One of the biggest problems creative people face isn’t a lack of time or money. It’s a lack of confidence.
If you love writing, drawing, composing, designing, or any other creative activity, you might have started out doing it simply for the pleasure of creating. Once you start looking beyond that – to building an audience, and even making money from your art – a lack of confidence can be crippling.
Low confidence might be pretty obvious, when you keep thinking “I’m not good enough” or “No-one will want to read/view/listen to this”. But it might also feel like a deep-seated Resistance to create, or constant procrastination when it comes to putting your work out there in the world.
I work with a lot of writers, both in one-to-one and group situations. Some of those writers have huge amounts of talent … but very little confidence. I always want to wave a magic wand and open their eyes to their own skills and abilities. Sadly, I can’t do that for them, or for you. But I can offer you seven powerful ways to grow your confidence.
Photo by Yuri Arcurs via BigStock
1. Show your work to a professional
This might seem like a scary one to start off with … but it’s one of the best ways I know to get a reality check on your writing. If you’ve got any sort of contact with professionals in your field, find someone (preferably someone known for their kindness rather than their brutal put-downs!) and ask them to take a look at a small piece of your work. Ask for their honest opinion. Is it at a publishable or produceable standard? Do they see any key strengths in the work – or any weaknesses that could be improved?
You’re unlikely to get feedback telling you that your work is pure brilliance. But you may be surprised to find it’s better than you think. And hopefully you’ll get some suggestions for areas that need a little more development: this helps build your confidence by giving you clear and specific ways to grow.
2. Enter competitions
Whatever your preferred medium – words, pixels, paint, notes – you’ll find plenty of competitions to enter. Even if you don’t get as far as the short-list, simply the act of entering can help build your confidence: you’ll have a clear deadline and, often, some sort of subject matter to help you think inside the box.
If you do manage to get placed in a competition, it’s a huge confidence boost. You might not walk away with first prize – but a second or third prize, or your name on the shortlist, is a clear indication that your work has real merit.
3. Don’t rush your process
If you’re pressuring yourself to get your creative work out there as quickly as possible, then you may be uncomfortably aware that it’s not as good as it could be. Perhaps you’ve had some disappointing feedback, or you simply feel that you’re not very proud of your work.
Taking a little extra time at each stage of the process means you’ll at least be able to have confidence that you’ve done a good job. That might mean allowing more time for planning or research at the start of a new project – especially if you tend to jump at new ideas, only to give up when they prove more difficult than you expected. It could mean giving yourself time to create plenty of rough sketches of a planned painting, or to edit your first few drafts of a short story.
4. Get paid for creative work
Although money might not be your first goal as an artist, getting paid for your work can give you real confidence. Even if you’re not getting paid for your ‘real’ creative project – so you’re writing magazine articles, say, instead of a novel – you’ll still know that your fundamental skills are good enough that someone wants to pay you for them.
There are all sorts of different ways to get paid for something you’ve created. You could work as a freelancer, producing designs or jingles or articles to order. You could create a micro-product to sell online. You could run an event, and sell tickets. Don’t fall for the lie that ‘there’s no money in art’ – find a way to make it work.
5. Take a course or class
Although I’ve had a lot of writing-related education over the past few years (including formal degrees and more informal courses), I still attend conferences and classes on a regular basis, particularly for my fiction-writing. Yes, I’m now pretty confident with all the fundamentals – like creating engaging characters, writing dialogue, and setting a scene – but I find that it’s often good to have a reminder of the things that I should know but occasionally forget.
If you want to learn something new in your field, or if you just want a bit more reassurance that you do already know the basics, a course or class should help. That doesn’t need to be anything expensive or time consuming: you might be able to find a simple day course or a series of evening classes in your area, or you could look for an online program to join.
6. Track your progress
When you’re in the trenches with your creative work, it can be hard to think back or think ahead. In the moment, you might be struggling with an aspect of your work-in-progress – and you may fear that you’ll never get it right.
By tracking your progress over time, you can easily look back and see how far you’ve come. You might want to list specific achievements, especially any “firsts” – like the first time you entered a competition, or the first time you showed your work to someone who wasn’t a family member or close friend. You could also record your feelings at different stages of a project (you might realise, for instance, that you inevitably go through a period of doubt at the almost mid-way stage, before everything gets much easier).
7. Push yourself to try new things
Finally, keep on trying new things. Yes, this can be terrifying – but successfully getting through a new challenge is a great way to grow your skills and your confidence. You won’t be perfect first time (no-one is), but you probably will realise that it wasn’t as bad as you were expecting.
This could mean trying a new area within your current field of creative work (perhaps writing poetry as well as short stories) or it could mean experimenting with a new form of creativity. I’ve started working with video and audio in my online teaching materials; it was really tough at first, but now I feel much more confident with using new mediums, and I also know that if I can get through the initial discomfort and fear, things will always get easier.
I know that none of these tips are easy. If there was a quick, painless fix for lack of confidence, none of us would have any problems! But by taking a step forward – even when it’s scary – you will find that you gain the confidence you need to progress with your creative work.
Over to you
Which of these tips resonate most strongly for you?
What has given your creative confidence the biggest boost to date?
Any other tips you’d like to share?
About the Author: Ali Luke is currently on a virtual book tour for her novel Lycopolis, a fast-paced supernatural thriller centred on a group of online roleplayers who summon a demon into their game … and into the world. Described by readers as “a fast and furious, addictive piece of escapism” and “absolutely gripping”, Lycopolis is available in print and ebook form. Find out more at Lycopolis.co.uk.