D Is For Doubt

Kyle Smith

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A quick confession: sometimes, I'm afraid to write.

As a matter of fact, when I wrote this piece your reading right now, I went to the local library, sat down at a desk, and stared at my computer screen for a while. Then I finally broke down and wrote this on the page:

I’m afraid to write something. I’m afraid to commit something to paper (or screen) because it won’t be good. I’m afraid to take this leap forward, writing this book, just knowing that it won’t really help anyone. The problem is, I don’t know how to start this. Honestly, I just want to play Angry Birds for a while and shut my brain off.

The root of doubt is often fear. The secret is that when you’re afraid, you begin to doubt yourself, your talent, and your creative calling. We usually think of doubt as the absence of belief, but that’s not true. Doubt is believing in advance that you’re going to fail. The fear of failure is powerful and can keep you from reaching your creative potential.

At one time or another each of us has wrestled with these three fears:

1. “I’m afraid my work isn’t good enough.” Sometimes you’re afraid to move forward because you’re waiting for perfection. You see others who are doing great work and enjoying success, and you don’t think you measure up.

Perfection is a terrible taskmaster because you’ll never reach it. Instead, just do the best you can and learn to improve as you go. You have to start somewhere.

2. “I’m afraid of what others will think.” Sometimes you don’t take action because you’re waiting on someone to give youpermission. You’re looking for a thumbs up, a pat on the back, or a sign that it’s okay to move forward.

Be careful that your need for affirmation doesn’t grow into a codependent need for someone’s approval. Even well-meaning people can give you advice that can derail your calling if you let it. If you can’t make a decision without having to consult a specific person, you might have an unhealthy need for their approval. Don’t let someone hold your dreams hostage.

3. “I’m afraid I’m going to fail.” Sometimes you’re paralyzed by fear because you’re waiting for a guarantee. You want assurance that others will accept you and that your dreams will become reality.

But this guarantee doesn’t exist. It’s possible that you’ll fail, that others will ignore you, that your dreams won't come true.

That’s okay because failure is part of the creative journey. There will be times when you strike out. But there will also be times when you knock it out of the park.

Henry Ford said, “If you think you can do it, or you think you can’t do it, you are right.”

I think there's a lot of truth to that quote.

Don’t let doubt rule your life. Instead, believe in yourself. Go ahead. Believe in your gifts, and believe in the One who has called you to this wonderful, crazy journey we call the artist’s life.

Questions for you to consider

1. What doubts do you have about yourself, your gifts, or your creative calling?

2. Is there anyone whose approval you tend to seek? Why do you think their approval is so important to you?

3. How would you go about your work if there was a guarantee you would succeed? What is stopping you from doing that now?

4. Are you waiting for a gatekeeper to give you permission to pursue your art? If so, what can you do to move forward anyway?

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I write about writing, productivity, creativity, and much more.

St. Louis, MO
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