5 Ways to Lean In to Creative Uncertainty

Friday 16 February 2018 - Posted by Julia McCutchen

This week I’ve been developing my ideas for the new project I’ve recently started working on and have been called once more to face an array of unknowns.

I know this space of creative uncertainty with a familiarity that comes from my commitment to living consciously with creativity at the core of who I am and what I do.

The Depths of Discomfort

However that doesn’t mean I’m able to avoid the depths of discomfort relating to the “not knowing” that’s an integral part of the creative process.

I love the fact that my conscious approach leads me over the edge of what I “know” to discover fresh insights and ideas.

Yet it’s genuinely tough to translate the essence I so often realize intuitively into forms which retain the integrity of the message and can be readily communicated, shared and enjoyed by others.

Half Finished Projects

That’s why so many people talk about wanting to write a book or develop their ideas for a personal or professional project but don’t see it through to completion.

How many people do you know who have half finished projects scattered everywhere?

Perhaps you’re one of them?

If so, I completely understand!

It’s incredibly tempting to walk away when the commitment required to stay the course becomes intense – which it often does.

Creative Tenacity

And yet facing this discomfort fearlessly is the hallmark of artistic courage, innovation and progress, and the rewards that come from creative tenacity are hard to ignore.

Seeing something appear from nothing, gradually take shape, and finally come to completion in a form that accurately reflects the original inspiration – or an expanded version of it – is deeply fulfilling.

Add to that the transformation of who you become from having navigated the challenges, and the potential your creation has for making a real and lasting difference to others, and the rationale for resolve is compelling.

5 Ways to Lean In

So when the going gets tough and the discomfort of creative uncertainty bites, lean in through applying the following suggestions and see which ones work best for you:

  1. Reconnect with the Big Picture

Remind yourself why you’re engaging in whatever form of creative expression you’ve chosen and make sure that it reflects what’s truly important for you, something you care deeply about.

This will shift your perspective to “big picture” mode so that you can view your current feelings in the light of your underlying motivation and draw strength from that to take your next steps.

  1. Create Space for Immersion

If you’re constantly watching the clock, especially when you’re in the early stages of creation, it’s much harder to manage the intangibles with the added pressure of limited time.

Of course progress can be made when you’re working in short stints; yet even a few longer sessions to immerse yourself fully and explore the unknowns freely will make a positive difference.

  1. Stay Open and Soft

Avoid grasping for solutions and remain open and soft to receive the clarity you seek rather than making your ideas fit some intellectual concept of what you think your project should be.

It’s tempting to “push the river” to escape the uncertainty but that approach is unlikely to deliver up the depth and detail your creation requires to stand the test of time.

  1. Reframe the Discomfort

Rather than resisting the discomfort of creative uncertainty, I recommend accepting it fully as part of the process because this will shift you into a different state of being.

Reframe what you’re feeling as the expansion of stretching into brand new territory and trust you’ll discover just what you need as long as you remain conscious, present and aligned.

  1. Feel Your Way In

Instead of trying to work everything out with your mind, draw on your innate capacity to feel your way in to the space of not knowing.

Of course the space isn’t actually empty even though it may feel that way initially.

The reality is that the unknown is filled with unlimited potential that has yet to manifest in tangible form.

Your role is to draw that forth in order to create what your intention is to create in that particular moment of time.

How do you deal with the discomfort of creative uncertainty with your writing and other creative projects? Please share your comments and experience below or ask a question which I’ll be happy to answer. Thank you!

Further Resources

If you haven’t seen it already, you may also enjoy my recent post on “Living the Questions” inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke’s well-known quote from his book Letters to a Young Poet. To read it, click here.


  • Once again, thank you Julia for sharing this wisdom with us. I find all five meaningful measures to use but have most recently experienced the effect of the first one. I was reading “Bird by bird”and was reminded to remember why i am a writer. I feel called to express through writing something that will make a difference in someone’s life. This, for me, is the bigger picture with which I need to stay connected.

    • Hi Helen, that’s great to hear! Remembering the “why” is absolutely key so staying connected to that will indeed give you the bigger picture perspective to keep showing up, come what may. Thanks for sharing your experience with us 🙂

  • Yes, yes. creating the space (i.e. the time) is the tough one for me. I try to rleax, allow, let go of the clock … but it ticks away, relentlessly. Listening to it tick (inside my head) ties me to the ground when i want to fly. the trick is following the advice that i know is right, but so hard. one side of me is saying, ‘get it done. now. you’ve been working on this for too long. time and the tides wait for no one.” while a wiser voice says, “hey, relax. let it come when it’s ready. you can’t push the river no matter how much you want to.” and so I sigh, ah, yes. thanks, julia.

    • I understand completely Peter and thanks for sharing your experience. Space and time are notoriously tough to create. So many authors I know, many of them extremely successful with multiple books to their name, agree that it’s one of the biggtest challenges to writing a book, and I’d add to that, any major creative project! It’s the endless dance between focus and flow which all conscious creatives know only too well. Here’s to the meeting point between the two which absolutely does exist. Enjoy exploring that 🙂

  • Your point about half finished projects struck home painfully! So, I have taken your 5 ways to lean in very much to heart, as they are most helpful to hold to – a boost for performance! Thank you.

    • Aha, well done for showing up here and sharing that Peter. You are far from alone, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if finding the courage to express your reaction to the half finished projects striking home hasn’t in itself shifted things on for you in some way! It may be worth noticing the ripple effect of that in the coming days and weeks.

      In the meantime, I’m glad to hear that you think the 5 ways I’ve suggested will be helpful for you. Also, it occurs to me to add that there’s a magnificent joy that comes with the successful completion of a project so I encourage you to head for that and enjoy the journey!

  • THANK YOU!! I loved it when you wrote, “The reality is that the unknown is filled with unlimited potential that has yet to manifest in tangible form.” Such an uplifting and beautiful post. Thank you! xo

    • Thank you so much Melinda! I love the way you reflect back to me the parts of my blogs you love the most – fabulous! And I truly appreciate you sharing your comment here 🙂 x

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