Am I? . . . Are you?
If you’re like me, you have probably asked yourself the golden question: “Am I a writer?”
If you’re human, you’ve had doubts. You’ve wondered, Are you really a writer? Are you really worthy of the art? Do you really know what you’re doing? Above all, you’ve asked, Are you a good writer?
If you’re like any other artist, you’ve questioned your skill, your ability, your understanding of the art. You’ve doubted yourself and the meaning of what you do.
If you’re a writer, all of the above applies to you. If you’re like me, you’re a writer.
What Is a Writer?
A writer is someone who’s never sure of anything. The more he knows about something the less he’s certain, and the more he knows he doesn’t know about it the more he’s certain of it. He’s never confident until he’s certain he’s not certain about anything. If that sort of logic makes sense to you, you’re probably a writer. That or you’re psychotic, but let’s lean toward the former.
See, what I mean is, writers are usually insecure people who are confident about their insecurity (out of necessity).
We think a lot, we think too much, we overthink, until what we’re thinking about is blurred by all the underlying complexities of what seemed simple a moment ago, and then it’s impossible to do the dishes or the laundry because we’re staring out a window (or maybe hiding under a blanket) trying to make sense of it all.
The reality is, thinking can be hard, and most people can’t afford to think, because the more you think the less you do, because thinking complicates things. Don’t you think? To quote my favorite Watterson, “Ultimately, knowledge is paralyzing!” Men of action can’t afford to take that chance.
But then people like us, writers, we think, we confuse ourselves, we complicate things – and sometimes that’s daunting, but often it’s empowering too. We become confident in uncertainty. Assured that the little we understand is all we need to know for the moment, we’re happy to carry on.
Point? Yeah, there’s a point. Getting to that.
Real Writers Doubt, and Revel in That Doubt
When we overthink ourselves, as writers like any introverts have a habit of doing, we (inevitably) begin to doubt ourselves. As I’ve explained, it’s a very natural part of the artistic temperament. It’s the creative mind at work.
But doubt leaves us with two options: stop existing (not really an option anyway), or carry on until we find an answer (and carrying on usually is the answer, which we usually realize in the end).
Doubt can be hard. It can be depressing and distracting. But no writer is ever 100% sure about what they’re doing. That’s the thing about art, you’re never certain, you never understand completely. What it comes down to in the end is the feeling.
When doubts come, we welcome them like old friends, ask them how they’ve been and then talk with them and listen to what they have to say. Sometimes it’s illogical, sometimes it’s emotional, sometimes there’s sound sense behind it. But it’s hard to tell the difference, and we don’t have all day to listen to the doubts. They can stay for as long as they like, but we still have a household to run here and even though they get in the way sometimes, we carry on with our work. And in spite of the voices in our heads that have suddenly all turned nasty and waged war on our conscious mind, beneath it all there’s the feeling that knows we’re doing the right thing, because we’re writing – that’s what counts.
Writers are people who accept that like any other human being we really can’t understand much. Though we have difficulty pretending certainty in petty doings like most people do very successfully, we see that and we keep going anyway, being certain of what we can and pretending to be certain of what we can’t and always learning and moving forward.