Do you ever feel lonely on your creative journey? — Helen Redfern (2023)

When I was a new mother I thought it was just me who felt like she couldn’t cope. I’d look around me at baby weigh in clinic on a Tuesday lunchtime and see how ‘together’ all the other new mums appeared.

I’d look at them and then look at myself and felt like a disaster. I felt that I was a rubbish mother and was failing my son in a huge way. I didn’t feel organised, I was constantly tired, had limited energy, had yet to recover from the birth and seriously was not enjoying this moment in my life. What the hell had I done?

Nearly eighteen years later, after many conversations and much research into the subject for my novel, I now know not to judge people, especially new mums, by appearances. I have no way of knowing what was going on in the head of the young mother looking immaculate in white jeans and a white vest top. She might have looked like she was together and winning at this new mum life - but inside her head she could’ve been just as lonely and terrified as me.

I thought it was just me.

It’s the same with my writing and creativity. For a long time I thought it was just me who would procrastinate. I thought I was untalented; I berated myself for being lazy and undeserving. I didn’t realise I was procrastinating due to fears. I had no way of knowing - I didn’t talk about these feelings with anyone else.

I would compare myself to other creatives and follow their goals and creative path. If someone I knew got a book deal or created something amazing I would have to back away because I used their positive experience and good news as a way to put myself down. It was a reminder that I was a failure.

I’d see other creatives being incredibly productive: announcing a new ebook, a new course, sharing beautiful photography or rapidly growing on a social media platform. They made it look so incredibly easy - so I thought (and this is no way me blaming them - this was my issue) - and it just wasn’t easy for me. Therefore it must be me that’s talentless, a failure, just not good enough. I was busy but unproductive. I was flitting from one task to the next and not seeing anything through to completion. I was unfulfilled. Unhappy. And my confidence - both creative confidence and general life confidence - was at rock bottom.

But, again, time is a great teacher. I’ve discovered over the past few years that it’s not just me who feels this way. When I sent out a questionnaire about confidence and creativity just over a year ago to my audience on Instagram I was shocked that most respondents felt the same as me.

In this questionnaire (which was answered by around 80 people, including some published writers) I asked if the respondents lacked confidence around their creativity. Only 9.4% said no. Which meant a whopping 90.6% felt they did lack confidence.

  • 67% admitted they hide their creativity from their friends and family

  • 100% admitted to procrastinating rather than tackling a creative project

  • 86% admitted to self sabotage when they come close to finishing a creative project

  • 97% believe their creative ambitions might have been met by now if they weren’t so unconfident

  • 91% gave themselves a hard time by comparing themselves unfavourably against those who seem to be following their creative ambitions

Yet we feel it’s just us. And that last statistic - 91% of us give ourselves a hard time because we’re comparing ourselves to others and their creative productivity. Well, this is incredible.

Because if the majority of us feel like this but aren’t talking about it…well, it’s a lonely place to be in, don’t you think?

Writing and creating are joyful activities. But a large part of it involves talking ourselves down from an unconfident ledge. Fears and negativity snowballing inside our heads. It takes energy to talk ourselves out of these feelings and sometimes we don’t have enough to do so.

We think it’s just us.

For me this is when I feel isolated. Like no-one understands. That I would be laughed at for mentioning these feelings or told I was ungrateful or that I don’t know how lucky I am.

I think that “no-one understands this lonely feeling I have”. But the truth is, yes, people do. There are many of us out there who feel like this. You are not alone.

For me this is one of the main reasons why I came back to Instagram when I took six months away from it. Yes, there were many benefits to being off the app and I gained so much from not being on there. But, in the long-term, I was lonely. It’s no coincidence that since I’ve come back to the app I’ve focused on growing a community rather than growing my account. This has led to my Confident Creative Club and being more honest with my lack of confidence and my fears.

I now want to talk even more about this. Hopefully I’ll do workshops and Instagram Lives on the subject. Maybe I’ll interview other creatives, too. Because I don’t want us to give up on our creative dreams because we think it’s just us.

Since I’ve realised it’s not just me something shifted in my head. Knowing there was a community out there who felt the same, who understood, who could see themselves in my words has inspired me and motivated me. I feel I’ve taken off some of the shackles that were weighing me down and stopping me from making progress. I feel more productive. I feel more fulfilled.

They say it takes a village raise a child. Well, perhaps it takes a village to get your creativity out there into the world. There’s a lot of joy and inspiration in a community of like-minded creatives.

I love this quote by Leo McGarry:

This guy's walking down a street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep, he can't get out. A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up, "Hey you, can you help me out?" The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along, and the guy shouts up "Father, I'm down in this hole, can you help me out?" The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. "Hey Joe, it's me, can you help me out?" And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, "Are you stupid? Now we're both down here." The friend says, "Yeah, but I've been down here before, and I know the way out."

- Leo McGarry in The West Wing

Just change the word ‘friend’ for community and that sums everything up that I wanted to say.

You’re not alone. And if you feel you are - don’t worry - other people have been there before and know how it feels and how to break free.


If you enjoyed this post:

If you feel really unconfident when it comes to your writing or creativity I have a Membership club called The Confident Creative Club. This is a gentle, friendly group where we analyse and work on our creative mindset blocks in conjunction with taking action on our projects. This won’t just be a place to learn but to push forward with our creative goals and make real progress.

I write about journaling and how it can help reach your creative goals in my recently published workbook, called Journaling Your Goals. It can help you find your creative purpose and to become more productive, more motivated and less scared. To find out more and to order then click here.

I also write tiny essays in my newsletter which I send out about twice a month.

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