Tips on Overcoming Self-Doubt in Creativity


We waste so much potential every day when we listen to self-doubt.

This week I talked to other creatives about the things keeping them from progress in their work. By the end of the discussion, I realized we had one common enemy: Doubt.

It’s natural to fear nobody will like our work. Fear makes us question whether our projects are worth pursuing. We struggle with doubt throughout our lives, but I’ve noticed many people succumb to doubt instead of soldiering on…they quit altogether.

As a writer, I can best explain this with experiences in the writing process. However, this isn’t just a writer problem. Anyone with a dream will find this block on their road because we have been trained to think small and reasonably.

This feeds the doubt, making it a constant struggle, but not impossible to overcome! If you feel self-conscious about your work, it’s easy to think you’ve failed. This is not true! We all experience self-doubt, but what matters is how we deal with it.

One thing is certain: Giving up won’t solve your problems or satisfy you as a creative. It’ll only douse your dreams like water puts out fire; if you don’t make an effort to protect that flame, you’re letting doubt kill the fire!

What should you do when faced with doubt and lack of confidence? Here are some things that have worked for me in the years I’ve found I could write with confidence:

Get critique partners. The creative path isn’t meant to be traveled alone. We may prefer to write in silence, but without peers to cheer us on it becomes a chore. Find a few like-minded people who share your passion and talk to them when things get rough. If you have friends with you, the creative path becomes an adventure.

Know your limitations without limiting yourself. If you don’t think you’ll be able to write a book in two weeks, don’t expect yourself to. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aspire to achieve more than your average. Add five minutes to your daily writing time; read a few more pages before putting the book away. Don’t discourage yourself by climbing in a box or setting goals too high.

Take a break. Don’t know how your book is going to end? Set it aside for a couple of weeks and work on another project. The more thought you put into your project, the better it will be; sometimes it’s good for you to take time off. However, remember to resume your project! Leave a sticky note on the wall telling you when to get to work again.

Doubt and fear aren’t going anywhere, and they’re hard to ignore. Just remember you have a story to tell; no one else will say it like you can.

On the other side of fear there’s fulfillment; keep going and there’ll be a beautiful moment when you’ll hold a finished book in your hands. You can do it…you can tell that story and make this moment happen.

How do you overcome self-doubt? What do you tell yourself when it feels the Muse has abandoned you? I’d love to know how you face this challenge!

9 thoughts on “Tips on Overcoming Self-Doubt in Creativity

  1. I have struggled with self doubt for many years now. Every night I`d think that what I`d written that day was rubbish but I had a great tool for overcoming that. When I was a child my Aunt Adeline would tell me that things always look different in the morning. So, I go to bed, and look at what I`ve written the next day. I am always surprised to find that this works.

    1. That is such a simple but effective tip. I think we get caught up in trying to perfect things immediately, when what we really need is to step away and take a break! I’ll keep that in mind for the next time I’m feeling doubtful. :)

  2. Amen, to all of the above. ;) It’s always good to see a post about overcoming writer’s doubt. We all suffer from it now and then, and seeing articles like this reminds us that we should never give up, no matter what.

    Maybe this is more of a frustration than a doubt… but the one things about my writing that bugs me is how slow I am. Part of it is my lifestyle / routine; my work schedule makes it impossible to work on my novel every day. But even when I do work on it, it takes a while for the words to come together, even if I’m super-focused. So I’ve never been able to hit close to 1,000+ words per hour, while other writers seem to reach that goal effortlessly. It still bothers me from time to time, but I’ve mostly accepted that it’s just part of my process. Maybe I’ll pick up in speed over time… But I also shouldn’t be too hard on myself.

    1. Don’t be hard on yourself! We all have different paces and averages. It’s possible to increase that number over time, but dwelling on it and comparing yourself to others can put you down. You’ll pick up speed if you practice and put your heart into it.

      Remember, though: 100 words a day will make a novel over time, if you make it a habit! Part of the beauty of the craft is that we’re not all the same!

  3. I definitely needed to read this tonight, as I’m struggling with mid-novel “this entire story sucks” doubts right now. I don’t think it’s true, but I’m at that point where I have so many “well, I could try this instead” options that I just feel overwhelmed.

    This is similar to your “take a break” suggestion, but what seems to be helping right now is reminding myself that I don’t have to solve all the story’s problems in one night. I don’t have an editor waiting for this story, my next paycheck isn’t dependent upon publishing this novel… This is something I’m doing because I love writing, and while I do hope to publish it some day, I have to keep telling myself that there’s no need for me to get it published NOW OR ELSE. I love these characters and want them to get the best story they can, so I may as well give them the time they deserve.

  4. Self-doubt is definitely one of my issues. I think getting CPs, like you said, is the best thing to do, because they’re very good about pointing out both the good and the bad of your writing. I really like being aware of strengths and weaknesses I can’t always see myself, so other people are indeed very helpful to me!

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