Shaun Tan: ‘Self-doubt, I think many creators would agree, is hard to overcome'

Artist, writer and filmmaker Shaun Tan shares a couple of thoughts on self-doubt, and its place in a writer's work.

Photo of Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan

Self-doubt, I think many creators would agree, is hard to overcome. All I can say is that you look to the work of others, and to your own past successes – even if they may be few and far between – and find ways to carry on and rekindle enthusiasm. Also: knowing that any good work necessarily includes an element of critical self-doubt. You get used to it!

It does help, maybe, if other professionals at least let you know that self-doubt is quite normal and not a sign of failure at all. That’s also an area where mentoring or editorial advice can be most important, getting through those dark passages towards some kind of light.

The path between finding your feet and getting published varies a lot for different writers (mine felt quite slow and convoluted, which might be how it mostly is). What they all have in common is persistence and studied improvement. And just trying lots of different things and seeing what works, trying to grow as a creator.