The hardest part with the arts is that there is no “right” answer. It’s about choices, preferences, interpretations, and so much more. As an creative person, there have been many moments where I have felt doubt creep into my mind. Typically, I’m one of those people who thinks about every outcome, as though I’m playing a game of chess. This is especially the case when I’m trying to get to sleep, and I can feel my fears spiderwebbing. It’s definitely not a healthy way to live, but how do we overcome doubt?
When I can feel the anxiety intensifying, which has been a frequent occurrence these last few weeks, I’ll talk to my mom. One of the things that she always tells me is, “It’s not brain surgery. You don’t have someone’s life in your hands.” This is very true, and I’m glad my work doesn’t involve a life or death situation. However, this doesn’t always help me in the moment when I have to make a decision. I’m a perfectionist and very passionate about what I put out into the world. For example, I had been really stressing about a decision I had to make about a project that I’ve been working on for the last three years. This decision was really important and once I made that choice, there was no going back. I knew pretty much right away what I had wanted to do, but then I started second guessing myself. What if I was wrong? I know there’s always going to be people who disagree with me or don’t like my work, but how do I deal with my inner critic and doubt? In the end, I have to be the one who is happy with my work and learn to let the rest go.
Doubt is normal. It doesn’t go away. I don’t think there’s an easy way to combat doubt, but there is something that I have put into practice which has helped me a lot. When I was a student in the Writing Program at California College of the Arts, I had to take a lot of workshops where the students critiqued each others work. It was rough, to say the least. The students were not always that kind or constructive. What was worse, however, was when I couldn’t explain some of my choices. I know it may sound strange, but sometimes we do things because it feels right at the time even though we’re not fully aware of why we made that decision. I realized that if I’m going to put my art out into the world, I really have to be conscious of my choices. In other words, I want to maintain clarity in my work. This doesn’t mean that I feel that I always have to explain myself to others or that someone won’t change my mind about a decision I’m making. It also doesn’t mean that criticism won’t affect me, but it’s impact will be less.
Being able to articulate my artistic process gives me more security because I feel that at least I’ve done everything I can to put my best foot forward. The arts are not for the faint of heart. Yet, I think it’s important not to run away from doubt. As with most obstacles in life, doubt gives us the chance to grow if we give ourselves permission to be vulnerable and learn from our experiences.