Portraits of Fulfillment

Portraits of Fulfillment: Elin Lööw – Helping Creatives to Overcome Their Fears

Elin Lööw is a writer and creative coach who helps others realize their creative dreams by overcoming their inner antagonists. In 2016, she embarked on a Fear Year in order to overcome her creative fears. Through the process, she built awareness in herself, learned how to embrace her imperfections and began to understand that fear is a feeling and not a truth.

It set her on a trajectory for moving bravely through life, and it shows through her work. Elin’s warm-heartedness and compassion shows through all of her beautiful writing and photography. She sends out a wonderful bi-weekly newsletter for her group, the Teacup Owls.

Here is her story:

Tell us about your work.

I’m a writer working on my first novel, and I’m also a creative coach supporting creatives to make brave ideas happen in their own slow-living way. For years, I held myself back from doing what my heart longed for – to write fiction. Once I got through the worst block, I started pushing myself too hard instead. Working through my fears and embracing a slower way of living and creating has changed my life for the better. Now, I help other creatives do the creative work they long for without burning themselves out.

Tell us about your creative journey.

When I started studying political science at University, I stopped creating. I believed my creations had to be important and excellent in order to exist and be shared, and I doubted my ability to reach that impossibly high standard. Still, ever since I was a kid, I have wanted to write fiction. I grew up on books and I’ve written stories ever since I learned how to write. I’ve been fighting an internal battle between my longing to create and my fear of being judged by the world.

Fast forward a few years, and I started writing my first novel. Writing again was wonderful, but I ran into constant blocks, struggling to write and silence my harsh inner critic.

A couple of years of writing like this passed. I finished a first draft and got stuck trying to figure out how to revise it. I graduated from university and got a job. Time to write was sparse, and my job was mostly administrative. It hit me one day that I could go on like this my whole life. Stuck in jobs with little creativity, unable to finish a novel because I doubted myself so much.

I saw my lifelong dream of becoming an author slipping through my fingers. I saw a life before me that I knew wouldn’t be fulfilling. At that moment, I knew something needed to change. Most of all, I wanted to create, and I understood that I was holding myself back. I needed to face my creative fears if I were to live a creative life. So I decided that 2016 was going to be my Fear Year.

Once I started searching for ways to face my fears, things began to change. I started my blog in 2016 because I was terrified of sharing my writing. I proclaimed myself to be creative even though I feared that others would disagree. As the year progressed, I started drawing and painting, and I picked up my camera again.

I shared my journey and what I was learning about creating bravely. Much of the time it was scary, but I slowly built up my creative confidence and realized that fear can change or go away. Towards the end of 2016, I finished the second draft of my novel, and for a while I sold my art too – something that I would never have imagined when the year started.

In the past few years, I have explored more deeply what I want my creative life to look like and what I want to share with the world. After doing creative work at a very intense pace, I’ve embraced a slower way of living and creating that suits me much better. I still have a 9-to-5 to balance with my creative life, and it makes it all the more important to make sure I’m not going too fast.

How do you define fulfillment?

Fulfillment is when you’re able to do the work that is calling out to you. The work that delights you and challenges you. For me it’s creating, but it doesn’t have to be. We are all different, and that’s the beauty of it. But whatever it is, you’re not stopped by fear, doubt or the outside world.

How does your creative work fulfill you?

There are three things that have felt like callings to me.

First, there’s creativity. I love following an idea and letting it grow from a fleeting thought to a real thing. I love to experiment with how I create and how little changes make a difference in how it’s understood.

Second, it’s psychology and how humans work. Every time the psychological aspect is added to something, it starts to fascinate me. I love understanding how we work and how we can adjust things to better fit with how our minds work.

Third, I’m drawn to change and making a difference. It started as a longing to change the world for the better – that’s why I chose and loved to study political science. Then it spread to personal growth. Now, I’m constantly inspired by how we can make small or big changes to live better lives, especially if we help others during the process.

The creative life that I’ve designed is one with room for these three callings. I spend a lot of time with my creativity, but I also reflect on the psychological aspects of creating. Those realizations are turned into strategies for positive change and are shared to help others. It’s a creative life that fits me wonderfully.

What advice would you give to someone who feels unfulfilled in their life?

Look back on what you’ve enjoyed in the past and explore things you’ve never done. Going from unfulfilled to fulfilled doesn’t happen overnight. First, you have to understand what it is that you really want to do and then patiently work to make that life true. And maybe you can’t have a day job that is 100% fulfilling, but there is more time outside of your job than you might think. If used right, you can begin the steps to live a fulfilling life even if your day job is unfulfilling.

What’s one word that you think is overused, misused, underused, or misunderstood.

Authentic is a word that is a bit overused, and therefore, it has slightly lost its meaning. Still, it’s a word I like, and I think it’s something to strive for. Authentic is to be true to who you are and to share your honest truth with the world. When people share what really goes on in their heads, fears and all, that’s when we humans can connect the strongest parts of ourselves with each other.

There’s much power in the flawed and honest truth.

Who inspires you?

Oh so many! Elizabeth Gilbert inspires me in everything she does. Many creatives around the web inspire me in different ways, and they are too many to mention all. But all of these creatives are persistently fighting for their dreams.

What’s something you believe in that most people would disagree with?

Probably that everyone is creative and that talent is highly overrated. Many agree with me, but I think more disagree, sadly. Creativity is still something that society considers to be a gift a small group of people is born with rather than something we’re all capable of. The elitism and closed doors of some parts of the creative world sadden me, and I’m glad the internet has made is much easier for us all to practice and share our creativity.

How do you structure your week?

Monday to Friday, I go to my day job and my creativity takes a back seat. In my spare time, I read and connect with people over on Instagram.

During the weekend, I usually get up at around 9. I start my days slowly with breakfast and a book. Then I pull out a notebook and write down what I want to incorporate in my weekend. I write both things that are purely for joy like taking a bath, baking bread or going for a walk and also creative work I want to do like working on my novel, writing a blog post or taking photos.

Maybe I have a coaching call with a client scheduled too. Then throughout the weekend, I pick things from my list maybe adding something and deciding to skip something else. It helps me prioritize both my creative work and the things that bring me joy and keep my life a little slower.

What are you working on right now?

I’m just starting out with creative coaching which is very exciting. It’s something I’ve been moving towards for a long time. Working with people and helping them make their ideas happen is so very meaningful for me. I’m also doing the finishing work on my novel before I send it to publishers, hopefully some time early 2020.

What’s on your nightstand? (What are you reading?)

I decided to re-read the Harry Potter books for the first time in a decade. It’s so wonderful and cozy that winter feels like the perfect time for it too. I’m also reading Playing Big by Tara Mohr. It’s a powerful book if you’re a woman who wants to take yourself and your ideas seriously, but feel a bit afraid to do so.

What is your favorite book to give as a gift?

To those interested in bringing more creativity into their lives definitely Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. For writers, I always rave about Lisa Cron’s Story Genius, a book that has helped me so much.

. . .

To connect with Elin, you can find her on her blog (elinloow.com) or on Instagram (@elin.loow). I love her free workbook on finding the balance between making creative ideas happen and living your day to day life. Her Teacup Owls newsletter is one of the few I ALWAYS read. It’s a wonderful way to jolt your creativity.

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