I used to think that if I reached a certain goal – say, publishing my first article, or my first book, or starting a band – that I would suddenly feel like I’d “made it” in some way.
And of course, once you do accomplish something you’ve set out to achieve, no one can take that away from you: you do it, the experience is yours, and you can build on it from there.
But one thing that doesn’t go away is doubt.
As the years go by and I keep working away on my projects, I realize more and more that doubt isn’t something that you can just leave behind in the past. It’s not something that necessarily distinguishes anyone from being a novice to a pro.
Doubt is just as much a part of the creative process as anything else.
“Am I really as good as I think I am?”
“Can I actually do this?”
“What if things don’t go as planned?”
“What if I can’t realize my vision the way I’d hoped?”
“Here’s the confession: I always feel like I’m failing. And succeeding. And failing. And succeeding. And failing.”
– Danielle LaPorte, author of The Fire Starter Sessions and The Desire Map
Along the way, I’ve come to realize that even some of the most successful people out there never shake their sense of doubt. No matter what new heights they reach in their careers, they don’t necessarily leave fear and insecurity behind.
Because those things are just part of being human. Some days, we might feel like we have it all, or are just about to. And other days we question what the hell we’re doing with our lives.
While we can acknowledge our feelings – it’s hard to ignore them, after all – we don’t have to let our fears and doubts decide how our days are going to go. That would be giving up our own creative control, and no matter what our insecurities might have us believe otherwise, we always have creative rein.
That’s where your guiding principles of creativity can come in.
When you write out all of the things you believe about creating – and it doesn’t matter what you’re making – you give yourself a road map to refer back to when you start to feel like doubt is taking you off your path.
Whatever your guiding principles may be, they should always accomplish one thing: to serve as a reminder of what you set out to do in the first place.
Here are mine, for my writing. What are yours?
1. Be weird.
2. Be dangerous.
3. Break structure, bend genre. Break everything, if necessary.
4. Stories are wild animals. Let them reveal themselves to you instead of trying to cage them into a predetermined structure and their true nature will show.
5. If it means the work gets labeled an “acquired taste,” so be it.
6. Challenge yourself in every way, from language to ideas to structure to comfort level.
7. Be so honest it scares you, and then say scared. It means you’re doing something right.
8. Lose yourself in an idea and the process it takes to bring it to life. This is how stories speak to us, because they can see we are ready to give ourselves to them. If you are not lost, find a way to wander, even if it means you might stumble into a new idea in a need to abandon what’s not working.
9. Don’t listen when anyone tries to tell you the rules.
10. There are no rules.