Am I Good Enough?

September 15, 2014 | By | 9 Replies More
Susan Baker Artist at Beach

Susan Baker, American artist and writer in her element at the beach.

Am I any good? Is this poem, piece, painting, any good?

It takes guts, major guts, to even expose oneself to this question. 

Do you realize how far you have come, how much work you have done, what courage it takes to open yourself to even your own judgment?

Most of us who are engaged at one level or another with any kind of artistic process have to grapple with this issue. Remember that even asking this question means you have already demonstrated some degree of willingness to step out there. You are brave.

Probably what we are really asking is – Where do I fall on the continuum of what is acceptable, admirable, valuable, publishable,  sellable, award-winning, genius?

And we are ALL disappointed and doubtful about our own performance. The greatest geniuses are plagued by their self-perceived failings, so why should you and I be any exception? You will never create without Doubt looming in the background, so ask yourself:

Does it matter whether or not I get into this Journal? (Yes, it matters, or I wouldn’t want to do it.)

To whom does it matter? (To Me.)

To which part of me does it matter? (hmmm…)

Separating the needs of the ego from the process is very important, and can empower you to do what you want and need to do with less stress.Your ego is important, and has a function, but it is a very hungry little thing, and it can never be satisfied. In fact, even trying to satisfy this ungrateful child is diverting your energy from the real task at hand.


Mermaid by Susan Baker

Everything you are producing is valuable. Eons, millennia, have conspired to create YOU, a portal of existence. What you see, what you hear, what you think, what you feel, is the cutting edge of  the Universe . This is simply a fact – I don’t need to read or see any of your stuff to tell you that. What you are doing has significance.  Let me repeat that: What you are doing has Significance. Period.

The road to artistic creativity and public recognition is steep for anyone. For women, and especially those over 50, it is very nearly vertical.  Every accomplishment, whether inner or outer, is important for us. Is it necessary to be a Genius? Is that truly the only standard of validity, or is that just egotism? (By the way, the fate of many Geniuses is not particularly desirable, and they too are usually plagued with a feeling of falling short.)

What holds us back..

The unholy trinity – Fear, Doubt, Ego. These three are always playing Rummy in the back of my mind, so I’ve learned to get used to them.  With any luck, they will each provide the guidance I need from them without running me into the ground.

Holding ourselves back because of fear of inadequacy is evolutionary. Fear is always a protective mechanism. Without it, we would almost instantly be dead and the human gene pool would not be here.   In fact, if not for fear, there could be no consciousness.

Don’t try to get rid of your fear. What you need to develop is the ability to step past it, to lead yourself onward like a careful trail horse.  Galloping ahead into unknown territory is dangerous…the speed with which you do so is your own. You decide how much risk you are capable of handling.

Doubt is a slightly different animal, though first cousin to fear.  Women are more prone to self-doubt than men are, in general. Nature imprints on women a certain ability to suborn our interests to those of others. We have this capacity in far greater measure than men do, and it is not simply a matter of social conditioning. Our grey matter is differently wired, and it is full of highways and byways that allow us to be acutely sensitive to the needs and judgments of others, (which is a strength.)  But we can also subconsciously pick up a message from someone or some situation that triggers our instinct to subordinate. This feeling is experienced as doubt, or self-doubt, or intimidation.

Doubt also results from an ancient question embedded deeply in the modern woman, who is the inheritor of generations of gender erasure and primal messages that she is the lesser of the sexes.    But doubt has its proper place, too. It’s the first step in our own critical inquiry.   Try to recognize the source of your doubt if it is plaguing you – it can be a stealthy and self-sabotaging guerilla.

Something Bubbles Up

Florida Intercoastal Waters by US artist Susan Baker x300

Florida Intercoastal Waters by American Painter Susan Baker

You know what I’m talking about. Something bubbles up, and we pursue it.  At a certain point, we hold it in our hand and look at it (figuratively, if not literally) and say, “Is this any good?” Just think – your starting point is the result of eons of evolution!  Your crappiest, dorkiest stuff is the accomplishment of millennia. If you are doing it, at all, it’s valid. Let me say that again:  If you are doing it, at all, it is valid.

If you have the  guts to launch it forward, somehow, it may find a further audience.  Set aside your fear, doubt, and ego, and get some feedback from a trusted source or two. Don’t worry so much about how you “measure up.”  Focus more on your audience, – Who are they, and where are they?

It’s kind of like skipping a rock across a lake. You throw it. Sometimes it just plunks in. (Was it the rock, or the throw, that went wrong?) Other times I fling it out there and it bounces, one, two, three, four, five times!!

Find the rock.   Throw. Repeat as needed.

Susan Baker is a North Carolina and Florida (USA) based painter and sculptor who also writes poetry and prose. She was a concert musician before beginning her visual arts. Susan’s main interests lie in the imaginal realm of mythology, “deep nature” and spirituality.

Susan’s “Mermaid” painting is in the Grief Issue of When Women Waken.

Visit Susan’s website at Follow her here: @SusanBakerArt on Twitter, and Susan Baker Artist Page on Facebook




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Category: Contemporary Women Writers, On Writing, US American Women Writers

Comments (9)

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  1. Mary Jabens says:

    Hello from Cedar City, UT! You were right, this is a great article and does explain mine and many others struggles when subjecting ourselves to outside (and internal) acceptance!! Thank you and hope your trip was wonderful!!

  2. Thank you. Creating anything is a lonely process, and it’s easy to become self-absorbed to the point of self-doubt. A great piece like this shows we all have similar concerns. I love your landscape too, btw.

  3. Sharon Maas says:

    Thanks for a great article. I can certainly identify — though I have loved writing since childhood, I didn’t even think about getting serious about it until my late forties! The reason was fear; lack of confidence. I didn’t think I was capable of writing a whole novel — even though I was constantly making up stories in my head. What helped me the most was Dorothea Brande’s brilliant book, Becoming a Writer, the basis of which is Just Do It. And I did it! My first novel was published in 1999 by HarperCollins. I was 49 at the time.

  4. What a beautiful, nourishing message. I just celebrated my 49th birthday and have spent the last six months shouting at my inner critic to leave me alone. I don’t have time to be embarrassed by my failures. Your message is one of empowerment. My desire to write the perfect story (ego) prevented me from writing at all. Your reminder – we are all portals of existence – will be a touchstone going forward. A great post-it for my desk where I will strive to put my imperfect words on paper in my own imperfect way. Thank you.

  5. Kelly Martin says:

    Hi Susan, loved your post. I can totally agree with everything you have said, a very soothing and nurturing article for the doubting writer (or any creative).

    Interesting you mention a horse too, I had a dream recently where I was on top of a hill and all around was a sea of horses, they all looked the same, standing still, brown horses – with the exception of one. The exception was a grey/white horse and it was playful and cheeky. I felt I was being guided to come out of my comfort zone, but there was not a need for a huge leap, but to test the waters and enjoy baby steps, and I did.

    Fear can traumatise and stunt our personal growth, but it also has its benefits in that fear can act as stop sign when we are on the wrong track and keeps us on track too.

    For me I decided to join a laughter yoga class, that was me being the white horse and walking past the fear lol!

    “If you are doing it, at all, it is valid.” yes I need this reminder, thank you!

  6. I couldn’t agree more re: at least acknowledging the doubt/uncertainty/fear that go hand-in-hand with the artistic process and I think you’re absolutely right re: women being a little more prone to self-doubt. No small irony to be reading your piece just days after coming across this wonderful quote from Basho:

    “In this poor body, composed of one hundred bones and nine openings, is something called spirit, a flimsy curtain swept this way and that by the slightest breeze. It is spirit, such as it is, which led me to poetry, at first little more than a pastime, then the full business of my life. There have been times when my spirit, so dejected, almost gave up the quest, other times when it was proud, triumphant. So it has been from the very start, never finding peace with itself, always doubting the worth of what it makes.”

  7. sue baker says:

    Welcome to my world! Ha hahahahah. Thanks for your feedback, because of course Doubt is on duty today in my head, too, as usual!

    Just keep going!

  8. OH, thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this…I go from “Hey my book is coming along great and just about everyone will want to read it” to “it’s junk and who the heck did I think I was to try and write a book when I’ve never written one before” in about 5 minutes. Repeated hourly. I needed a pep talk! Back to revisions…

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