The Creative Calling: 10 Suggestions for Overcoming Self-Doubt

“You were born to create. Never forget it! It brings joy to you and to others.”

My dear friend, Kristi, Zenno, sent me this encouragement after I sent her a photo of the Christmas card I’d made for my Zazzle Store. Little did she know I was struggling with doubt concerning my creative calling. The doubt had socked in like fog, clouding any positive perspective.

Sure, I knew I should continue on the road of creativity (Lord knows how many times he’s issued traveling orders), but never-the-less, the doubt wrapped so tightly that I could barely breathe.

Day-after-day this ominous foe pummeled me with discouragement. Day-after-day I’d apologize for doubting while praying for the doubt to lift.

Finally, a thought popped into my head: Don’t be like the man who walked away from the mirror and forgot who he was.

So, I searched for the scripture with a similar message and found it in James 1: 23-24

“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.”

“What kind of person did God create you to be, JoDee?” I asked myself.

The answer was so clear: “I was born to create!” 

Doubt is dangerous because it robs you of your calling. It immobilizes you from pursuing your God-given gifts. And if you beat yourself up for failing to believe, doubt’s devious co-conspirator, depression, joins in the rumble.

So in an effort to overcome a recent bout of self-doubt, I decided to share what works for me.

10 Suggestions for Overcoming Self-Doubt

  • Remember that your creative calling is a gift from your Creator: If you have a longing to create, you have a creative calling. Sure, your skills might not be developed like you envision, but that can come in time as you pursue lessons and projects.
  • Your Creator enjoys helping you to create: Every time I start a new project, I become very aware of how limited I am. I have to cry out to God for grace, courage, and determination. I’m amazed how faithful He is to provide the inspiration and ability I need.
  • What you sell doesn’t validate who you are as a creative: This one trips me up repeatedly. I’ve had seasons of selling paintings, florals, salt dough sculptures etc. and seasons of not selling. I’ve also pursued more than one creativity business venture and had my far share of failures. Yet, I always come back to creating for the sheer pleasure of it whether or not my art sells.
  • The call to create is a gift intended for others as well as for yourself: I’m reminded of this whenever someone leaves an encouraging comment like this one from Carl Tuttle: “I always like seeing your art. What a blessing.” He responded to a portrait of my grandson’s that I’m in the process of painting. Ironically, this painting has blessed so many people even thought I’ve struggled with self-doubt throughout the entire process. Here’s what I have so far:
  • Self-doubt is part of the creative process: Self-doubt seems most ruthless at the beginning of a project because each project possesses the possibility of failure and no creative likes to fail. However, if you use self-doubt to stretch your creative talents, then you will improve even if your end result isn’t perfect.
  • The creative process is a great way to process: Often my art is the product of my attempts to process feelings, directions, and difficulties. For example, I painted “Awaiting Spring” during the Covid 19 Pandemic Quarantine. The isolation from family and friends was crushing so I decided to visualize my hope for freedom. The wreath on the woman’s head moves from winter to spring. I longed for in-person hugs and drew strength from a hummingbird’s devotion to her eggs that I discovered in my garden.
  • Depression and hopelessness often accompany self-doubt: Depression is anger turned inwards. When we doubt our creative direction, we become sullen and angry over our lack of momentum. Then hopelessness sets in. When this happens, I find it helpful to retrace my creative journey, looking for evidence of my creative calling along the way.
  • Trust in the Creative Process: The creative process has hills and valleys. Sometimes ideas and inspiration flow. At other times, valleys of nothingness disturb the creative. During the valleys, I’ve learned to trust the Creator. This link will take you to a post about Trusting in the Creative Process. Here’s an excerpt:

When creativity does not flow readily, I need to rest my hand in the palm of the one who created the universe.

  • Remember that every act of creating is a fresh start: This link will take you to a post that reflects on self-doubt. Here’s an excerpt:

Fresh starts entice me to explore the unknown—a journey that if I follow, I have no idea where I will end up. Yet one I cannot resist.

Fresh starts fascinate me. Maybe it’s the excitement of the remake, the anticipation of something better, the unexpected impulse to try again.

Sure, the downside is they usually follow unwelcomed failure or the death of a dream or a heart-wrenching loss.

But fresh starts build character and character is something no one can take away from you.

  • Use your imperfect talents: One of my favorite quotes I reread when I’m dealing with self-doubt is by Henry Van Dyke:he

Use what talents you possess.

For the world would be very

silent if no birds sang

except those that

sang the best.

Here’s an excerpt from a former post, Use your Imperfect Talents:

Self-doubt is definitely one of the main culprits that keeps me from using my artistic talents. Pressure to be perfect discourages me from sharing them with others: I can’t put that painting online because I didn’t get the nose just right. Who really wants to read my inspirational posts? There are so many talented people in this world, my efforts seem flawed in comparison.

We may live in a world full of critics, but often we are the ones most hard on ourselves. So is it any wonder that we artsy types are hesitant to push through?

Yet this quote by Henry Van Dyke presents a different perspective. He likens the use of our imperfect talents to the contributions of birds to song. They join in a chorus that delights the ear and fills the world with melody. They don’t require special bird-singing schools or high levels of bird-singing talent before they can sing with other birds. They sing because God created them to sing and to not sing would be unnatural.

So it is with us humans. God created each one of us with special talents He is excited for us to develop and share.

Use your Talents reminds us to pursue our passions imperfectly.

I often wonder whether doubt is a struggle for more than just me. Do other creatives (i.e. artists, artisans, crafters, writers, musicians) also feel like they’re only as good as their last project? Do other artistic souls wonder whether they’ve lost their artistic mojo during those dry times, those creative blocks you can’t seem to push through?

I’d love to hear from you if you can relate. Feel free to leave a comment so other creatives can benefit from your personal experience with doubt. 

2 Replies to “The Creative Calling: 10 Suggestions for Overcoming Self-Doubt”

  1. I can relate perfectly. For me, it’s usually with writing or poetry. Sometimes, I feel divinely inspired and the beautiful words just flow. Other time, it’s the complete opposite. That’s when I put it away and try a little later.

    1. Donna,
      Thank you for your comment. I appreciate what you wrote and can relate with writing and poetry as well. The divine inspiration is so apparent to me. When it flows it flows, but I can’t make that happen. I agree with “…put it away and tray a little later.”

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