How to find your confidence as an artist and maker
By Trudi Murray
Can I let you into a secret? Don’t tell anyone, but I’m a big mess. I know nothing. I have NO IDEA. I don’t know what I’m doing from one day to the next. Am I even any good at this? I feel like a fraud. An imposter. I’m worried – really worried – that one day soon, someone in charge is going to come along and shine the spotlight on me, and say: “Uh-oh! Here we have it, the original phoney!”
Sound familiar? It makes me cringe to admit it, and it’s hard putting this vulnerability out there, but I think we need to talk more about these things. My lack of self confidence has been a huge battle over the past few years, and it seems to get worse the more popular my work becomes. The more I sell, the more I worry. It keeps me awake at night. On the one hand, I’m gaining momentum: followers, presence, traction in a competitive market. On the other, I’m frequently struggling to stay focused on the work and not the anxiety. I manage most of the time. The other times I know HOW to manage. It’s not easy though, and when you work by yourself, for yourself, it can get tough.
I tend to imagine that everyone else has it all together and sorted. Not true! One of the most important things in doing business, of whatever sort, is to simply be yourself. So you’re nervous. So you’re afraid a lot of the time. So you feel like giving up. Good! Me too!
The good thing about being driven to create something, to do business, to build a ‘brand’, to make beauty in the world, to make a change, to share yourself creatively, as lots of us are, is that you need to exist outside your comfort zone for a lot of the time. It’s good because it forces us to push boundaries, to experiment, to be truly ourselves. I’d say I’m in new territory – uncomfortable, nervous, taking a risk – 75% of the time. Is that a good percentage? Maybe. It doesn’t feel it! But maybe I could push it more. Or less. I don’t know. I do know it’s easy to become mentally exhausted. Everyone has different pressure points, of course. I can do the creative work. I don’t worry about that. That’s just a question of showing up, and getting on with it. Ideas come easily to me. I can see the way the work is taking me. I can see, I think, what I want to do, where I want to be.
Doing the business? Well, that’s much harder for me.
I’m going bravely forth each day, armed with all the excellent information I can gather on the things I find scary. If the advice doesn’t seem to fit me, I leave it behind and do what feels better. I make the decisions I want to make. I tackle big things in little chunks. I knuckle down, I get on. Then I stop. Have a rest. Breathe. Paint. It’s my life after all! It’s my creative journey.
I’d like to say that one day I’ll have someone to run the business side of things for me. But is that a get-out, do you think? Is that just wanting to be a child again, or delegating the responsibility, because it’s hard. I know that when I’ve triumphed at something, the reward is immense. For example, being present online is second nature to me now. At first, it was excruciating. Now, I find social media fun and refreshing, and a font of good information, friendships and contacts. Step forward the wonderful people of #folksyhour! I hate to miss it. It has been most instrumental for me. It’s where I found out that I have good ideas (sometimes!), that people need each other and like to swap ideas. And also that people need ME, too. That I can belong here, just like anyone can. I tend to imagine that everyone else has it all together and sorted. Not true! Most importantly, #folksyhour has reflected back to me that one of the most important things in doing business, of whatever sort, is to simply be yourself. So you’re nervous. So you’re afraid a lot of the time. So you feel like giving up. Good! Me too!
There’s only one of you. And there’ll never be another, with your unique vision and mix of talents. It would be a shame if fear robbed us of your creativity and your work.
But you know what? There’s only one of you. And there’ll never be another, with your unique vision and mix of talents. Fear might be a reason, but it needn’t be an excuse. It would be a shame if it robbed us of your creativity and your work. Or if I became too scared to put my work out there. I NEED to make it. I ought to share it. I’d love to sell it. Then I can make more! That’s all there is to it, really.
So I’m going bravely forth each day, armed with all the excellent information I can gather on the things I find scary (tax, wholesale, analytics, accounting, marketing, promotion, photography, selling overseas…). If the advice doesn’t seem to fit me (as long as it’s legal to do so!), I leave it behind and do what feels better. I make the decisions I want to make. I tackle big things in little chunks. I knuckle down, I get on. Then I stop. Have a rest. Breathe. Paint. It’s my life after all! It’s my creative journey. That might also mean, for example, deciding not to do things, or deciding stubbornly, against all perceived wisdom, to have a more eclectic, random Instagram account. Photos of my cat? Or chocolate biscuits? Heck, yes. I’m not a robot. (Although if you check my Instagram I haven’t managed this yet. I am after all, completely obsessed with making art! But watch this space).
Please join me on this big adventure. It would be nice to meet you. See you on twitter for #folksyhour Tuesdays 8-9pm. It’s fun. (And some of us bring gin.)
Photographs by Juliet Mckee Photography