Daily Archives: March 13, 2009

When in Doubt

Ever have days when you wonder what the heck you’re doing?

You answer someone’s question about writing, but at the same time wonder, "What makes me think my knowledge — such as it is — will be useful to this person?" After all, there are far better experts out there.

All I have to show for what I know is three little 100-word stories and an unpaid how-to article in a trade magazine . . . Oh, and a self-published novella. How could I forget that?

Lately I’ve been questioning every word I write, whether it be a blog entry, an email or post on a message board. As I type I keep thinking, "What if I’m not making myself clear? What if I misunderstood what the previous person said? Am I showing myself as a complete idiot?"

How audacious of me to think I have something worthwhile to share!

Perhaps I need to adhere to the advice made by Samuel Johnson: "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than open one’s mouth and remove all doubt."

Ah, self-doubt. Gotta love it.

It’s a constant fight, and one I’m tired of fighting.

Why do I, then? Wouldn’t it be easier to simply give up, or remain silent in any and all circumstances?

The answer is an unqualified "no."

I can’t claim expertise in much, including writing. I’m still learning and will continue to learn as long as my body draws breath. But to say I have nothing to add means I’ve wasted the 20-odd years I’ve spent practicing and studying the craft. Certainly I’ve learned a thing or two that others will find useful.

As for looking foolish by opening my mouth, that’s not so bad, either. It’s one more opportunity to gain new knowledge. If keep my ego reined in, that is.

At the same time, I shouldn’t always ignore my doubts. They have a purpose aside from relentless torment.

I’m a dreamer and tend to fly off toward a goal too quickly. Doubts make me pause, consider other possibilities and measure the consequences of my actions. They keep me grounded.

When I experience doubt, I need to ‘test the spirits’ and ask: Do they beat me down to the point of quitting, or encourage me to pause and research more before I continue to fly?