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Amber Paulen


17 May 2010


Doubt is like termites that are eating away at the frame of your house. You barely notice that they are present until what was once the most secure part of your house, threatens to come apart. The opposite: rampant self-confidence, is hardly any better. The best thing to do is to keep on going on.

I suppose it’s the most normal thing in the world, coming to large frays in a long work of which the writing itself is finished. After a long break, and new thoughts, whatever it is that I have pledged myself to work on becomes redundant. If it hadn’t been years already I would be tempted to scrap it to become a fruit and veggie seller.

No, that’s not all completely true.

I think I’ll blame Annie Dillard and the first half a chapter of The Writing Life. She seems to have stripped my courage to face what I have created with such sentences as: How many books do we read from which the writer lacked the courage to tie off the umbilical cord? “Is that me?” I cower. How do I know?

Instinctively I think of Henry Miller, who has written about a different umbilical cord; and if I keep on going on as I’m doing then something good will come of it. Only because it has to? It has to. Writing must have something to do with blind faith and it’s quite normal for faith to be stricken with doubt.

Again, Annie Dillard:

Your freedom as a writer is not freedom of expression in the sense of wild blurting; you may not let rip. It is life at its most free, if you are fortunate enough to be able to try it, because you select your materials, invent you task, and pace yourself…. The obverse of this freedom, of course, is that your work is also meaningless, so fully for yourself alone, and so worthless to the world, that no one except you cares whether you do it well, or ever. You are free to make several thousand close judgement calls a day. Your freedom is a by-product of your days’ triviality.

Yes, I believe that’s true too. It must be exactly this freedom and its triviality that gives way to doubt from no matter which direction the wind may blow. It takes an extreme amount of stamina to keep bolstering oneself up day after day. And if I wasn’t so firmly convinced that it’s much too late to employ myself for the world, I would take the first steps towards becoming a fruit and vegetable seller because there’s not much else as necessary as food.



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