6 Ways to Get Past Self-Doubt

Turning your creative work into a sustainable business is no easy task. There are numerous obstacles in your way, from handling printing & shipping, through to building an audience.

But there are also internal obstacles we need to overcome - beyond the numerous external ones always in the way.

As creatives these internal obstacles plague us from the very beginning - even before we've finished a project. They often take shape as the fear that we aren't good enough, or the self-doubt that questions why we even bother to show up.

Then, as we progress, these doubts and fears never go away - they just change form, like your own personal demon, always ready to bring you down.

by Lucy Bellwood

by Lucy Bellwood

And unlike in Lucy Bellwood's inktober piece above, it's not always so easy to ignore the demon or get past the negativity / feelings it projects your way.

So, I wanted to share some strategies I use when I'm dealing with these emotional obstacles, creative ruts, or am generally plagued by my demon.

1 - Remember That You Are NOT Your Art

Creatives - and writers specifically - are encouraged to put as much of ourselves in our work a possible and bleed on the page.

But for our longterm emotional health, it's important to divorce our sense of selves from our work.

I, personally, have a really hard time not deriving my self-worth from how my projects are going, but I recognize that as being completely unhealthy and I'm trying to get over it.

Reminding myself that the product & end result are less important than practicing the craft, has been instrumental to helping me through this.

By Lucy Bellwood

By Lucy Bellwood

Any single project is not a reflection of your overall worth as an artist. Your craft is a process. It's not about the immediate quality of what you're working on, but your efforts to improve, regardless of the difficulties you encounter.

2 - Do Work Just For FUN

By Lucy Bellwood

By Lucy Bellwood

Sometimes, if I'm stuck writing something, it just comes down to creative frustration.

There might be something else I want to be working on I don't have the time to get to, or I may be putting too much pressure on myself to perform.

When that's the case, I've been able to refill my tank by working on something purely for fun.

The lack of pressure involve - the nonexistent stakes - makes this creative exercise a nice treat that keeps me working & productive, while quelling the demon inside.

3 - Do SOMETHING Just For Fun

Sometimes, though, exercising your craft can only make things worse, even if it's for a fun project.

In this case, trying something else entirely - like drawing if you're a writer, or sculpting if you're a painter - can be a great way to divorce yourself from the pressure of your craft.

By Lucy Bellwood

By Lucy Bellwood

If doing something still skill-based doesn't get you past your hangups, then you can always go do something completely different. Go play with your dog, go to your favorite restaurant, go do anything that you enjoy.

If you do end up turning to one of these non skill-based tasks, I recommend getting out of the house, because if you choose something that's nearby it can become a crutch that you continue to turn to and leads you to procrastinate.

It's important to recover, but you don't want your coping method to injure you further.

4 - Go ACCOMPLISH Something

By Lucy Bellwood

By Lucy Bellwood

If the issue you're dealing with is less about burn out and more about being discouraged because you're not making progress or meeting the milestones, you'd like to, then it might be more important for you to accomplish something, than just do something fun.

Whatever you accomplish doesn't have to be a major task - it can be very minor like mowing the lawn, doing your laundry, or making your bed.

Sometimes it's difficult to see the forest for the trees, so even these small accomplishments make for effective options. The point is to just remind yourself that you can get things done.

These small accomplishments can be made part of your daily routine. Once they become a habit, they can serve as a powerful, continual motivating force.

In a commencement speech at the University of Texas, Austin, Admiral McRaven said:

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.
— Admiral McRaven

Anecdotally, it's worked for me, and I've heard the same from a lot of people who have implemented this as part of their daily habits - but I'm not telling you to make your bed, specifically, anything can work.

5 - Do Something Immersive

By Lucy Bellwood

By Lucy Bellwood

If you need a complete break, exercise can also be a fantastic option because it consumes your total attention while you do it.

Whether it's a team sport, swimming, or a class session over at Nerdstrong anything will do.

The idea is to do something completely immersive that doesn't leave you room to think about anything else - in a sense it's a perfect mental break when you're overwhelmed.


6 - Take a Break

By Lucy Bellwood

By Lucy Bellwood

When a mental break isn't enough, sometimes you just need some distance. Go for a walk or maybe stop working for the day and take a nap.

While creating definitely requires overcoming numerous obstacles, it doesn't always make sense to keep banging your head against a wall.

If you have any other methods you use to overcome your self-doubt or other creative obstacles, I'd love to hear about what works well for you.

By Lucy Bellwood

By Lucy Bellwood

I know sometimes, it can be great to get back to your roots and read what inspired you, or remember what made you want to make comics in the first place.

I know there are a lot of possible strategies. The wonderful illustrations - all by Lucy Bellwood - you've been seeing throughout this post are a great example of another way.

By Lucy Bellwood

By Lucy Bellwood

They're from a fantastic series she did during Inktober and the images in this post, along with many others, are now collected in a digital sketchbook called "Dealing with Demons."

You can - and absolutely should - pick it up on Gumroad.

Fear & creativity are definitely linked, but, as creatives, that doesn't mean we need to let fear - or self-doubt walk all over us.