5 Important Steps to Overcoming Doubt

5 Important Steps to Overcoming Doubt

Doubt is the silver bullet of expression.

The path of an artist is rarely easy. I guess that’s why it is so often preceded by “tortured.” “If it was easy, everybody would be doing it,” is the popular retort to the difficulty. I think everybody should be practicing some form of art. I can’t imagine a life without it. I’ve found art in construction and industrial plumbing. I’ve found it in the outdoors. I’ve found it in being a parent and certainly in teaching. Finding and participating in art isn’t difficult. There is always a dance and dancing should be fun.

But, there are times when I feel like one of the contestants in the depression era dance marathon movie “They shoot horses, don’t they?” Covered in sweat and barely able to move. Clutching our partner as the music continues to play. How can we take another step? Why not just stop? Walk away, go outside and get far enough that the music no longer reaches us.

Who was I to believe that I could win the prize in the first place?

 

True expression requires consistency. Think about an iconic photograph that you love. Surrounding it are thousands of other photos that the photographer snapped that didn’t make the cut. To find your voice as a writer requires thousands of pages. Those that didn’t hit the mark were very necessary steps towards the few that bind together for the alchemical magic of a story. Your beginning is almost guaranteed to be bad. But each page reduces “The Gap” so wonderfully explained in Ira Glass’ look at not giving up when doubt sets in.

Maybe it feels like no one cares about something that you have poured your time and effort and feeling into. It is natural to want your work to be appreciated. A storyteller wants an audience. It can be a difficult and demoralizing feeling. But it’s critical to remember that the value of your work doesn’t depend on validation from the outside world. When it comes, it is appreciated. But to truly reach the validation within yourself, you need to keep dancing.

Here are a few suggestions that I try to embrace when it feels like no one cares:

1. Remember why you create

What drives you to make art, music, or whatever it is that you do? Keep that purpose in mind and use it as a source of inspiration. As an actor, I would often face rejection and discouragement. Even when I was working, it could fall short of the environment or level that you dream of. I take those moments to remember those first, small theaters and the moment when the curtain came up and in the darkness I could here the audience breathing, settling, anticipating what would come. The memory nourishes me still because it holds the magic of why I love the art of story. It may be a moment or a book or a movie. Embrace the root of why you started the journey in the first place.

2. Find a supportive community

I know! We were looking for a mindset outside of the need for other’s validation but there is a wonderful paradox in seeking out your artistic community. Often, the best support comes when you provide it for others. Surround yourself with people who appreciate and encourage your work. This could be friends and family, or other artists and creators who share your passion. It’s easy to give up when you create in a vacuum. A strong group around you provides accountability.

3. Experiment and try new things

While I find that I thrive on a generous amount of consistency, a change of direction or trying something new will often refill an empty creative well. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and try new things. It could lead to some of your best work yet. I had the opportunity to work with director/producer Ed Zwick on a television pilot years ago. He was an amazing example of creativity and collaboration and possessed an energy that has always stuck with me. He refers to a trip outside and into the world as a “Humanity Bath.” It’s a wonderful term for diving into one of the most important sources of inspiration there is; the world around us.

“Your brain thrives on novelty and complexity. So, don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself with new experiences. (The Good Energy Daily 4/3/2024)”

4. Practice gratitude

While doubt is what diminishes us, gratitude is the antidote. *climbs onto soapbox* “You must have gratitude!” Okay, so wait. Sometimes, at least for me, I have misunderstood the word. Perhaps it was a residual emotion from being younger and having the necessity of being thankful drilled into me. But over the last few years I have found it to be a crucial part of my daily practice. Some keep a gratitude journal. I can be inconsistent with that. But morning and night as I go inward I have found it revolutionary to shift from asking for anything and instead, diving into gratitude. The longer I have focused in this way, the more I find gratitude to be a very specific mindset that slips on like a comfortable jacket. And it compounds. It builds. It refocuses.

5. Serve Yourself

While you’ve got the gratitude jacket on, treat yourself with the love and care that you deserve. Creating can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Take breaks. Get outside and breathe. And most of all, write the movie that you want to see! Ironically, for me, that is the stuff that ends up being the most universal. One sure thing to stop us in our tracks is second-guessing what the rest of the world wants. Of course you can consider your audience. But put yourself among them in those instances.

Remember, your value as an artist doesn’t depend on external validation. Keep creating for the love of the craft, and don’t let the fear of not being appreciated hold you back.

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5 Important Steps to Overcoming Doubt

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