“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt”
It’s strange, I was talking to someone about my work recently, and what part it plays in my life, and how I feel about it etcetera – ye, pretty big questions I guess. And they asked me if I sometimes doubt my abilities. My first thought was, no, I am pretty confident after having so many people believe in, buy, commission and compliment my work… but then I thought about it a bit more, and yep, there is a shed load of doubt there. And like most of my emotions/ complex issues, it is not very far below the surface. To say I have ‘thin skin’ would be an understatement, although I like to think I hide it well most of the time… I’m sure those closest to me have never been fooled on that front. So whenever things with my work aren’t going exceedingly swimmingly, say a commission doesn’t materialise, or a commission does not go well, / is entirely rejected, or when I create something that doesn’t work, that I hate,… or when I decide to procrastinate by seeing what some of my favourite, and extremely successful artists/ illustrators have been up to of late and compare myself and my lack of comparable achievements, it sucks. (and here is a post about why you should not compare yourself). Some of these times I let self doubt engulf me and take over, I doubt everything and question everything and overthink everything and sometimes this can result in not doing anything. It is a slippery slope and leads to a big black hole and you have to reach out and lift yourself up before you go down too far.
So don’t do it, don’t let the doubt seep in. It will not serve you. This definitely takes practice, to make the choice, the decision to seek the light and not the dark, but keep practicing and it will slowly get ever so slightly easier. The plus side is I actually think I am getting a whole lot better at putting these things aside, yes, I mourn them for a bit, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if I didn’t let it affect me at all, because I couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t care about it all immensely. But I try to take a step back and be rational about it. Which also takes practice.
“Self-doubt does more to sabotage individual potential than all external limitations put together” – Brian Tracy
If you are in the creative industry, and no doubt many other industries, and if you work for yourself, you absolutely have to keep going. You cannot let it burn you down, because if you let it, it will. You have to get back up and use it. In a way, I think these times are actually necessary, otherwise maybe I would become too complacent with my work, I would sit too comfortably and not have the same fuel to prove other people, or perhaps more importantly, prove myself, wrong. To aim even higher, push even further than I have before. So that is my next tip, USE IT ALL. Use everything, all the emotions, the anger, the doubt, the frustration, the confusion, use it. I feel so fortunate to have an outlet to do so. Even writing about it right now helps. Especially because I know that I am not alone in feeling like this. Far from it.
I really feel like in this day and age there are so many things we have to deal with/ think about/ consider/ decide on (*yawn*). Things which, I can’t help but think that artists 100 years ago did not have to consider. Not that I long to have been an artist back then, as of course they had a whole other set of issues which perhaps we do not have now. But still, it is interesting to think about how much has changed, and perhaps to use that to figure out what is really worth doing, and what it is you actually want to do. Is it worth the heart ache? Or have you been sidelined again onto a tangent that isn’t even the path you wanted to go down? Overall, I am using all this as a positive thing, these feelings, as well as many others, have always been useful for me to use, to push me to create something even better than before, to never get too comfortable, and to always try and work outside of my own boundaries, my comfort zone. Otherwise we will stand still. And in a world that moves so unbelievably fast, you cannot stand still, you have to swim, otherwise you may just drown in it all.
“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” – Kurt Vonnegut
Conversely, even though doubt is not a useful thing to have when you are trying to be bold and make things happen, there is also a humbling element to it. Which reminds me of a lovely phrase one of my favourite yoga teachers (Laura, that’s you!) used to say which went something like this,
“Be humble enough to know that you are not better than anyone else, but wise enough to know that you are very, very, special”.
We are all so fragile, but that is part of what makes us beautiful, and capable of creating wondrous moments and creations. It will always be hard to reveal your soul, to expose your feelings in words, a song or a painting, but it is what helps us stay connected, and we need that now more than ever.
“life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one” – Stella Adler
Thanks again for reading,