When doubt crawls all over me, the temptation to quit feels magnetic. Like a gravitational pull, doubt tries to draw me back to the security of what I know.
As I contemplate posting something new today, I can feel my fugitive impulses attempting to yank me back. I know if I click the publish button, I will trigger all kinds of worries about my writing and my mistakes, and the responses, and my humiliation, and my lack of purpose and the point of having a blog, and the constant insecurity, and the unavoidable disappointment, and my incompetence and my worthlessness. The whirring swarm will take over, and then I will feel that profound (magnetic) urge to flee.
I don’t want to give up blogging, but when I try to fight the apprehension and distrust circling in my head, the feelings often begin to accelerate and amplify until their centripetal force becomes so strong that resisting defeat seems nearly impossible. I wish I could brush off or preemptively steel myself against doubt and regret. I wish I could stay in the present moment—tolerating the distress of not-knowing and the embarrassment of being me—instead of focusing on what I did wrong in the past or what I will screw up in the future. Unfortunately, though, depression breeds and fosters pessimism. Hence, I mostly hear the familiar admonishing voices in my mind yelling “You’re not good enough! You always ruin it in the end! Surrender this instant!”.
Hope and self-confidence sound attractive in theory, but honestly, those concepts feel dangerous to me. Doubt feels more reliable, and hopelessness seems like the most appealing and prudent choice of all. You can’t be disappointed if you do not have hope. Furthermore, if you are sure failure is unavoidable, you are already prepared for the worst. True safety is never wanting or expecting anything at all. As psychologist Daniel Kahneman points out dangers are real, but risk is subjective.
Of course, I can’t always suppress my desires and occasionally dreams creep in without my permission. When those expectations leave me feeling poorer, less capable, or at greater risk of getting crushed, though, I wonder why I ever let hope sneak past my defenses.
Posting my writing on this blog is probably as senseless, arbitrary, and likely to fail as trying to share one of my drawings by tearing it into a thousand pieces and throwing it out the window. (Those shreds of paper wouldn’t get very far, and even if the wind could carry them somewhere beyond my small world, most people would never notice them—ragged scraps look an awful lot like random litter.) Still, I try to convince myself that I might be wrong. I think, “Maybe tomorrow I’ll wake up in a better mood and see things differently.” A week has gone by, though. If my attitude has improved, it is happening at a glacial pace.
I could stop posting, stop repeatedly exposing myself to subjective criticism. This might diminish the number of my acute attacks of self-loathing and prevent some of the outbreaks of blossoming hope, but I will no longer have the same opportunities to connect with people. On the other hand, if I continue “throwing” my work “out the window” into the internet ether, people might want to “catch” or exchange “ragged scraps” with me, but I will have to accept both the doubt swarms and the perilous glimpses of optimism.
I cannot deny that there have been many moments when I have enjoyed both writing and sharing the work. I understand that those things would not have happened without this blog. Yet, I still don’t know what I am doing, and I feel even less sure about where I belong.
Although in the process of writing this post, I realized that if I were eagerly hopeful and no longer teeming with doubt, I wouldn’t be me. No matter what I decide to do, I will almost certainly have to contend with large clouds of formidable doubt following me wherever I go. I also clearly have not worked out the whole banish-hope-forever-thing; it continues to pop up every once in a while despite my concerted efforts to stomp on the conspicuous blooms. Most importantly, though, I recognized that doubt and hope are actually quite similar. They both ask the question “What if?” and neither sentiment can predict inevitability.
When I used to stand at my easel staring at a big blank piece of paper, I always felt the “what ifs” bouncing back and forth in my head. I would begin drawing because an image or an idea had inspired me. I would try out some things that would work and some that wouldn’t, and the drawing would develop and change and then change some more. Eventually, I would get somewhere that seemed interesting or felt right, and then I would change that, as well. I never knew ahead of time where I would end up, but the discoveries along the way surprised and fascinated me. That’s why I did it. That’s what I loved. In my experience, the process of writing follows that same sort of trajectory, and maybe blogging can, too.
I can’t know what will happen, or how people will respond to the work, or where I will end up, and that unpredictability is nerve racking. However, I don’t have the capacity to alter the risks involved or to change the final outcome with either my overabundance of doubt or my lack of hope. Neither feeling can promise me anything.
Pablo Picasso asserted that, “You have to begin drawing to know what you want to draw.” I suppose this tenet could also apply to starting and developing a blog. I have just begun the trying and the changing, and, so far, my curiosity has outweighed my fear. I guess I am still, as I said in one of my first posts, “a reckless and frenzied explorer,” asking “What if?”.
This past week, I have been hiding, looking for the most convenient way out. I haven’t found it, yet. So for now, I am going to put aside my search for the nearest escape ladder or emergency hatch while I try to concentrate on experimenting with and testing out the process of blogging. I have no illusions about solving this mystery any time soon. But it is a mystery nonetheless, and I am curious about it. I recognize that it might end badly, but I’ll never know for sure if I am not willing to wait and see.