I haven't posted here in a while. I suppose that's because I haven't written in a while. And why is that? The dreaded block back? No, not at all. Actually, I'm full of ideas. They're rattling round my head on a permanent spin cycle, waiting to be verbalised. It's more the fear.
You know the fear I speak of. The one that plagues all creatives.
Fear that you're not good enough. Fear that your talents have left you. Fear that you can't do it anymore. So why bother at all? Doubt, to be more precise. Self-doubt. Sylvia Plath was right when she said that 'the worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.' It is. It is crippling, debilitating.
It's different from block. Block is more the outward manifestation of a deeper root cause, a malignant source of all stop-and-stutter verbal hesitation.
All writers experience the fear, the doubt. Even though some might come across as utterly confident - even to the point of arrogant. You wouldn't ever suspect that they too were hounded and haunted by self-doubt, but they are.
The closest career to writers I can think of are trapeze artists (yes, trapeze artists). Of course, you need confidence to pull off those moves, to swing in sky so triumphantly. One ounce of doubt would bring you down. (Like Peter Pan and flying). And when it happens, when you fall, your bones may hold up, but your faith breaks a little. And it's hard to swallow it down and get back up again. Also as a trapeze artist, you must depend upon your partner to catch you, as in writing, a writer depends upon their inspiration, that second gravity-defying dimension that is not always tangible.
I don't know why we doubt but I suspect it is because we work in the realm of creative swells and trickles. Good writing, great writing is never a constant process. For every good sentence produced, there were probably about ten flaky ones that scaffolded it. All our words are not gold. Some are flint. Some are copper. Some are lead. We have to work at it to get it good. We have to work with a heavy hand to make it seem feather-light. Some days, words will flow easily, graciously. We will feel like we are gliding on the crest of a wave. Everything is glittering. It is so easy to surf this wave of writing. But then other days, it's hard. We can't catch a wave. The ocean is flat and will not rise to our bidding. We splash around a while before calling it a day. It's all highs and lows, ebbs and flows, waheying and worrying. And it's in between these extremes that doubt sneaks in. We begin to doubt our own abilities on the flat days and wonder how we will ever get so high again, and with that, we're soon in the dark territory of fear. We begin to fear the process, fear the taunting of the blank page, the many words that will bleed and die there. We begin to fear that our dream was a delusion all along. So that's where I've been this past while. And instead of hiding from it any longer I thought, hell, I'll write about it, I'll take the first steps out of the shadows. I know doubt is a part of the creative process, but I didn't know it could be so overpowering at times. What is it that Pi says in Life of Pi when his faith is faltering? -
“I must say a word about fear. It is life's only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always ... so you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don't, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further ttacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.”
So here I am shining the light of words upon it. And maybe it's opening up the darkness just a bit.And a last word on it from Pi, Yann Martel's fictional embodiment of all our human emotions - “If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.”Yep. That's it. Doubt will get you nowhere. We must get over it and move on. Move on. Write on. Besides, it is just a mark of a true artist: ~ Siobhán