Andi Cumbo - Writer, Editor, Online Writing Courses, Classes & Lessons

Put Doubt in the Corner and Write

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I think what good psychotherapy does is help to bring you into wild mind, for you learn to be comfortable there, rather than constantly grabbing a tidbit from wild mind and shoving it into the conscious mind, thereby trying to get control of it. This is what Zen, too, asks you to do: to sit down in the middle of your wild mind. This is all about loss of control. This is what falling in love is, too: a loss of control.

Can you do this? Lose control and let wild mind take over? It is the best way to write. To live, too. – Natalie Goldberg in Wild Mind

When he was selected to lead the Montgomery Improvement Association into the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Dr. King had doubts.  As Clayborne Carson describes, “King would later admit that his unanticipated call to leadership “happened so quickly that I did not have time to think it through. It is probable that if I had, I would have declined the nomination.”

Today, as President Obama is inaugurated again, he must have doubts – does he want to take on this much responsibility again? Does he want to bear the brunt of hatred and the burden of expectation again?  Is he able to do what this position expects him to do? He has chosen to do so, but he must have doubts.

Every person doing anything worthwhile has self-doubt.  If we are teaching our first class of third graders or installing our first heating system. If we are owning our first pet or writing our first book. Doubt is real and always present if what we are doing takes risk.

It’s only the truly easy and, thus, nearly worthless stuff that doesn’t include doubt.  Like sweeping the floor or watching TV.

But in time, if we continue on our path, if we teach six weeks of third grade, if we install ten heating systems, if we live with our new pet for a few nights, if we write as much as we can, we find that the doubt has – as my friend Jennifer Luitweiler describes – has taken to the corner.  The more we practice what we do and ignore the doubt, the quieter doubt gets. 

Of course, though, doubt never goes away. Sometimes we feed it by comparing our work to the work other people have been given to do, by overthinking and not losing control, by even calling forth that doubt as an excuse to not do our work.

Sometimes, when we are feeling particularly weak or tired or when we are on the verge of doing something really important, we coax that doubt back out of the corner. We call him forward and even give him a little snack . . . because sometimes it’s easier to doubt than to do. 

So today, tell that doubt to back the f*&^ up and get to the corner. Push the doubt back every day and do what you need to do. If you ignore it, it gets quieter, but if you feed it, it comes back strong.  Acknowledge it, accept it, but do the work anyway.  Doubt is about safety and complacency. Save it for when you are watching TV and doubt that use of your time.

When does doubt crop up for you? How do you battle it? 

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Author: Andi

I am a writer, editor, and writing teacher whose most recent book, The Slaves Have Names, tells the story of the people who were enslaved on the plantation where I was raised. When I'm not working, my husband and I are working to make our small farm - God's Whisper Farm - a retreat here at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

  • http://felicemifa.wordpress.com Margaret @ Felice Mi Fa

    This makes me long for when I was young and stupid, when all I knew was that I was talented and energetic and I was too brash and foolish to be doubtful or nervous.
    Margaret @ Felice Mi Fa recently posted…Having a dreamMy Profile

  • http://bookjourney.wordpress.com/ Sheila (Book Journey)

    In my writing… doubt is easy to let in. When I talk with author friends and hear the statistics on getting a book published. It is discouraging and no matter how good I feel about what I wrote or how great my friends are with the reading of my writing..I still think how do I go up against the hundreds of thousand others out there also trying to do the exact same thing.

    What do I do about it? I immerse myself into more research and it drives my fever to write well.
    Sheila (Book Journey) recently posted…It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?My Profile

  • http://KatieAxelson.com Katie Axelson

    My pastor’s sermon yesterday was about enemies and how to respond to them. At first I listened but didn’t really think of ways to apply it in my life until the worship leader pointed out that he is his own worst enemy. The sermon had a whole new meaning when I applied it to how I speak to and about myself.
    Katie Axelson recently posted…Traveling Internationally with a PoliticianMy Profile

  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com LarryTheDeuce

    I wear a veneer of confidence, but doubt likes to ride on my left shoulder and whisper in my ear that I am simply not good enough.
    LarryTheDeuce recently posted…I Have A DreamMy Profile

  • http://lauramchaleholland.com Laura McHale Holland

    To be reminded that doubt is something many of us have to contend with is reassuring. I tend to assume everyone is more together than I am, with less negative self-talk to overcome. To know that many others are maybe daily, maybe hourly, sweeping that doubt aside so they can do what they really want to do empowers me a bit.
    Laura McHale Holland recently posted…Telling stories from The Ice Cream Vendor’s SongMy Profile