What can I say about doubt that you don’t already know, that you aren’t already so intimately aware of? I ask myself often what is doubt, beyond the dictionary definition of the term? It is not just a noun, it is not just a lack of convection—it is an entity. I cannot speak to your doubt, but I will speak to mine. My doubt feels like a bag; it can be small, or it can be quite large. When it’s small, I can carry it in my front pocket nestled against my thigh. When it’s there, it is a forgotten thing. It’s far away from the places that it can affect most, like my heart, my mind. When I can fit my doubt in my pocket, I can manage it, fold it up into a square, like the notes I use to pass in high school, and forget that all the words I need to write won’t come out right the first time. That the words I’ll write are important to me, and that is what matters most.
Then I get a rejection, I forget to write, life happens, and doubt feeds.
When the bag grows and I can hold it in the palm of my hand, I feel it whisper. The bag comes alive and it has my voice. It tells me I’m not as good as my fellow graduates. It looks for a comparison; doubt looks for ways to grow large by looking for validation in a world with varied perceptions and objective views. Questions start to bubble up. In a world that appears to seek books less, where will I land as a writer? Will I finish my novel, will my voice be heard, where will I go from here?
The bag is no longer the manageable size of my pocket. It is not the size of an apple neatly picked from a tree, it is a boulder on my back, and it is weighing me down. It takes both hands for me to carry so I cannot write. It has halted my creativity.
Then I remember that doubt is normal. That doubt is not something to fear, but to examine. I remind myself that doubt comes from the assumption that there is a right way to do something. That my journey must mimic a particular path, that “good enough” is a comparison of what someone else is doing. My voice is powerful in its own way, and that is nothing to fear or doubt. When I remind myself that building your craft is a lifelong endeavor, I do not doubt—I work harder. I read more, I write when I can for as long as I can. I look at all I have accomplished, and know that while it’s nice to be acknowledged, those accolades do not define me as much as I do. I define what success looks like, and if other people notice what I define as worthy, I am proud to have it shared with the world.
When I tell myself these things, doubt does not go away—at least not fully—but it does shrink small enough to fit back into my pocket. Where I can manage it again.