How I Overcame Creative Self-Doubt

In January 2015, based on an idea I got from my career coach at the time, I decided that writing a book would be my big scary goal for the year.

I actually thought I could finish writing and publishing my first book in one year.


It turns out that I was too optimistic and under-prepared.

Aside from a few blog posts, I don’t have any experience with formal writing.

Of course, I write at work, but authoring a book is a different beast.

It’s a massive project, especially for anyone who has never considered himself a writer.

I heard one of my favorite authors, Kary Oberbrunner, say that 82 percent of people who want to write a book either never start – or never finish.

Few start, and even fewer finish.

Why is that?

I think Thomas Edison had one possible explanation when he said:

“Genius is one percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration.”

I’ve learned that writing a book is NOT about how smart you are or how much you know.

It’s about doing one thing: sitting your butt down and WRITING.

That’s the perspiration part.

I’m not saying writing a book is easy, but the difficulty is not where I was expecting.

One of the areas where I messed up was during the preparation phase.

I wasn’t prepared enough when I started, which is one reason I’m so behind schedule.

But my biggest battle has been against self-doubt every step of the way.

And I’m not alone.

I suspect this is where the majority of us (82 percent of us) get stuck.

How I Overcame Self-Doubt To Unleash My Creativity

Steven Pressfield describes this very real mental blocker as the “resistance,” a universal force whose only mission is to stop people from creating stuff that matters.

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Even after a year of writing, I’m still hit with the occasional quiet visit from Mr. Resistance, whispering stuff like:

  • Who do you think you are?
  • Your book is going to fail.
  • Please don’t talk about your book to minimize your embarrassment when it flops.
  • You don’t know what you’re doing. 

In his book, The War of Art, Pressfield provides the best advice and mentoring to aspiring writers and creatives I’ve read.

These are three of my favorite quotes:

  1. “Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore, the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.”
  2. “If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), ‘Am I really a writer? Am I an artist?’ chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.” 
  3. “Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” 

The most powerful thing I’ve learned from Pressfield (and through my own writing experience) is that fear and self-doubt are normal for ALL creatives and can be overcome with daily persistent action: perspiration.

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Take action against self doubt

The remedy, at least for me, is to do it scared.

I’d rather fight in the ring of life than sit safely in the stands.

The world has enough critics and consumers.

We need MORE creators.

Share your takeaway in the comments and pass this article along to your friends who need encouragement in their own journey.

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