How do we gain (and keep hold of) confidence when practicing making art considering most of the time, we make everything up as we go? When creativity is so varied, fluid and intangible, it’s no wonder we can feel lost when making something new. But it’s normal to feel like your making everything up as you go as Steven Pressfield in The Artist’s Journey explains “No matter what a writer or artist may tell you, they have no clue what they’re doing before they do it—and, for the most part, while they’re doing it.”
How is it possible to gain confidence when navigating the unknown of your own creativity? What would that look like on a daily basis? Perhaps confidence isn’t feeling 100% sure of what you’re doing, but instead is knowing you’re actually trying something new. You’re taking action and that’s incredibly brave. Carol S. Dweck in Mindset encourages us “True self-confidence is “the courage to be open—to welcome change and new ideas regardless of their source.” Real self-confidence is not reflected in a title, an expensive suit, a fancy car, or a series of acquisitions. It is reflected in your mindset: your readiness to grow.”
Having confidence of steel about your art is something you may never gain. Even a master artist with decades of experience will have days when they question everything they make. Take comfort that if they still doubt their art, it’s okay that you do. Sustainable confidence is grown through small incremental steps over time, especially when trying something new. Making mistakes, failing and regularly practicing is all part of the mix, providing valuable data about your own creative tastes and to highlight areas for future growth and practice. Allow yourself to be open to change by making art and see how your confidence gently grows over time.
“In order to discover new lands, one must be willing to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” — Andre Gide
As an artist—whether amateur, hobbyist, professional or master—growth always follows practice. But when most of that growth cannot be seen, measured or quantified, it’s easy to feel discouraged if it feels like minimal growth has taken place. Choosing only to measure your growth by likes, comments, clicks or positive feedback and you miss out on internal markers of growth such as growing confidence, having more peace when making or increased enthusiasm to practice. These are harder to quantify, but will ultimately provide you with more nourishing feedback about your growth and progress. Feelings cannot be turned into data but are far more important than a metric number of likes. Growth IS constantly occurring, in tiny micro increments over time.
Steven Pressfield in The Artist’s Journey offers “the artist has a subject, a voice, a point of view, a medium of expression, and a style… How do we find our own? In my experience the process is neither rational nor logical. It cannot be commanded. It can’t be rushed.” The process is going to take time. In the same way you cannot rush the evolution of a tree, you cannot rush your own as an artist.
Pressfield references James Hillman’s analogy to an acorn in The Soul’s Code: “The totality of the full-grown oak is contained—every leaf and every branch—already within the acorn.” You have everything you need inside your. Practice making art and over time, more of your creative tree will be revealed. This is a slow evolution, but one that rewards along the journey.
What would ‘letting go’ look like when making your art? Perhaps it looks like allowing yourself to follow a strange curiosity or interest in a subject. Allow yourself to spend time, to indulge in the process of making art (although it can be argued that the act of making art – reconnecting to yourself – is not an indulgence, but a necessity and worthwhile endeavour). Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic encourages us to “Pursue whatever fascinates you and brings you to life. Create whatever you want to create – and let it be stupendously imperfect, because it’s exceedingly likely that nobody will even notice. And that’s awesome.” It may mean choosing to ‘get it done’ or ‘good is good enough,’ and ignoring the illusive (and impossible) goal of perfection.
Letting go could mean making art in the face of your fears. Steven Pressfield in The Artist’s Journey suggests “The artist is afraid of the unknown. She’s afraid of letting go. Afraid of finding out what’s “in there.” Or “out there… This fear, I suspect, is more about finding we are greater than we think than discovering we’re lesser. What if, God help us, we actually have talent? What if we truly do possess a gift? What will we do then?”
What if we stepped out into the unknown to find out what lies beyond our reach? Discovering what lies ‘out there’ is worthy of your attention and time. For within the unknown, lies your power.