How to overcome self-doubt

The Artist’s Way: Week One

I have been thinking so much about creativity and feeling stilted in my work that I decided to invest in The Artist’s Way. Julia Cameron’s book is a programme to develop your creativity. She believes that everyone has a creative force within them.
I was surprised that it was as spiritual as it seems but then I remembered I learnt about it from Elizabeth Gilbert Eat, Pray, Love and on Oprah’s podcast and realised I I should have expected it sooner. Though the philosophy behind her beliefs are different to mine, I do see creativity and play to be part of who we are as human beings. I set about week one open-minded and happy to experiment.

I will explain the basics of the programme, but I do urge anyone interested in exploring their inner creativity to seek this book out. It is a 12-week programme in which you commit to completing “morning pages” on a given topic every morning, three pages of stream of consciousness writing. This and each week making time for an “Artist’s Date” where you could do any number of things to explore your artistic side; making or doing, visiting new places, time in nature – there are few perimeters. She also sets prompts each week to work on. Week one is on censors and also, I think, self-doubt.

It has been more intense than I expected. Using stream-of-consciousness writing has this uncanny way of throwing stuff up that you didn’t know what you were bothered about. I think that the years old hurt that have come to life do give me a perspective although sometimes embarking on self-help like this feels dangerous. Opening up emotions without the guidance of therapist is not for everyone so that is definitely something to consider as I continue the programme. What she is trying to get you to do though, by identifying some of the criticisms you have in your head is then create a list of affirmations that counteract this negative thought. For me these include:

  • I have a right to be a beginner
  • I am full of ideas and potential
  • The work I produce is worthwhile

Even sharing these feels vulnerable and there are others I am choosing not to share. I can see already that the self-censor is very outward looking. My concerns about what others will think, what family members think, what friends will think; this blocks me.

Art cannot always be created in a vacuum. You may have to consider the outside’s world’s reception of your work if you do want to make it for anyone else but yourself. A lot of the political anger I am feeling now (for the last few years) is one of the reasons I am constantly questioning if the work I do is worthwhile. I have side projects that engage more fully with politics, but they too are stilted. It’s hard to get a full picture with the country in limbo.

I have been thinking about this a lot this week because I have been watching When They See Us on Netflix. The urgency of its politics, really that this could happen again right now, it’s so palpable in this excellent dramatization of what The Exonerate Five went through. It’s a very hard, but necessary watch. And it’s certainly one way art can have so much worth or importance in the world.

The Artist’s Way process, which I have only just begun, is a way of really questioning your motivations which I have found interesting. I chose to have a play with some drawing for my “Artist’s Date” Surprising in a way because I don’t have much faith in my ability to draw. I had bought a book for my son (and me) on How to Draw. He has no interest, so I used this for my artistic activity this week.

Subconsciously, I think I was prompted by being ok at being a complete beginner. This idea that you can practice something, you can be not very good at something, that was my philosophy when I finally took up writing a few years ago. You are allowed to do it anyway.

As children when we do something creative, we don’t question whether we can do it, we just do. I think I censor myself now with doubt about ability and purpose. But this is just all practice. More importantly, whatever type of work your creativity produces whether it is political or not, at it’s heart it also play.

4 thoughts on “How to overcome self-doubt

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