The Truth about Doubt

Jun 18, 2012

“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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

 

35 Comments

  1. Micky Diaz

    Hey Michele! Thanks for this amazing post! I’m deeply humbled by this post as I have also had my moments of doubt in being able to fulfill the calling God has over my life. God has called me to be an Evangelist. It has always been my desire and prayer that I fulfill that calling at some capacity. Granted, I have been confronted with some very difficult issues related to my health and finances, but God’s grace continues to help me fight the good fight. The Scripture verse that comes to mind is in Matthew 22:16, “Many are called, but few are chosen”. I am one of the many who are called, but am looking forward to the day when I will be chosen for the task to share the love of Jesus Christ through any forum that God plants me in. Thanks again for the amazing post! May God continue to bless you and yours always!

    Reply
    • Michele

      Thanks for sharing your story, Micky! God is faithful, and He WILL complete the work he has started in your life (Philippians 1:6). Press on!

      Reply
  2. Wendy Brooks

    Well you could say that the Lord just reached over and yanked the cord connected to the lightbulb above my head (not literally but in the spirit, of course.) He knows just what to expose, and He knows just how to do so we get the hint. So this morning right after I finish talking to Him about this “thing” He has given me to do in life called “writing” – I happen to stumble over here to your blog to read this latest post. So if I ever needed confirmation that He was actually listening to my ramblings…..I certainly received it this morning. Thanks for sharing this. Continued blessings to you.

    Reply
    • Michele

      Ha! I love it when He does that! Beautiful evidence that He SEES YOU, Wendy! Keep writing. I know it’s often more difficult than it is easy, but you can do this.

      Reply
    • ndidi

      I like ur post and am interesteed in the thing He has given you to do. What are your writings about? Am also a writer, though not yet published and want to benefit from ur experience

      Reply
  3. Alizabeth Rasmussen

    Thank you for this post, Michele. It really resonates for me.

    When I write I have to constantly remind myself that just because it’s not easy it doesn’t mean I’m not good at it or that it’s not what I “should” be doing. Respecting the ebbs and flows of the creative process is an on-going challenge, knowing when to push through and when to walk away and give it a rest, being honest with myself about what I really need in any given moment.

    I agree that the doubt needs to be voiced, welcomed even. I’ve learned to see it as a part of myself that’s simply trying to protect me from the potential consequences of taking creative risks. And then I give it a new job to do. 🙂

    Write on!

    Reply
    • Michele

      Great point about the consequences of creative risk, Alizabeth. I knew this when I played the piano: Every time I sat down at the keyboard I risked playing a bad note (many of them!). But the more I played, the better it became. Now I need to remember this when writing!

      Reply
  4. Kristen

    Michele, Thank you for encouraging us to make known our doubts. I have been doubting, as of late, the blog I started several months ago. I wonder, “Is anyone reading? Is any of this moving people’s hearts? Am I even writing what God wants me to write?!” And then I grow discouraged. One thing that helps to overcome doubt is remember that it’s ultimately not FROM me that I write, nor is it FOR me. I have little control over who reads and how it impacts them. My call is to be faithful, to pursue, and to persevere where I sense my gifts lie. Thanks for this!

    Reply
    • Michele

      It’s so easy to doubt when it comes to blogging, isn’t it Kristen? We write all this content, agonize over each word, and then wonder if anyone will read it, if it will make a bit of difference. I love your perspective: Our job is to write, faithfully. Then we’re to trust The Faithful and True to do what He is much more capable of doing–change lives with it.

      Reply
  5. Pilar Arsenec

    I love this post. I totally relate as doubt is one of my struggles. Thank you so much for the encouragement. Blessings to you.

    Reply
    • Michele

      Pilar, I was just thinking about you this morning, what an encourager you are to so many. Do not doubt your contribution. It’s significant!

      Reply
  6. Jim Martin

    Michele, this is an outstanding post. Can I ever relate! I have gone through periods like this where doubt seems to hang over me like a dark gray cloud. You are right, it does grow in silence.

    I like your four points. In particular, I appreciate your reminder that a calling can be hard work and can take years to live out. A good reminder for me.

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Michele

      Jim, thank you for sharing your own struggle with doubt! This gives us all great encouragement. You have much to offer, and I’m grateful for your influence in this life!

      Reply
  7. Kimanzi Constable

    Even with some success in writing I still have doubt Michele. These are great words of encouragement because doubt keeps a lot of people from pursuing their passion!

    Reply
    • Michele

      Kimanzi, you make an excellent point. Doubt accompanies even success. The moment we savor accomplishment, we also start to doubt its validity–and whether or not we’ll be able to repeat it!

      Reply
  8. Keith Ferrin

    Beautiful. Your words. Beautiful. Your heart. Beautiful. The way you use your gift to serve others and honor the King. Beautiful. Your perseverance. Beautiful. You. Beautiful.

    The God who made you a writer rejoices over how you are using the gift He gave you today. Smile Michele. (God is.)

    Reply
    • Michele

      Thank you, Keith. How’d I’d get so lucky to have such a great big brother? Grateful.

      Reply
  9. Tammy Helfrich

    This is so good! Thanks for the great reminder.

    Reply
    • Michele

      Thanks for reading, Tammy. It’s a relief to know we’re not alone, isn’t it?

      Reply
  10. Cynthia Herron

    Michele, just jumped over from Mike Hyatt’s tweet. Loved your post!

    As creatives, transparency is often difficult. We want to be heard, yet we fear it, too. Peeling away that ol’ facade is sometimes scarier than a trip to the doctor’s office. Kudos to you for addressing the elephant in the room and meeting it head-on!

    Blessings!

    Reply
    • Michele

      Thank you, Cynthia. I’m glad you jumped over! Yes, we creative types live in a constant tension. We long to share our art, and yet feel painfully exposed when we do. I’m always vacillating between retreat and revelation. It’s my hamster wheel. 🙂

      Reply
  11. Angela Fletcher

    WOW! Thank YOU so much for this heaven-sent message! It was such a timely gift.

    Also, please thank your friend for the wise counsel… P-O-W-E-R-F-U-L!

    Reply
    • Michele

      Angela, YAY! I’m so glad this post came at the right time. Keep going!

      Reply
  12. Don McAllister

    I remember that tweet you sent out and absolutely love these thoughts here. “Wealth hides in the wrestling” = a phrase I will likely steal 🙂

    Reply
    • Michele

      Thank you for your encouragement, Don!

      Reply
  13. Jessie Bowdoin

    Making us “doubting debs” is the the devil’s dirty duty. So let’s all clean house & sweep the devil’s dirty duty out the door!
    Thank you for this timely reminder. I’m needing some bolstering up with my faith walk. And this sure did help.

    Reply
    • Michele

      Jessie, you sound like the friend who helped pull me out of the pit on Friday. I should put you on speed dial. 🙂

      Reply
  14. susan harms

    Thanks Michele for your words! I had not posted anything on my blog for 4 months because of fear. I wrote a post about a week ago and you today have prompted me to finally push the “publish” button.

    Reply
    • Michele

      Susan, I am cheering for you from here! Can hardly stay in my seat. You CAN do this writing thing. You CAN! Keep writing, and keep pushing publish, my friend. It’s worth it. And you’re worth it.

      Reply
  15. Karen

    Thank you for hanging your underwear on the clothesline and inviting us to do the same!
    You speak to the battle that many of us face on a daily basis and offer the hope that what is brought out of the darkness and into the light diminishes in its power.
    This is one I’ll return to from time to time to be reminded of the reality of the battle.
    I love what your friend said to you. It is my own mantra. Go back to the very place the desire was first kindled in me to speak/write/coach and remember where the desire came from. It’s from there we find the wonder of it all as a friend showed me last night, and gain the needed confidence to continue plotting the course forward.
    Again,
    Thank you for your transparency.

    Karen

    Reply
    • Michele

      Karen, it’s a great mantra! I’m so grateful for the friend who provided the reminder. And I have no doubt you do the same for those you coach/lead. Press on!

      Reply
  16. Christina Suzann Nelson

    “Anything worthy is going to be opposed.” Isn’t that the truth! Loved this post. We all need the reminder.

    Reply
    • Michele

      Yes we do … again and again and again. Thanks for sharing here, Christina. Grateful!

      Reply
  17. Ken Shaddox

    Michele:

    Thanks for your honesty. Great post. Helpful in many ways. As others have indicated….I’m glad you are doing what you are doing. Your writing and reach through your blog, speaking, and life are encouraging many for today and eternity. Blessings.

    Reply
    • Michele

      Thanks, Ken. I am, likewise, grateful for what you are doing at Park Hill. Your ministry makes a difference. Thank you!

      Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Don McAllister – Real Writers Wrestle - [...] understanding that wealth hides in the wrestling, as Michele Cushatt noted today in her excellent post, “The Truth about…
  2. The Balance Between Retreat and Revelation | Michele Cushatt - [...] not handled gently. I’ve birthed some of my best blog posts and articles in the heat of emotion. The…

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