Right now I’m in the midst of revising my book Make a Mess: Daily Prompts + Projects for Rediscovering Your Creativity and Living a More Playful Life. One of the most terrifying parts of writing a book, and I think creating in general, is the self-trust it requires.
Sure you can ask friends, family, mentors and fellow creators for feedback. But at the end of the day, it’s you and your creation, alone in a room, trying to figure things out.
And when you have more practice doubting yourself than trusting yourself, this can be hard.
What words, sentences and ideas do you keep? What do you delete? What do you develop further? When do you know to stop revising? When do you know that you need a different metaphor, paint color or solution? When do you know your creation is actually done? When do you know something is truly working? Or truly isn’t? When do you know if something is actually funny and silly or downright dumb? When do you know if something is powerful or overly dramatic and cliché?
Because when it’s just you and your creation in a room, you make all the decisions. You must rely on your instincts and abilities. You must rely on yourself to know what’s best.
And if you’re not used to tuning in to yourself, again, this is hard.
So how do you cultivate self-trust?
It’s something I certainly struggle with. But I’m learning that like anything else, it’s a skill that simply takes practice. And practice.
Here are some ideas:
- Start by going inward. Before you begin writing or creating, you might close your eyes, take several slow breaths, put your hand over your heart, and focus on what’s happening in your body. Tune in. You might say some supportive words. You might even read yourself a love letter. You might listen to this calming meditation (or these other meditations) to help you connect to yourself; to help you cultivate self-compassion. This creates a safe environment that encourages the kind of decision-making you need in the creative process. It helps to foster a sense of exploration, adventure, flexibility and self-forgiveness. It’s also like giving yourself a pep talk that you got this. Because you do.
- Journal about your feelings, thoughts and experiences while making your creation. Author Louise DeSalvo calls this a process journal. Then after you’re done creating whatever you’ve created, go back and reread your words. What helped you figure out a stubborn sentence or pry the words out when your brain went blank? What helped you move through other creative challenges? How did you figure out that something wasn’t working? When do you tend to have your breakthroughs and insights? Under what conditions? Learn your own patterns. Learn the thoughts you tend to have when something works and when something doesn’t. Learn what happens inside your body. Learn how you connect to your own instincts. Learn what creates the best environment for you to create and feel comfortable.
- Keep creating. Whatever you’re working on — writing, painting, sewing, dancing, singing, presentations and talks — keep doing it regularly. Create smaller versions. Take 10 minutes out of every day to work on some aspect. If you’re writing, get inspired by National Novel Writing Month, and give yourself a word goal to hit every day. Make December the month you’ll write your memoir, collection of essays or children’s book. Do it quickly, and don’t censor yourself. Then go back, with fresh eyes, and simply see what you like and don’t like anymore. See what doesn’t ring true. Time, of course, gives us space, which improves and clears our vision and helps us figure out what’s working and what isn’t.
- Look at other people’s creations. Think about what catches your eye, what resonates with you. Think about the difference in creations that you just like, and others that you love. Absolutely love. What’s so meaningful about these creations? Why do they appeal so much to your soul?
The creative process is exciting and wonderful, and even magical. But it’s also vulnerable and overwhelming. It can bring up our “stuff” — our doubts, our fears, our insecurities. And yet these are waves we can ride. We can navigate these challenges. We can learn to trust ourselves. Again, we can practice. And practice.
How can you trust yourself today?
P.S., It might be a bit quiet on the blog this next week, as I work on Make a Mess, the book. But I am excited to share the book with you very soon, and to discuss what I’ve learned about the writing process, about creativity and about our world.