7 Ways to Deal with Creative Self-Doubt

7 ways to deal with creative self-doubt


We’ve all been there, right? You’re hard at work on a project, going full steam ahead, and then all of a sudden you think, “This is the worst book/ painting/ song/ statue in the history of the world, and everyone will see it and laugh at it, or even worse, at ME.” Those kinds of thoughts can really do a number on your self esteem.


So what do you do when self doubt is hanging around like your own personal storm cloud? My first instinct is to watch too many Food Network competition shows and eat a lot of ice cream, but that’s probably not the most helpful option. I’ve been experimenting with self-doubt coping techniques lately, so here’s what’s been working for me so far:


1. Check your progress on Chuck Wendig’s Emotional Milestones of Novel-Writing guide. I think I’ve looked at this chart at least once a week since I started writing my novel, and it’s so accurate! I’m currently at the 66% “everything sucks and I hate it” phase, and knowing that that’s normal is honestly so helpful. I’d love to know if artists have these milestones too, since their projects/ process are much different than mine.


2. Read a book about writing, or painting, or drawing (preferably one you’ve already read, but not recently). I picked up Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott again, and it’s such a good read! It feels like you’re on a coffee date with a writer friend who’s able to sympathize with all the weird parts of your brain without implying that you’re weird. I love it. Annie Dillard is also good for this, or Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon.


3. Avoid books/ blogs that talk about the mechanics of writing, or painting, or drawing. I love reading blogs that dive into the nitty gritty details about plot or character development or dialogue, but if I’m in a self-doubt phase, those articles just stress me out about all the things I’m doing wrong. So I try to bookmark them and come back to them later.


4. Pick the thing you’re most stressed about and take one small step toward fixing it. I’ve been worrying about balancing the fantasy elements of my novel with the Renaissance France setting. So I put a hold on The Rival Queens by Nancy Goldstone at my library and just knowing that I’ve done something about the problem makes me feel so much better.


5. Add some fun motivational reading to your TBR list. I took my cue from Sarah Von Bargen’s post about how it’s not embarrassing to want to be better and added Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling’s books to my TBR list. (I know, I’m pretty sure I’m the last woman in America to read them.)


6. Spruce up your writing/ creating space. I’m still working on unpacking the last few boxes from the move, so I’ve been daydreaming about ways to make my desk area pretty. Lucy Flint’s post about finding your dream writing life right now inspired me to a) throw myself a desk party and b) take the time to really make my desk area more fun. (I think it might be time to splurge on some cute notebooks.)


7. And if all else fails, take a break, eat some ice cream, and watch a show about people making Lego cakes. (If you argue with the judges’ decisions — even though they can’t hear you — I won’t judge.) And most importantly, know you’re not the only one dealing with self doubt.


This has been working for me over the last week, but what about you? How do you deal with self-doubt?

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