I get great ideas in the shower. While I wash my face or scrub my scalp, I think, “oooh what if I offered a writing retreat in Niagara wine country?” or “I bet a membership site with mini-coaching sessions offered regularly would be a hit!”
And then, by the time I’m dry and dressed, the idea has either vanished, or it has paled somewhat under the harsh light of reality. Practical considerations of time and money and influence and reach and acceptability and the like all crowd in around my idea and convince me that, yeah, while it might be an interesting notion, it isn’t one for me to consider right now.
In other words–I get scared and back away. I don’t want to know how many times I’ve backed away from ideas or events or risks that sounded perfect or fantastic or amazing.
Because I was afraid. Afraid of wanting something and having it not work out. Afraid of trying to create something and discover nobody wants it. Afraid of putting something together and having it come out looking nothing like I had intended. Ugh.
I did this just as much as an academic as I have done since becoming an entrepreneur. I didn’t put my name in for this or that award. I didn’t submit to that conference. I gave that journal wide berth. Instead of letting these people, committees, and organizations reject me, I went ahead and rejected myself in advance and didn’t even enter the running.
Safety First, I’d say–meaning the safety of my comfortable little corner of academia.
I kind of liked my little corner but I know that even that space would have been immeasurably improved if I had enjoyed the support and encouragement of a group of people who believed in my and in my creativity, and if I had thought of my work as a creative endeavour to share with others in the first place.
Now, I find community on Twitter and Facebook (hi! go find the Energized Academic group there!), I reach out to people I only know “digitally” and schedule virtual coffee dates with them via Zoom to talk about what they’re up to and what I’m doing. I belong to a community of PhD entrepreneurs (Self-Employed PhD, hosted by Jen Polk), where we exchange creative ideas and encouragement for the businesses and side hustles we’re all trying to create.
These communities give me courage to be creative. And I thought I didn’t have time for them or was too intellectual for them or too specialized for them or WHATEVER when I was a working academic. What a damn shame.
The work you produce as a scholar, whether in the library or the lab, is the creation of new knowledge and the new combination of old discoveries into new things. It takes guts and creativity and love and courage. These things don’t just fall into our laps. We have to go looking for them. I know where my people are, in the flesh and in pixels, and where I need to go to figure out how a writing retreat in Niagara wine country would work and who might be interested. I reach out, network, commiserate, and celebrate with others.
Loneliness, for me anyway, breeds fear. And fear doesn’t help me get ANYTHING done.
I hope you have a community that supports you and celebrates your scholarly and personal creativity. Reach out to those people, tell them they inspire you.