Doubt punches me in the gut. Where’s Faith? Faith usually slips between Doubt and my gut, defends me, protects me, envelopes me in Hope. Religion is not the only arena where Doubt and Faith battle. Artists know this all too well. As a writer, I struggle often with Doubt, calling on Faith to boost my confidence and resolve. It doesn’t help when other people don’t take your creative expression seriously. Then Doubt whispers, “Am I a writer? Is my writing good enough for others to read? Is my writing publishable? Who’d be interested in what I have to say?”
Benjamin Moser captured this battle well in his Bookends essay from January 27, 2015 in the New York Times, “Is Being a Writer a Job or a Calling?” He talks about the type of writer he wanted to be, a member of a “priestly caste,” a writer “whose view of literature as a means of understanding the self and the world offered a noble possibility for my life.” I confess to having the same view of literature with a subtle difference perhaps: I consider writing a part of my learning and growth in this physical life, my way to explore, investigate, research, and learn about the human condition. I write first and foremost for myself, then an “ideal reader,” and then the rest of the world. And yet, when Doubt strikes, it is the rest of the world that I’m most concerned about.
Hobbyists don’t have this problem. And there was a time, years ago, when I actually decided to abandon writing completely and do something else. As I recall, that lasted about six months before my anger and peevishness annoyed my friends enough and they suggested that I return to being a writer. It was astonishing how not writing affected me physically, too. I became depressed, lethargic, acquiring a general malaise and wondering if I had cancer or something else terminal. No, hobbyists don’t have this problem. They write for fun and occasionally, not being driven by the creative fire inside, not needing to write as one needs to breathe.
When I returned to writing, I decided to approach it as a job, more for the benefit of the rest of the world than for myself. I structured my work day as I would a job, giving myself plenty of time for actual writing at my desk in the mornings, then taking care of research and the business of writing in the afternoons. But I was really writing all the time in my head. Ideas flowed out of my imagination, teasing me with their potential. I finally woke up to the fact that reading everyday and voraciously was a part of a writer’s job description, as well as leaving the desk to experience everything life has to offer. Without life experiences, writers have no raw material from which to write stories.
I’ve written before about writing as a vocation or avocation, and even created a job description for a creative writer. I’ve not written about the battle between Doubt and Faith. As I gear up for a couple of promotions for Perceval’s Secret and my blogs this summer, Doubt has come out swinging, pushed by fear. Would anyone really be interested in what I have to say as a creative writer? Faith confronts Doubt: “You are a unique individual. No one else thinks as you do. What you have to say is unique to you, and you have a unique way of expressing it. So yes, people will listen.” Moser supports this view: “The sense of inner purpose, so often unmentionable in a society enamored of professionalization, distinguishes a writer from a hack.” That inner purpose is Faith.
It’s actually helped to write this morning about Doubt and Faith duking it out over my writing. The act of writing supports Faith and my inner purpose, making Doubt look silly. And what do you do to reinforce your inner purpose so Faith can overcome Doubt?