Questioning your own creativity – those dreaded moments of self-doubt

Questioning your own creativity – those dreaded moments of self-doubt
‘Do you have "no doubt?" Honestly? None?

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my career during the locked down months.  

Or more accurately, overthinking it. 

Where it started, how it’s going and what’s ahead. 

And as I sit here writing this, during these uncertain, unknown and needless to say unprecedented times (did I miss any uns?), I know I’m not the only one.

Now don’t worry, I’m not writing another Covid-19 piece. Think we’ve all read enough of those.

But the countrywide context of no one having the foggiest idea what’s going on is quite fitting. Because it made me realise something...

It’s helped me understand that when I was starting out as an intern, or now in my current role as a creative director, self-doubt always finds a way to rear its ugly head.

Brought about by pressures from situations, circumstances, and other people but most often because of the expectations we have on ourselves.

I’m also not chastising the demands of the full-throttle world of advertising and PR agencies. 

I love that, I enjoy it - more pain please, I know the safe word (it’s ‘in-house’).

What I’m writing about is that it took me a long time to be confident in knowing, that it’s OK to feel like you’re fumbling through the dark sometimes.  We’re in a competitive industry where we clamber to work for the bravest clients, sell the smartest ideas and hopefully win the shiniest gongs.

And if you’re loud and confident or quiet and pensive, we all feel a pressure to deliver. Even if we don’t talk about.

Some self-doubting questions that have swirled around my head: 

Do I have any more ideas left in the tank?

Can I still spot a good idea?

Was that client smiling at me because they love the idea or smiling out of sympathy?

I wonder if it’s too late for a career change? I’ve always liked the idea of being a florist…

It’s the ongoing monologue of the creative’s Imposter Syndrome. The constant battle with yourself when you’re really asking – am I good enough?

At a previous agency, an old boss had an acid tongue, but I learnt from him. Two things he said stuck with me:

“You’re only as good as your last idea.”

“Are you f***ing stupid!?” (ouch)

The former, I believe to be true. I always think the work could be better and want the next brief to prove it.

Because you have to be your own harshest critic and put the idea through its paces to then raise the bar. It might not work out, but there’s always next time.

The latter (while others may disagree) I don’t think is true. Though what it did make me realise is you have to stand up for your ideas and trust your own judgement. 

What I understand, as I continue to progress through my career, is that self-doubt and Imposter Syndrome will no doubt crop up, but the fear of failure usually means that you won’t.

It makes you think harder about your work, and it makes you work harder on your thinking. 

It’s not a lack of ability or capability, it’s simply the way our brains work. 

There’s a confidence to be found in knowing that and learning from it.

Someone has usually said it better and, in this surreal time, ironically, it feels like mind-bender David Lynch said it perfectly with ‘Keep your eye on the doughnut, not the hole’.

And doughnuts always sound like a pretty good idea to me.

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