“Doubt is to the writer what water is to fire. I’m fighting it today.”
I posted this Friday, on Twitter and Facebook. A rather vulnerable and public exposure, and one I immediately wanted to retrieve.
But I left it hanging out there, like underwear on the clothesline, for one reason.
Doubt grows in silence.
Voice it, and doubt loses its sting. Admit it, and doubt shrinks in size. Doubt is the monster in the closet that disappears when someone turns the bedroom light on. It hovers and stalks in the closed, recessed places where we question our callings and wonder if we have what it takes. Flip the switch? Doubt becomes conquerable.
For over a year I’ve shied away from writing. In part, life circumstances required a reorienting of time and energy. But I’m discovering doubt lurked on the edges of that decision, too. With resources stretched thin, I had no energy to fight the doubt battle. Thus, I retreated from writing and the monster in the closet.
Until recently, when a story started burning a hole in my soul. When I couldn’t not write.
Almost the moment I opened a new Word doc, doubt pounced. Vindictive, manipulative, intense. All the familiar questions hounded me: Am I good enough? Do I have anything to say? Will anyone read this? Is what I’ve written crap?
I was quite certain it was crap.
I kept writing anyway. But first, I pulled out my iPhone and admitted the truth publicly. Because the monster needed to know I saw him lurking, and I wasn’t going to take it.
I know you’re there. But, I’m not backing down. I’m still writing.
If you’re a writer (or artist, or parent, or person), doubt will torment your greatest callings. It will hover on the edges of that thing you must do, can’t not do, taunting and intimidating. This is normal, expected. But you don’t have to let it force you into retreat. When doubt stalks, flip the switch and let Truth push it back into the closet:
- Anything worthy is going to be opposed. Great accomplishments didn’t achieve greatness because they were easy. They earned the title because of their difficulty and the determination required. If you want greatness, prepare for opposition. And don’t be surprised if your greatest foe is yourself.
- Doing something well takes years, not weeks. Doubt likes to use the slowness of something to undermine its merit. But just because something takes time doesn’t mean it lacks value. Take parenting, for example. Or marriage. Or building a house. Or writing.
- A calling doesn’t cease to be a calling just because it’s difficult. As I wrestled with Friday’s doubt, a friend sat across a table from me. This is what she said: “Go back to the moment when you were absolutely sure this story must be written, when you had no doubt this was what you were to do. Can you picture it? Those feelings can be trusted, not these crazy doubt-filled ones.” She’s right. And the same goes for you. Hang on to that moment so you can weather this one.
- The process is as rich as the reward. Wealth hides in the wrestling. There are lessons to be learned, character to be gained. Don’t wish this moment away, even with its ugly doubt. Study, learn, become comfortable with being corrected and challenged. Lean into it, don’t shy away from it. And face your doubt head on.
Admit the doubt. Remember the calling. Weather the process. And keep writing.
Where is doubt lurking in your life? Flip the switch and share it with us.