“Doubt is the Devil! Show doubt, and he’ll be back!”
A week ago I woke up with that quote resounding in my mind. It was as though an old woman were standing over me waving her finger, practically scolding me to make sure I got the point. It’s been with me ever since.
As with so much of what our dreams have to offer — if we choose to pay attention — the message could hardly have been more timely.
A couple of weeks earlier, I had gotten the comments on my novel back from my editor. Like a tsunami coming out of nowhere (or, in this case, raging up the coast from Santa Barbara), twelve pages of feedback wiped out half the world I’d spent so many years building.
I expected it. I wanted it. Nevertheless, in the days and weeks that followed I was overcome by wave after wave of self-doubt, at times nearly drowning in it.
Was I up for the challenge? Did I have the energy to make the changes? And, by the way, what changes? My editor pointed out the problems, she didn’t give me the solutions. It was my book. That was my job. Could I figure it out? Did I still even want to try?
Should I have… What if I had… Maybe I didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t…
Some days, as I considered what needed to be done and how to do it, the path forward seemed to open effortlessly before me. I felt good. I felt motivated and inspired. On others, I slammed up against a wall, struggling in vain to address confounding roadblocks. I stared listlessly at the computer, accomplishing nothing, my eyes bloodshot, a trickle of saliva dangling from my mouth, the floor under my chair like a barber shop's, covered with hair I’d pulled out in my frustration. AlI the while, I was painfully aware the clock was ticking.
And then I woke up to the quote.
I thought about how much support I’d received, especially recently. Things falling into place in ways I never could have imagined, ways that exceeded my expectations. Perfect places to write over the next four months. Major expenses I suddenly didn’t have to worry about. Countless words, gestures, and signs encouraging me to keep going.
Self-doubt suddenly seemed self-indulgent.
After all, what purpose did it serve? What purpose does it ever serve? Other than giving us excuses to let ourselves off the hook, if we choose to buy into it? Other than granting us license to cowardly avoid the challenges and obstacles from which we have the most to learn?
“Show doubt, and he’ll be back!” Not only was doubt subversive, it was self-perpetuating. The more I indulged it, the more it got under my skin, like the poison oak infection I scratched until it spread to my eye and sealed it shut. Giving doubt my attention only made it stronger, blinding me to reality.
It was time to open my eyes.
It was time to show my gratitude for all the support, guidance, and inspiration that continued to come my way. It was time to renounce doubt and embrace faith. In myself. In my novel. In something greater that had gotten me this far and would get me through to the end.
The dream was a wake-up call.
Enough self-indulgent, counterproductive doubt.
Time to send the Devil packing.
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