Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Against Complacency

Sylvia Plath said self-doubt is creativity's worst enemy. It's only logical: if you believe you're beat before you even start, what's the point of starting at all? It can be paralyzing. Utterly hideous. And, if you are able to write even in the midst of doubt, your insecurities can cause your writing to be timid and water-thin, stifled by caution and too much second-guessing.

What we must have as writers is faith. We have to believe not only in our abilities as story-tellers, but--and this is the important part--in the story itself. We have to know it needs to be told. More: we must believe in the process of writing--that the hours we spend hovered over our keyboards and notebooks are taking us somewhere. That by all the doing, we are improving.

But are faith and doubt completely opposed to one another? Many would say they are, but I don't think it's as easy as that. My deepest religious beliefs actually call for both, and so does my writing. Doubt is what calls us to the next level, what pushes us to question what we see, or what we believe to be true. The habit of doubting guards us from complacency. It is faith, however, that gives us stamina and vision. Most importantly, faith closes the gap between what is and what can be.

I think faith and doubt exist symbiotically--you can't have one without the other. Without faith, you can't begin a story. Faith is the central mechanism of belief. But without doubt, there's no reason to make the story better, or to seek anything more than a second-hand knowledge of spiritual things. Or to do anything but simply accept what we've been told without coming to a place of truly knowing what we know. Either way, it's just not real without both the questioning doubt and the answering faith.

As writers, as breathing humans, we must be seekers. We must push off from the commonplace, dare to look. And then, looking, dare to keep a steady gaze, to not grow complacent or weak-hearted or smug. We have to really strain to see where we could go, then have the faith, the persistence to go there, to reach it.


Jessie Carty said...

love how you mixed the whole idea together of faith and the life of the writer. i feel that writers definitely are seekers :)

ylime said...

good stuff...perhaps sylvia plath should have taken her own advice.