The Crushing Weight of Self Doubt, or How I’m Learning to Make Peace With Myself

In the absence of a better picture, here is a photo of my draft of this post.

I used to pride myself on being able to work under and conditions and power through creative blocks. In fact, I even wrote about it here. A few years ago, I wrote every day and practised my music regularly, whether I felt happy and energetic or tired and lethargic. I thought I’d always be able to muster up inspiration when I needed to and barring that, be able to fake it until I could. I was sure I’d gotten to a point where I could always create, no matter what. Until I couldn’t…

I can’t pinpoint exactly when it started, but I think it was around the time when H, my fiancé, moved away to study in a different city. We’d been living together for over a year before that, and my habits in terms of writing and practising music were built up around our home life together. When he left, I found myself with more time to myself (a lot more), but also less somehow. My mornings and evenings were quiet, but I spent at least an hour a day chatting with him on Skype or waiting for our chats. In the space between, my life completely lacked any semblance of structure and I became lonely. I found myself filling the void with Facebook, which progressively sucked up more and more of my time and energy until I had barely anything left.

My life and habits became centred on biweekly visits, holidays, and social events in between. as much as I enjoyed these, living this way sort of made it hard to build up a routine of creative work. I’d start practising every day or making a habit of writing before bed and then *bam* something would happen to interrupt it, whether it was Christmas holidays, a bout of exhaustion triggered by depression, or a bad cold. I started doubting my abilities to create and even second-guessed my talent, and after a while, the ideas stopped coming. This combined lack of motivation, confidence, and inspiration slowly took its toll. I stopped actively looking for new opportunities, and as my existing work slowed down, so did my income. The managerial work surrounding creative work is just as important as the creative part itself, and I wasn’t doing any of that. Instead, I subconsciously told myself that no one would want to publish my work, and certainly no one would want me to play a show in their establishment. Now, I’ve always struggled with mustering up the confidence to follow my dreams and goals, but there was a time when I could see myself achieving something, and I took steps to get there, even if they were wobbly first steps.

I wish I could say that I got through this by mustering up some will and courage and by believing in myself, but that’s just not how these things work. I’ve gotten through the depressive episode (which was work in itself), but I still doubt myself at every turn (I even second-guessed posting this on my own blog). Getting into the habit of daily practice has been another battle, because it’s hard to find a routine in a complete absence of structure. In a lot of ways, I feel like I’m starting from scratch, but then I have to remind myself that it’s not so bad – I’ve still kept up my skills and technique over the past three and a half years. If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself to get out and socialise more in person instead of wasting time on Facebook, to set firm schedules and goals, and – for the love of all that is holy – to not let the things that I love slip away. But since time travel isn’t a thing (yet), I’ll just have to move forward.

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