Workshop Notes: The Art Of Self-Doubt

Have you ever felt like you weren’t good enough to do something? Have you told yourself that you’ll never be as good as *insert artist name here*? Have you either given up or refused to start projects because it seemed too overwhelming? 

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. 

Every artist, creator, person alive has overthought their creativity. But what does this really mean? 

Overthinking Creativity:

We overthink creativity when we:

  • Get caught up comparing ourselves to others. 
    • Will never be as good as X. 
    • Always feeling like you’re trying to catch up to someone else’s skill level.
    • Dealing with imposter syndrome.
      • Where you don’t believe your success is due to your own skills and talent. You feel like an imposter that people will eventually figure out. 
  • Get too caught up with the small details. 
    • Things feel too big so you avoid ever finishing projects, or even starting them. 
    • Easily or frequently overwhelmed. 
  • Get caught up with other people’s expectations. 
    • You’re so busy worrying about what people think that you don’t have the energy to do the things you love. 
    • You’re exhausted before you even get to work. 

But what’s wrong with worrying about what people will think? What’s wrong with fussing over the details? Shouldn’t we be aware of expectations in order to break them? Who wouldn’t want their work to be perfect? 

The secret is that everyone wants their work to be perfect. But perfect is unattainable, and focusing on that will get you stuck. 

The Problem With Perfect:

  • When you aim for perfection, you stop yourself from actively participating in the creative process. 
    • If you can’t let loose, go with the flow, try new things, or rework ideas, then you can’t create anything fresh! How can you get somewhere new if you’re aiming for a specific destination? 
  • Worrying about achieving perfection takes time away from your actual work! 
    • Worrying is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do, but gets you nowhere. 

It’s important to follow the adage of “finished, not perfect.”

  • You can’t hate the manuscript you haven’t written. 
  • You can’t dislike the painting you haven’t painted. 
  • You can’t delete the photos you haven’t taken. 

So now what? 

It’s important to remember that awareness is key. 

  • Know where your doubt is coming from. 
    • External influences. 
    • Internal influences. 

Types Of Externally Driven Doubt: 

  • The expectations of family and friends. 
    • At the end of the day, YOU are the person who has to live with your legacy.
    • Your expectations are the only ones that matter. 
  • Worrying what people will think of your work. 
    • Truth bomb: People probably won’t care because they’re worried about what everyone is thinking about them
    • Not everyone is going to like your work. Not everyone is going to like YOU.
      • That’s okay! It’s how life works! 
  • Competition in creative and professional spaces. 
    • Life (and art) is not a zero-sum game!
      • Someone’s success isn’t an opportunity you lost. 
    • Look for opportunities in the successes of others, and through personal failures.  
    • Consider taking social media breaks.

Types Of Internally Driven Doubt: 

  • Feeling like you’ve fallen behind and are always struggling to catch up. 
    • You’re NEVER done learning. It’s not a task, it’s an ongoing process. 
    • Remember that where you are now isn’t where you’ll be in a year, a week, even a day. 
    • Being scared you’re not as good as another artist/professional. 
      • If you strive to be a decent version of someone else, you’ll never be the best version of yourself. 
    • Not being a “real” artist. 
      • Who decides what makes an artist a real artist?

Controversial Opinion: It’s Okay Not To Like Your Work 

  • If you hate your work, ask yourself why this is. 
    • If all you can come up with is “because I made it,” then you probably don’t hate the work. You’re projecting your own negative feelings about yourself onto something you created. 
      • It’s okay! We all do this! 
    • If you do have a legitimate reason for disliking your work, this is good! 
      • This is an opportunity for growth and development. 
      • Understand what made your work ‘bad’ and take notes as to why that is, and how to avoid that in the future. 
      • Practice makes better, not perfect. 

A lot of people tell you to turn your brain off when experiencing negative thoughts. 

Don’t do this! 

The key isn’t to turn your brain off or to stop thinking, it’s about focusing on the right things instead of the endless negative loop you might focus on. Because, realistically, how can you create if your brain is off and you’re disengaged from the material? (Hint: you can’t!) 

Controversial Opinion: It’s Okay To Abandon A Project! 

  • Forcing yourself to work on something you don’t care about or are no longer enjoying is a surefire way to develop a hatred for something you were once passionate about.
  • It’s better to spend your energy doing something you love (and working on that something even when it’s hard) than forcing yourself to do something you hate. 
    • However if you do this with every project you work on, there’s a problem. 
      • Are you avoiding finishing because you doubt your ability?
      • Are you using new projects as a way of avoiding accountability for old ones? 

Some Tricks To Overcoming Creative Blocks:

  • Journaling
  • Freewrites
  • Brainstorms
  • Word associations 
  • Creative prompts 
  • Word clouds
  • Linking words. 
  • Using alternate or unlikely mediums. 
  • Creating lists! 
    • Making small, doable lists are a great way to begin getting things done  in bite-size pieces that allow you to measure your progress and feel productive. 

At the end of the day, only YOU can shift how you see yourself and your creativity.