel syndrome. I had given my painting supplies back to my grandfather and focused on raising my 3 kids until they were in high school and I was bitten by the art bug again. And again the fear of not being great was there. I was never able to paint on demand like my Pop; I had to be inspired. The blank canvas was daunting. It took a lot of energy but I was able to get through it and I painted a few good ones during this time as an older adult. My favorite is hanging in my living room. It’s a pastel painting of my grandfather’s studio. The best part was that I painted it in that studio at his easel. He and my grandmother LOVED it!
    So I guess what in saying here is that I’m familiar with that fear. However, since I started crocheting and spinning, the fear I get is not a stifling one. If I make a mistake, I don’t necessarily rip it out. For example, I will not rip because of a missed stitch in a dish cloth. (Unless it is intended for someone else.) This art, this craft, is freeing. I go for quality, not necessarily perfection. I strive to make a sound yarn. If it is also beautiful and luxurious, that’s a bonus! The late, great Canadian artist Robert Genn always said that you must love your process. It is only since I began this spinning journey that I truly understand what he meant by that.

    1. It is so interesting to me that sometimes something that seems completely unrelated to another life situation ends up helping to see it through new eyes, wiser eyes. I have had some of the same revelations as a knitter and spinner now when I look back on my piano. I hated to practice and eventually pursued other things like 3-D collage and sewing of all things! But once I found spinning, it was as if things started to make sense – a feeling of coming home came into the arena and things started to … get easier? Imperfections were okay all of a sudden because of the utility of the work.

      You are on the Tour de Fleece thread and next month you have access to the Slack channel (I’ll add you automatically due to your generous pledge) but we’ve been chatting about this exact thing over there and I’m wondering if you want me to add you now, as all the TdF participants get to enjoy Slack through June and July. If you aren’t sure how to use it, don’t worry — We will help you! But I think you’ll find the conversation really interesting.

      1. Jennifer Horsley says:

        Yeah, let’s do it!

  5. Carolyn says:

    Oh my, how many times have I felt the “fear” over my lifetime of creative work. But plesantly surprised when the final result is more than i could have imagined.

    1. That’s the key, I think, Carolyn! Seeing it through and being surprised by the outcome!

  6. bethy40 says:

    The process of learning can open up so many feelings, fear being one because newness and uncertainty is risky. Learning moves us all into areas of awkwardness and fumbling and it can be difficult to do that. Younger children are used to stumbling all the time and they tend to handle repeated difficulty better. Adults get used to managing most things in our life competently so when we are suddenly faced with being incompetent it can make some of us feel really insecure. But that’s okay. Growth is not a comfortable process.
    “If you try to do something that really matters to you, you will tangle with some significant bad feelings along the way.”

    I normally react with fear when entering a new social situation (still have anxieties with that after decades). I don’t like the feeling of not knowing how things are done, of looking like an outsider. But I’ve also moved to different countries again and again and started new jobs/schools/groups because I have gotten to the point where I want to confront that feeling. It’s not going to kill me or threaten my wellbeing, it just feels like it sometimes ;)

    1. I love your thoughtful comments, Becca. Thank you! I am with you on social situations even though I can put on the ‘dog and pony’ show when I need to. I don’t like it and I am finding that more and more, I am not doing that but it has been a huge learning process over time. The growth that comes from moving forward is an uncomfortable process and one I seem to find more and more easy to ease into as I get older. The inherent ‘dip’ that comes with trying to overcome fear seems to last a shorter and shorter period of time as I become more able to rest in that place.

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