Dealing with doubt
This week I taught John Patrick Shanley’s 2008 play “Doubt”.
If you’re not familiar, Netflix is currently streaming the film adaptation staring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Meryl Streep. It’s a fast, suspenseful masterpiece that will leave you, well–doubting.
No surprise, with all the Doubt in my life this week–I found it difficult to write.
On Saturday evening I came to the blank page with good intentions. I was going to write to you. I was going to tell you about…about something.
When I couldn’t find the words I performed my “I can’t find the words” rituals:
I took a walk. I hopped in the car, drove around, ran some unnecessary errands and took the long way home. I retreated the my favorite books–The Alchemist, The Thing They Carried, Bird by Bird–read my favorite pages, pages that have been ripped, weathered, dog-eared and marked with inky underlines and marginal notes. Pages as comforting as the weathered voices of old, wise friends.
And yet there was nothing.
Was I out of words?
Out of meaningful things to talk to you about?
I’ve learned there are many moments in a writer’s life when they’re convinced they’ll never write again.
And in those hot, skittish moments they spiral and consider the worth and significance and value of everything they’ve ever written.
In short–we writers have doubt.
I woke up Sunday to the sun shining through the bedroom windows.
Cindy was already awake doing wash and I had the bed to myself. She was moving around in the laundry room below. Filling the washing machine. Closing the lid. Starting the cycle. The water flows.
I thought about doubt and how it rocked me to sleep the night before.
Maybe it was the sun, maybe the light blue sky but laying in bed I felt lighter. Surprisingly confident. I felt like I had something to tell you.
But what had changed from last night to this morning?
I heard her footsteps move from the laundry room to the kitchen, I heard my five year old whine he’s hungry and then I thought about how, as parents, we incessantly doubt our parenting abilities.
We read books and articles. We ask our parents for advice. We listen to our neighbors. But we don’t stop parenting. We can’t. Or the kids don’t eat.
What I know about parenting and writing, is that there doesn’t appear to be a moment when you feel totally secure. Totally confident in your ability. Like at any moment it could all go terribly wrong. So we’re always seeking advice. Always in need of confirmation.
Nothing changed between last night and this morning except I was more determined to write to you today then yesterday.
I don’t think we, all the adults in the room who pretend to know what we’re doing, hear this enough–we all have doubts.
We all share the belief that we can’t do it. We all privately question, “What’s the point?”
But I believe the we can find the point if we choose–despite our doubts–to continue to work.
When we allow ourselves to be controlled by our emotions– I can’t do this— we lose our awareness and strength. We become trapped, our vision fogged. Unable to see beyond our own limited perspective.
So–are your beliefs beliefs empowering you? Or are they paralyzing you?
I wrote to you today. I cooked dinner for my family today. I did my work. And I feel better now.
No matter your doubts, I encourage you to dig deeper then yesterday, keep your perspective, hold a positive belief, and just keep working.
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