Everyone who does anything and has an ounce of modesty and other such human emotions fears judgment at one point. That fear grows exponentially with the quantity and type of judges. Dinner for you? Lean cuisine. Dinner for your roommate? Well, spaghetti’s not so hard. Dinner for your family at Thanksgiving? Uh-oh. Dinner for everyone in the world? *BANG*

That’s just how pressure is, and contrary to what cartoon characters eager to picture their peers nearly naked would have you believe, there is no easy way around it. And the funny (funny here meaning torturous) thing about it is that you can put it on yourself too. If you’re kind of okay at something you’ll probably be more eager to show that off, because why not? No one expects it out of you, so it looks comparatively good. Once you have enough of a reputation for being decent at something, though, what next? Does everyone expect you to duplicate the success? Do they expect it to be effortless? If they knew the process what would they think? Not everyone’s gonna like everything, what happens if one of them speaks up against you, and everyone agrees? Is everyone who does support you doing it out of politeness? Questions like this make making things intimidating, if not outright terrifying.

And the better you do get at something, the greater your own standards become. What are you doing right now, you ask yourself, looking back at your drawing or story or jetpack-powered flying carpet. That one thing you made three months ago was a masterpiece compared to this and you can never live up to it again. You may as well just torch this now and drink to your abilities’ memory. Why do other people still like the things you created and consider turds, you wonder. But imagine that literally. What if other people thought your actual turds, as in your digested, shat-out food, were treasure? They line up outside your bathroom door begging you not to flush, hoping for a glimpse of your next one? You’ll have outliers who recognize a turd when they see one, but if taking dumps is something you like to do and sometimes you take one that does sparkle a little, and it makes others happy, you may as well continue dump-taking.

Maybe it’s not even bad to think of it that way. I don’t make comics because I think I’m really really good at it. I do it because I think I’m at least a lot better at it than I was a year ago, and can’t stomach looking at comics I made two years ago at all. And two years ago I felt the same way. So two years from now how much better will I be if I don’t stop? Or four years if I can still be doing that? I’m 22 now, I started getting serious around 15, so if there’s no cap, I never stop drawing, and live to be 88, what will my last one look like? No, it’s not that simply doing will in and of itself generate progress. You can totally just stagnate and never change despite constant output–it’s input applied to output that turns into growth. Studying, watching others, critiquing others, looking at what you hate and determining how not to be the same way, input can come in any of several forms. But you won’t get better without some doing, too. So do.

And show other people that you did. If you get a “neat,” neat. If you get a scathing review, at least you were worth that. And it’s input, input you can use for growth. A scathing review is way more valuable than a thumbs-up because detailed negative feedback is like stepping on a rock while walking around barefoot. You don’t really want it to happen and it’s gonna hurt, but it teaches you something and you cover your soft, sensitive sole with a shoe next time. It’s not easy to do anything alone, especially to pinpoint your own weaknesses and eliminate them. What you’re most afraid of could be what helps you the most, if you face up to it.

It takes courage and belief in yourself in spades, and growth needs to be your ultimate focal point and entire reason for creating. If you can manage that, you’ll be fearless. And if you can be fearless for those reasons, then I believe in you too. And if I believe in you, you better get to it, because how dare you let me down.