Trying Things That Scare Me

When a free, drop-in art studio opened in her town, Joslyn suddenly became acutely aware of the powerful motivational force Fear played in her life. Because she held a deep-running and long-harboured desire to paint, she decided she would visit this art studio, take advantage of the space and materials, and give painting a try. But every time she planned to go, she found an excuse not to. After a few weeks of making these plans and then avoiding them, she realized why: she was afraid. When she imagined arriving at the studio and sitting down to paint, she imagined all the other talented artists who would also be there. She didn’t think she would be as good as them, and she didn’t want them to see. So it was easier to just avoid going.

This led her to a greater realization: the things she most feared doing were the very things she most longed to try. And this was because the things she most longed to try involved a certain degree of personal risk that other people would witness. This fear that was holding her back, is her fear of what others think of her.

She knew she could not live her life this way, so she pitched a column to a local paper: Trying Things That Scare Me. For each article she tried a new thing that she both longed to do, and also readily avoided trying: painting, playing her banjo and singing at an open mic, reading her poetry to an audience, and nude modelling for artists. She documented each experience with photographs and a written story. These were published in a widely-circulated free paper, widening the lens of ‘others’ she was inviting to watch as she faced the very fears their gazes inspired.



“Instead of visiting the studio I would visit their Facebook page, returning to a photo of an attractive boy I knew, brazenly covering an easel with an image he had pulled up out of himself. It triggered my deep longing to be able to do the same thing. Something about the experience seemed so mysterious to me, like it would tap into some part of me I can’t otherwise get to. The longing was always mixed with the fear of embarrassment at my hypothetical ‘failure’ – the bad painting I was sure I would produce that all the other artists in town would see.

But worse, that moment of approaching the easel, that first brush stroke. The untraversable how to begin?

Read the full story here.




“After a few days of practicing “Old Joe Clark”, I decide I don’t like it. It seems silly to perform a song I feel no connection to. So I stop practicing. Over the next week-and-a-half I struggle to find something new — something with resonance, something edgy and interesting, something breathtaking. Something that will give my audience the feeling other musicians give me. But I keep coming up against the limits of my skill level. Song after song proves to be, in one way or another, beyond the scope of a first-timer with a very limited time-frame.

Frustrated, with three nights between me and the stage, I decide to finally watch the instructional DVD that came with my banjo. After a short intro, it begins teaching me to play a familiar song: “Old Joe Clark”.

A new thought occurs to me: the point of this exercise is not to surprise everyone with the amazing musical skills I’ve pulled out of nowhere. The point is for me to try something I feel very uncomfortable doing — something I would otherwise keep putting off, maybe forever.

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“When I arrive the night of, I feel moderately silly about having never done this before. Its all just so casual, so unintimidating – I’m in a used book store among lit nerds. Some of us browse the bookshelves while we wait for the night to begin, others talk nervously about their writing habits to the familiar tune of “I’m finally making time for this” or “I wish I was making more time for this.”

These are my people.

Still, as I scan the room, I wonder what they will think of what I’ve written. Many of them are older than me, a few of them are men. Some of them I know on much less intimate terms than my poetry betrays. I feel as if I am about to expose parts of myself to them. Private parts. Like wearing a tank top in public and revealing to everyone – friend and stranger alike – that I don’t shave my armpits. My personal preferences suddenly exposed to public opinion.”

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“There is nothing left to do but take off my sweater, kick away my slippers, and step – naked – on to the platform.

I hesitate. The days leading up to this moment have been filled with dread – partially because the thought of taking my clothes off in front of a room of strangers has made me want to crawl under my blankets where no one can see me, and partially because I have never modeled before and I am afraid of doing a bad job. I’m not just getting naked; I’m spending the next two hours twisting my naked body into as many compelling shapes as I can come up with, while a group of artists draws me.

But then I recognize the feeling: it’s that same self-enforced pressure to be good at something before I ever try doing it, the one that has kept me from trying things, kept me forever a beginner in my fear of not already being an expert.”

Read the full story here.