January 31, 2020 Brian Allain

Uncertainty Is Our Friend

 

We humans dislike being undone. However much we enjoy writing, we find the disorderly process unsettling. We yearn for arrival or permission to quit. The state of incompletion is uncomfortable, as is vulnerability and unknowing. We have an unrelenting urge to wrap things up.

 

“During deep revision,” poet Mark Doty writes, “the longer we can stay in the state of uncertainty, of unfolding possibility, the better.” As in any prayer or meditation practice, we must learn to love, and stick with, the process. Once, when I was struggling with a prolonged depression in which I felt like I was groping my way down a dark tunnel, my therapist asked if I could see any light. I told her no. “Well, then,” she replied cheerily, “You’re halfway through!” Writers stumble through a lot of darkness before we begin to see our way out. It’s unnerving. It’s easy to despair.

 

Uncertainty, messiness, the sense of being overwhelmed—these states define creativity; they are signs that we’re in the thick of things. We can welcome them and proceed regardless, harnessing discomfort as a motivating force. 

 

from “Living Revision: A Writer’s Craft as Spiritual Practice” by @Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew @Skinner House