No Doubt


There is absolutely no place for doubt when I write, but doubt I have. When I was a younger writer I frequently found myself writing along quite happily, following the path of the story, listening to my characters, and seeing the world they inhabited as if watching a movie in my mind. But from time to time the path became unclear and the screen went dark and the characters stopped talking. Sometimes this pause in the narrative flow would be brief, and after a moment of listening and thinking the characters would starting talking and the screen would flash to life.   

But other times the pause would go on longer and longer, and that’s when I’d begin to doubt. I’d worry that there simply was no way forward, that I’d found a broken story, or that I didn’t have the skill to write what needed writing. And sometimes, if it went on long enough, I’d worry that everything that had seemed so real and interesting to me a moment ago was only an illusion, that in fact the whole dream of being a writer was an illusion, a fantasy my ego had whipped up to help me feel important.

I am happy to report that after years and years of practice I have learned that when my story’s narrative flow comes to a stop, if I wait long enough, and patiently enough, and enthusiastically enough, I will find the way forward. Sometimes I find the way forward in a minute, and sometimes in an hour, but I always find the way. Always, that is, as long as I don’t doubt I can.

Certainty is not the same as knowing the way. My page is just as blank and the path is just as obscured now as it was when I was a younger writer. I have not found some crystal ball into the future. The only difference between my experienced self and my inexperienced self is the absence of doubt. The moment I doubt there is a way forward is the moment I have stopped looking for the way forward, and so I can’t find it, and so my fear is realized.

So there’s simply no place for doubt in writing. Doubt is the opposite of writing. But there’s plenty of room for not knowing the way forward. I don’t think I’d really enjoy writing if I always knew the way forward. Finding it, discovering it, is much of the fun. It reminds me that knowing has nothing to do with the future, but everything to do with the present – where the path is, where the page is, and where I am.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.

William KenowerComment