Creative Confidence

[This was originally written as an internal blog for my day job at LongerDays, but seemed fitting for here too… This goes for way more than drumming! Let me know what holds you back.]

Putting yourself out there can be scary… Even more so when you’re sharing a creative work. We pour ourselves into these projects to sharpen skills, to express ourselves, to get a message across… But when it comes time to share it with the world, the propensity to hesitate is OH SO REAL.

But why?

Is it fear of repercussion? Of criticism? Is it because in today’s online world, shitty comments are more common than support or constructive feedback?

…Or is something else going on too?

In my experience, the hesitation to share a creative work also has to do with perfectionism and the demon of self-criticism. We’re always our own worst critics – and to some degree we should be, it’s how we improve – but if it’s paralyzing, then it’s a beast to be slain.

So, in an effort to kill this monster of self-doubt (and fear), let’s look at all the reasons you shouldn’t be afraid – all the reasons to tell that self-deprecating voice in the back of your mind: “shut up and let me work!”

It Didn’t Exist Before

No matter what you’ve created – a short story, a video blog, a song, a limerick… It didn’t exist UNTIL YOU MADE IT, and that has value all its own.

This truth exists independent of quality, of views, of audience enjoyment. The simple act of making whatever is an exercise in adding content to the world, and unless you share it with others (on whatever scale works for you), it may as well have never existed at all.

On this principle alone – share your work! You never know who you might impact or inspire, and if nothing else, you’ve contributed to the great deluge of artistry that helps define humanity.

It’s YOU

The only person that creates like you… Is you. Sure, you’ve got influences. Sure, you’ve got a genre or a medium or a style that you’ve learned from your predecessors and favorites, but personal voice is everything. Even more important than skill level or “quality” (whatever that means), your creations are a reflection of your person.

You are the ONLY person who can make what you make, and that’s something worth celebrating. No matter what it is, it’s ultimately a representation of your entire experience, influence, and all of those other things that coalesce to become your creative self… And that combo is 100% unique.

Even if you think your work is mundane, a copycat, nothing special – it is. YOU made it. Hell, even if it’s 99.999% the same as your favorite artist, that iota of individuality gives you ownership, and that should be celebrated… And shared.

What’s The Worst That Could Happen?

If the hesitation stems from fear (of any ilk), squash it. Seriously, think about the absolute worst case scenario that could stem from sharing your creative work. You embarrass yourself on stage for a few moments? You get a nasty comment from some anonymous internet hater? You don’t get selected for the gallery?

While those might sound awful (and they can surely be demoralizing to experience), the source of the fear is really wrapped up in ego – in worrying what others think of your work, and dreading the outcome if they don’t like it… And ultimately letting those opinions spiral into something about your overall self-worth.

But here’s the thing: other people aren’t nearly as concerned with us as we might think. Sure you might endure an embarrassment, but in the long run, you’re going to remember it far more vividly than anyone else (if they even remember it at all).

“We would worry less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do.”

Ethel Barrett

A failure is temporary, and you can always give it another shot – hopefully with the lessons learned through an unpleasant experience. Try something and move on. Don’t waste energy dwelling on how people will react… It’s fleeting at best.

It’s All Practice

Good or bad, everything you create builds upon everything you’ve ever created in the past – and sets the stage for everything you will create in the future. Every single project will have its ups and downs, and every ounce of experience goes into your creative coffers.

So, what better way to hone your skills than to just make stuff and put it out there? Not only is the process a learning experience by nature, sharing it (online or however) also creates a record for you to look back on and measure your growth.

Brick. By. Brick.
Brick. By. Brick.

You are not defined by each individual creation. Instead, when you evaluate yourself as an “artist” or creator of any kind, think about your entire body of work. If you’re still making things, then you’re only somewhere in the middle of your creative timeline – and everything you create is a step along the way. Own each step and take pride in the journey.

It Creates Momentum

Finishing stuff feels good. Clicking the submit or publish button gives a sense of satisfaction of work completed – no more deadline or buildup, just DONE. The same is true of performances, speeches, presentations… When you’re finished, it’s behind you, and the only thing to do is start thinking about the next.

The more you create, the easier it gets. This idea of momentum is the reason people still publish blogs they aren’t particularly thrilled about, that artists spend time in their studios whether or not they have any good ideas. The more you work, the more output you have. The more output you have, the easier it is to generate the next idea and the next – and to stay excited about what lies ahead.

The more creative works you complete, the less each creation nags at your self-criticism, allowing you create without hesitation, simply adding each work to the collection – for better or worse.

When you take all of these points into consideration, it’s pretty easy to see that the only thing between you and creative confidence is, well… YOU.

It will take practice and diligence, and probably a shift in mindset, but you can create things you’re proud to share with the world – or at least be indifferent about negative reactions. Only you can share your creative voice with the world, and there’s really no reason not to. Fear is mostly an illusion, and you surely can’t get better if you don’t try.

Each and every step you take will build your skills and your confidence, and before long, you’ll be crushing it on your own terms – people’s reactions be damned.



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