I had a coffee date with my husband the other day.
As much as we see and enjoy each other’s company at home, it is sometimes a lovely thing to intentionally create time to be together away from our house – no dog, no dishes, no laundry. Just us.
We sat at the last available table at Uptown, a local espresso joint. The place was comfortably full of a cross-section of folks enjoying drinks, conversation, colouring books, and the sunshine streaming in. It was a rare kind of March day for Seattle.
We talked about work and writing, dreams and goals, family and travel, and where home is.
As you do.
I’ve been working on this novel – in between health crises and various other interruptions – for nearly five years now. That feels very vulnerable to say. It seems a bit ridiculous to not have completed it yet. But the fact is I haven’t, and being unkind to myself about it definitely won’t help.
It’s not a matter of inspiration or time, although being in care/crisis mode puts the brakes on feeling creative for me – the constant background buzz of pain or exhaustion doesn’t leave much extra.
I’m under no illusions about “waiting for inspiration” to strike. I’ve learned that a surprising amount of inspiration comes available to folks who sit their butts in chairs (or stand at treadmill desks if that’s their jam) and put in the time to do the work. Oh, look here, it’s the muse arriving.
Comparing myself to others who can/have written books under more onerous conditions isn’t helpful, either. I am not them. They are not me. I can only do what I can do.
A simple truth, that.
So here I am, haunted in a delicious way by these characters and their stories. I know them, I hear them in my dreams, I understand their desires, I cringe at the obstacles they face. I am the only one who can bring their story to life.
What’s stopping me?
The same thing that ever has. Fear and doubt. Or more accurately, fearanddoubt, joined as they are in undermining me from both sides. As I talked about it, my frustration was clear, hands stuttering in the air over our lattés.
“I’ve been here before. I thought I’d managed to overcome my fear and doubt. Why do I have to overcome fear and doubt over and over again?”
Ed leaned back. He’s long since learned that I am a talk-to-think person. Seldom am I looking for him to fix anything (read: me) as much as I need a compassionate ear. It’s rare for him to jump in with a solution. Still, I value his opinion and I waited for him to ponder.
Coffee shops are good for pondering.
“What if you didn’t have to overcome it? What if you could co-exist with the fear and doubt and just get on with your writing?”
In that moment, I realised how much energy I’d put into this futile task of eliminating something undeniable. Fear and doubt will exist. They are as elemental as love and joy. Sometimes they are essential – life-saving – signs from our intuition and sub-conscious.
But right now, they are running haywire, confusing me with predictions of dire harm if I dare to write anything less than the perfect story – every time. This fear and doubt will not save my life. They’re choking my creative will.
I want to do better.
It’s going to take some practice. And some new language around it. I’m not sure I’ll ever be friends with fear and doubt, but we can share a table at the coffee shop as long as they keep quiet while I type.
photo notes: our house is surrounded by trees – this is our view looking up on a blue-sky day