How to Cultivate Creative Confidence
No. 150.2 | By Christine Carron
I have been on a mission to improve my pushups this year. (Translation: To actually be able to do at least one solid, full-plank pushup.) I’ve made progress, but not as much as my ego would have preferred.
The source of my struggles? My right shoulder. It has felt pinchy, tight, but most of all destabilized. It has also completely ignored the multiple internal memos I have sent it to get with the program already.
Being who I am, these were very kindly worded and delivered memos. I, over the past nine months, have rested my right shoulder, worked on seriously proper form, did weeks of wall pushups and weeks of knee pushups.
What do I have to show for it?
I can now eek out about 10 full plank pushups, but the sense of solidness while doing them continues to evade me. There has been no sense of ease building. After all these months, my belief that I could actually achieve my mission was wavering.
Until this past Thursday.
When, upon walking the Wonder Dog, a thought occurred to me: Maybe there is actually something wrong with my shoulder.
If you laughed at the previous line, join the club. It’s kind of like “duh, Christine,” right? I know, and I will come back to that, but for now . . .
Destabilization and Doubt
How often have you felt destabilized on the writing adventure? (Note that I didn’t ask, “Have you ever felt destabilized on the writing adventure?” Gotta keep it real.)
When did the destabilization get you?
Perhaps you made a plan and worked diligently on it, only to discover that your timelines were too hopeful, or you missed a huge step, or some other curveball came to throw you off your plan. Or perhaps you achieved your goal, like getting a book done, and even got an agent, but then rejection after rejection after rejection came.
Or perhaps a cherished creative relationship turned in a way that gutted you. Or a critique knocked you sideways.
Or all of the above, plus more.
What often comes after destabilizing experiences is doubt. Or worse, a sense of despair that is so deep it leads writers to consider giving up.
Creative confidence is left in tatters, perhaps never to be revived. Unless there is a practice we can use—and, if needed, cling to—that will resuscitate our creative confidence.
Creative Confidence Renewed
After I had my aha/duh moment with my pushups—i.e. that perhaps the root issue is not general upper body weakness, but rather that my right shoulder is actually injured or restricted in some way—I got curious.
Out came an anatomy book as a reference. Next I stood in front of a mirror in a tank top and yoga pants and moved my arms in all different directions. First the left arm in order to watch the left shoulder, which is not impeded in any way so that I could see how a healthy shoulder moves. Then I mirrored each move with my right arm.
In a few moves, I was able to pinpoint the problem: my right shoulder torques forward the moment I start to shift my hand behind my back. It's an internal rotation issue of some sort.
And it’s massively obvious—once I stopped to look. Once I stopped to see what before I had only been feeling. In fact, it refined my feeling of the situation. Where before I only felt the problem when I was actively pushing up against it, now I can actually feel how out of alignment my right shoulder is even in less taxing situations.
The clarity gained from refined seeing and feeling renewed my belief that perhaps I could achieve my goal of a solid pushup. And the powerful combination of seeing, feeling, and believing jumpstarted my faltering confidence that I could figure this out. And figuring I have done.
Since Thursday, I have booked a doctor’s appointment (to have a professional confirm my diagnosis); had a conversation with a physical therapist in my neighborhood; swan-dived into Youtube videos on shoulder mobility, impingement, and alignment; started a self-organized, at-home rehab program involving yin yoga, vinyasa yoga, and other strength and stability building movements; and have completely revamped where and how I am sitting when I work on the computer to support better positioning of my right shoulder as I type.
Doubt is gone. Confidence is back. I have a path forward, and I’m engaged and excited to carry on.
A New Model for Cultivating Creative Confidence
This whole shoulder situation crystallized thinking I have been doing around how we writers can cultivate creative confidence, leading to a new Goodjelly model.
(So along with a burst of energy around brainstorming a new path forward on my pushups, the confidence boost overflowed into creative output for my writing. Yay!)
There are three core propositions I make in this framework:
(1) Creative confidence is a practice not a state.
(2) Creative confidence requires that we: See, Feel, and Believe.
(3) If any of the variables are shaky, our confidence will falter.
See (The Looking At)
We must see our situations clearly in order to cultivate creative confidence. When we see where we are, we are able to devise a path forward that starts where we actually are, which is massively confidence boosting.
Sometimes to see clearly requires us to step back to see the bigger picture. Other times, we may have to step closer to see details that have eluded us—like me not seeing my right shoulder’s alignment/mobility issues.
Whether we are stepping back or zooming in, the key is observing, looking at the situation as objectively as possible. When we do so, we are able to see whatever it is we are looking at—a block, a creative relationship, our overall creative process, etc.—with newfound clarity.
Feel (The Sensing In)
Where the See aspect of creative confidence invites us to look at, Feel is about sensing in.
One of the key ways we writers get destabilized is that we stop listening to ourselves. We stop trusting ourselves. We over-listen to outside experts to such a degree that we silence our own needs and our own know-how. The result? Our creative confidence degrades because we have given away too much of our power.
Believe in the context of this model is about reveling in the process of being a writer. Achieving big goals will temporarily boost confidence, but the day-in-day out confidence that fuels our determination and staying power comes from believing in our day-to-day plans, processes, and habits.
Believe is also about resilience, refining our approach as needed by integrating all the insights that come our way, even those (and perhaps especially those) that come from the inevitable slings and arrows that cause us to stumble or lose our way.
The Cycle in Action
The interplay of these three variable is the secret sauce to creative confidence. When you Believe in your next steps, when you See those next steps clearly, and when you Feel good about those steps, creative confidence hums.
If your creative confidence falters, however, you can use these three variables to diagnose the situation and get yourself back on track.
If you are taking action but not getting the results you want, ask yourself:
Do I BELIEVE in (am I committed to) what I am doing?
Do I FEEL good about what I am doing?
Do I SEE this situation clearly?
If you are not doing something you want to be doing, ask yourself:
Do I BELIEVE in (am I committed to) what I want to do (but have not been doing)?
Do I FEEL good about what I want to do (but am not doing)?
Do I SEE this situation clearly?
Whatever answers that come will give you new insights on how to reclaim your creative confidence.
Momentary Return to the “Duh” Moment
I promised earlier that I would come back to the question of why did it take me so long to consider (i.e., see) that there was an actual issue with my shoulder?
The reality is we can never know all things at all times. Life, or writing, wouldn’t be much of an adventure if we could. Hindsight, of course, is twenty-twenty. It makes sense that we have a feeling of “Doh!” when those seemingly obvious insights arrive.
If we get caught up, however, in berating ourselves for not seeing something sooner, we deflate the forward momentum boost we get in the moment of seeing rather than harnessing it.
“Duh” moments, as a result, are prime opportunities for practicing grace and kindness and letting go. Feel the “Doh!” then dance right on into the next evolution of your creative becoming.
Does this Creative Confidence Cycle framework resonate with you? Does it give you ideas on how to resolve a block, or reframe a past “failure,” or perhaps just boost your confidence for continuing another day on your wild, wily and wonderful writing adventure?
See it. Feel it. Believe it. You’ve got this!