I remember, as a kid, cracking open a fresh box of crayons. The rainbow of intense colours. The smooth, identically molded shapes. The smell, even! Whatever my fingers created with those flawless tools would be a masterpiece. I couldn’t wait to start.
And if there had been a smooth, empty white page to go along with my crayons? Yesss! Beginnings! Possibilities! Room to create! This was anticipation.
Later, crisp lined notebooks replaced the newsprint and shiny Bic pens took the place of crayons (not surprisingly, I was one of those kids who adored shopping for school supplies). Drawing became less of an interest as language took its place.
And later still, the tools changed again: an electronic box displaying a virtual blank page on a screen. No utensils were required, except for my fingers to tap on the keyboard.
Somewhere along the line, though, something happened.
Doubt arrived. Specifically, Doubt’s more egocentric twin: Self-Doubt.
It didn’t happen all at once. Self-Doubt creeps, after all. It took years for me to even realize that Self-Doubt was not only living with me, but it was also eating all my chocolate and hogging the couch.
It’s not all bad, though. I think Self-Doubt’s a normal and necessary companion – we need to question ourselves and reflect on our choices to be capable of any sort of improvement.
But left unchecked, Self-Doubt’s a real party-pooper. “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt,” wrote the poet, Sylvia Plath.
Sometimes it whispers, sometimes it shouts.
It wonders why you’re bothering to write/paint/play the piano at all. You’re not even doing it right. There are a million other people writing/painting/piano playing better than you. What are people going to think when they read/look at/listen to what you’ve cobbled together? You’re making an idiot out of yourself. You’re just not good enough.
And if you listen to this for long enough, the blank page/canvas/piano keys are no longer met with anticipation so much as with dread. What used to represent potential and possibility now looks a bit like the gaping, mocking, chocolate-smeared mouth of your constant companion, Self-Doubt. Then, eventually, you quit the idea of creating altogether and instead spend your time watching cat videos on YouTube.
So. What to do? I don’t really know. I’m still trying to figure it out. Step one is probably to stop watching cat videos. Step two might be the act of showing up. Every day.
Good night, then. I’ll be here tomorrow, crayons in hand.