The Uncertainty Of Creation

You should know, before you start reading the words that come after this, that before I started writing them I sat here staring at the blinking cursor on the pristine screen for far too long. I often approach Mad Genius like this. ‘Who am I,’ I ask myself silently, ‘to offer any advice whatsoever on writing? I still don’t know what I’m doing, much less how well I’m doing it.’ But here I am, and I am determined to honor the privilege of my position because… Because I was given so much help when I first started. And now I’m here, a little way in on the journey, able to reach behind me to give some encouragement to those still staring at their blank screens. 

I posted a poll in the wee little facebook group I run for eclectic artists. It’s mostly writers, but also artists in diverse mediums, because I’m also scattered in my goals. And craving chocolate, so bear with me a moment. I’ll get there. What I asked in the poll was, in general ‘How many of us are always happy with what we wrote, especially while writing? Do you find yourself doubting your work?’

The majority of the respondents chose ‘often’ and commented that whether it was in words, or art, they found themselves uncertain while creating. The second most selected option was one I put in ‘there’s a reason I have trouble finishing things.’ Because that’s me. I get an idea, it seems like a great idea. I love it! I really want to write it. I carve out the time to sit down and start work on it. This is a great idea. Words on the page, plotting begins… and suddenly I have doubts.Wait. Is this derivative? Too cliche? Too tropey? Too silly? Too…

And I get stuck. I hang up on the rocks and shoals of my doubts, and when I manage to push myself off the rocks and get a little further, I grind up on a sandbank. And then I have to portage the Falls of Despair, and eventually I wind up huddled in my chair thinking I can’t write. I suck at this. I’m the Worst.

Now, I have learned to (mostly) push through this. Grit my teeth, and just keep plugging away until I get through the rapids and into calmer water as the end draws near. I can usually write fast and confident as I near the end (or what I think is the end. It’s not, usually, but that’s a different post). And then I really really doubt what I’ve done, in that moment after I pound out those three little letters. Convinced it’s utter dreck, I sit on it for a few days.

This is not, of course, the way all writers approach creation (or other artists). Some of them are absolutely sure their, ahem, droppings possess no foul odor. They sail confidently ahead, full steam, damn the torpedoes of reader reviews. I can only look at that with an impressed face, because for me creation is an uncertain place. It’s risky. I take chances. What I create might not be for everyone, and I am acutely aware of this. 

Then, I try to remember that I am not writing for those people. I’m writing for me, and for people who like the things I like. This idea got my juices flowing in the moment it arrived in my brain. If I develop it to the fullest I can, giving it my own creative touch, then I will at least make myself happy. That’s enough. For now, at least. And so I get to the end of the beginning. That’s the trick. Persist past your doubts. Ignore the gibbering daemons in the dark corners of your brain, and write your heart out on the page. Trust me on it. Give me your hand, and just keep on in spite of your uncertainty. You can do this, and it will be better than you think. 


  1. 1. There appears to be some formatting issue. I had to engage my browser’s Reader View to be able to read things right.

    2. Whilst not “a writer” (or least I’ve never been compensated for writing beyond a ‘grade’) I find I often will write something and let it sit, sometime for seeming ages, making edits and changes, before posting it or sending it on for those willing to risk it as guest post.

    3. Thus I figure nothing is ever truly DONE or READY, but does eventually reach DONE/READY ‘ENOUGH”.

    4. And, yes, upon seeing it posted, I find the BLARING ERROR in spelling/phrasing/whatever that I somehow managed to completely miss for MONTHS.

    THUS.. TO ALL:

    You Are NOT Alone.

    1. I think I fixed the formatting. At least, I tried. I’m on my phone away from home!

      That’s about right: perfection is the enemy of good enough.

  2. When I was in my mid fifties I stumbled on an idea which immediately improved my quality and enjoyment of life. This idea is a little thing called ‘good enough’. I discovered that 95% is still an ‘A’ and clawing for that last 5% will kill ya.
    Since then life has been a joy rather than a struggle for perfection.
    Remember; ‘good enough’.

  3. My fear hits after I finish. “Is this as good as the last one? People say the last one was very good… but this feels worse. This can’t be as good. Maybe I shouldn’t publish this. Nothing I write can be as good as [earlier story/book/article].”

  4. Mom told me once when stuck on report that just wasn’t perfect, that some things were important enough to do badly. Just get it done. Once it’s done editing can improve it. But it must get done first.

  5. Any artist learning a new medium has useful info simply because he’s experiencing, freshly, lessons the old hands have completely internalized.

    One thing I’m finding helpful is to go back and look at early efforts to see what I was “getting right” even then.

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