Follow Your Doubt
I set off tonight to complete a monumental amount of work on my book. I had my own ticker tape parade all planned out. I was going to sit down and crank out page after page and it was going to be marvelous. When I looked up and needed a break .. I’d completed 17 lines.
And, in short, I was afraid. Who do I think I am to commit myself to this project? My taste knows what it ought to be when it’s finally done, realized as a whole. But some nights I finish my work (the real work that I do) and I see futility and wasted opportunity. Tim Clark over at Soul Shelter describes it pretty aptly:
Initially inspired, you started out with jaunty step — but now after cresting a few summits you stand and behold innumerable other summits ahead, just as big or bigger than the ones you’ve already struggled to overcome. An icy wind burns at your face, and attainment of your ideal vision seems to recede before you. Reviewing your work so far, you can’t help feeling that the bright thing you meant to create has actually emerged a bit pale. You wonder if you can see your task through to its end, or if you ought to even try.
In that same post, Tim goes on to resolve this doubt as your judgy mind’s way of discerning your good output from your bad output. You look up from your progress and it’s doubt that lets you know the good stuff is still churning inside you, waiting to be tapped. So I’ve got that going for me.
Also, I’ve got a little Buddha on my desktop that tells me one of these days I’m going to finish editing this monster, mail it off to some guy in khakis, and start getting nervous about what the next project is going to be. So I should just acknowledge that 17 lines got written and say “That’s how many lines needed to get written this evening. See you again soon, giant project.”
So yeah, I wrote 17 lines of poetry today and had a good time doing it. I doubt I’ll ever finish this thing the way I want to, and yet that’s how I know it’s going to be perfect when it’s finished.