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Doubting Yourself

Updated: Oct 5, 2018

by Linda Case, Multimedia Artisan


Enter “artist self doubt” into Google and what do you get? 21,900,000 possible resources appear.

Virtually all artists have doubts about their talent.

You’ve heard the stories of writers who won’t send in their drafts for fear of rejection, of visual artists who won’t enter shows or exhibits.

For so many of us, this uncertainty stops us cold from pursuing our art.

Or you may hide your projects, or be scared to enter juried shows or to belong to a critique group. I sure was. Then I read Art and Fear, a slender but powerful book by David Bayles and Ted Orlando.


I had a real aha moment when the authors made a clear distinction about fears we have about ourselves and our talent and fears about what others will think of our work. I had both. “In a general way, fears about yourself prevent you from doing your best work, while fears about your reception by others prevent you from doing your own work” note Bayles and Orlando. This is a wonderful little book to have and to return to again and again.


After reading it I made some big changes. Maybe one of these will be helpful for you:

  • I had taken many courses at the serious hobbyist level where technique was taught within the framework of making a particular item. I stopped because my competitive juices would awaken with a vengeance. I spent more time competing with others in the class than doing what I wanted to do. Often I wanted to go off on a weird tack rather than follow the program but I didn’t. So for the last few years I have worked happily following an unknown path to somewhere I know not where and I have not been distracted.

  • I try to not start a piece with a clear detailed mental picture of the final outcome. For me that is setting myself up for disaster. I’ve learned to depend on my materials to be my partners and listen to the road they want to take. (I know, a little woo-woo.)

  • After many years of experimenting with various media I now work with forgiving materials that can be reworked in many ways. My wonderful first teacher in polymer clay, Dayle Doroshow, said “Turn your mistakes into features.” And it is amazing how often that becomes a highlight of the work you do. I feel like almost every piece I do has to be “rescued” at some point and that often means turning down a new path.

  • I also try to keep a spirit of play. My materials are inexpensive so if something goes in the trash (though it is awesome how much recycling you can do), it’s not a big loss.

But do I still have times of self doubt? Absolutely. My last resort is just to drag myself kicking and screaming to my work table and start doing (not as easy as it sounds!). In 5 minutes I’ve lost myself in what I’m making and away I go.


P.S. These are my ideas. When you’re visiting the studios of The Over the Mountain Studio Tour on November 10 and 11, 2018, stop and ask the artists for their thoughts. They love to engage.

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