In the second part of this series on artist’s confidence I’d like to paint a picture of what confidence looks like during each stage of the creative process.

Stage 1. Wishing

I’m conceptualizing ‘wishing’ as a kind of pre-contemplation stage where you haven’t really decided that you mean to create and haven’t really bought into the rigors of the creative process and are still wishing that creating could somehow be easier. You dabble at art-making, you don’t find your efforts very satisfying, you don’t feel that you go deep all that often, and so on. The confidence that you need to manifest during this stage of the process is the confidence that you are equal to the rigors of creating. If you don’t confidently accept the reality of process, the reality of difficulty, the reality of effort, and so on, and if you can’t say with confidence, “Yes, I agree to all that!”, you may never really get started.

Stage 2. Incubation/Contemplation

During this second stage of the process you need to be able to remain open to what wants to come rather than defensively settling on a first idea or an easy idea. The task is remaining open and not settling for something that relieves your anxiety and your discomfort. The confidence needed here is the confidence to stay open.

Stage 3. Choosing Your Next Subject

You can call this a stage or a moment but however you conceptualize it, choosing is a crucial part of the creative process. You have to actually decide what you are working on and then work on it with energy and intention. At some point you need the confidence to say, “I am ready to work on this.” You need the confidence to name a project clearly (even if that naming is “Now I go to the blank canvas without a pre-conceived idea and just start”), to commit to it, and to make sure that you aren’t leaking confidence even as you choose your next project.

Stage 4. Starting Your Work

When you start a new creative work you start with certain ideas for the work, certain hopes and enthusiasms, certain doubts and fears – that is, you start with an array of thoughts and feelings, some positive and some negative. The confidence you need at that moment is the confidence that you can weather all of that and the confidence to go into the unknown.

5. Working

Once you are actually working on your creative project, you enter into the long process of fits and starts, ups and downs, excellent moments and terrible moments – the gamut of human experiences that attach to real work. For this stage you need the confidence that you can deal with your own doubts and resistances and the confidence that you can handle whatever the work throws at you.

6. Completing

At some point you will be near completing the work. It is often hard to complete what we start because then we are obliged to appraise it, learn if it is good or bad, deal with the rigors of showing and selling, enter into the void of being without a new project, and so on. The confidence required during this stage is the confidence to weather the ideas of appraisal, criticism, rejection, disappointment and everything else that we fear will be coming our way once we announce that the work is done and the confidence to actually be finished.

7. Showing

If we are making work that we intend to send out into the world, then a time comes when we must show it. The confidence needed here is not only the confidence needed to weather the ideas of appraisal, criticism, rejection, and disappointment but the confidence needed to weather the reality of appraisal, criticism, rejection, and disappointment. Like so many other manifestations of confidence, the basic confidence here sounds like “Bring it on!” You are agreeing to let the world do its thing and announcing that you can survive any blows that the world delivers.

8. Selling

A confident seller can negotiate, think on her feet, make pitches and presentations, advocate for her work, explain why her work is wanted, and so on. You don’t have to be over-confident, exuberant, over the top – you simply need to get yourself to the place of being a calmly confident seller, someone who first makes a thing and then sells it in business-like fashion.

9. New Incubation and New Contemplation

While you are showing and selling your completed works you are also incubating and contemplating new projects and starting the process all over again. The confidence required here is the confident belief that you have more good ideas in you. Sometimes we feel as if the thing we just finished contained everything we had to say and that now we are creatively bereft and even doomed. You want to confidently assert that you have plenty more to say and plenty more to do – even if you don’t know what that “something” is quite yet.

10. Simultaneous and Shifting States and Stages

I’ve made the creative process sound neat and linear and often it is anything but. Often we are stalled on one thing, contemplating another thing, trying to sell a third thing, and so on. Much in our creative life goes on simultaneously and much in our creative life shifts from moment to moment. The confidence needed throughout the process is the quiet, confident belief that you can stay organized, successfully handle all of the thoughts and feelings going on inside of you, get your work done, and so on. This is a juggler’s confidence—it is you announcing, “You bet that I can keep all these balls in the air!”

Manifest confidence throughout the creative process. Failing to manifest confidence in any stage will stall the process.


Eric Maisel is the author of 50+ books. You can learn more about him at, subscribe to all of his blog posts at, and write him at

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