You can't edit a blank page


Self Doubt and I are long-time friends. I'm not proud of our decades-long relationship, with its one-sided destructive nature. I'm certain I'd be happier without ever having met Self Doubt, but every time I try to distance myself from her I am reminded of her death grip on my mind. She appeals to me with a comfort level that can only be gained from old friendships and every time I think I've successfully muffled her enough to get on with my life, she reappears when I decide to start something new. She breaks me down until I lose my resolve and allow her to convince me I should stop trying to do whatever it is I really want to do because it's never going to work out anyhow and also, we're hungry and maybe we should just get a pizza or something?

After a while I stop listening to Self Doubt but she continues to whine in the background, nagging me for attention. Eventually she becomes quieter, or I get better at ignoring her, and I start to think of ways to move beyond her abusive patterns so I can accomplish my goals. This is always my favorite part of the process. Well, that and actually succeeding at the thing Self Doubt told me would never work. 

The thing I’ve learned about Self Doubt is that she’s always there, even when it seems like she’s not. She speaks in my voice, uses a language only I understand. She knows things about me and feels what I feel, making it harder to ignore. But over the last several years I've come to realize that listening to Self Doubt gets me nowhere and that's not what I want. I used to be afraid to do anything new for fear of failure, thinking not doing something was better than failing at something I really wanted. But as I grow older I realize how backwards that thinking is, because not doing something out of fear is a failure in itself.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about my writing, and which path to take with it now that I no longer spend all my time writing academic papers. As always, Self Doubt tells me to abandon my dreams and find something else to occupy my time. However, I notice she no longer speaks in my voice but rather has taken on a much duller persona, which makes me less willing to listen as she drones on in run-on monosyllabic tones.

Why bother doing anything new? Didn’t we just accomplish something pretty amazing? And shouldn’t we just sit around for a while and, by the way, where do we stand on getting that pizza?
— Self Doubt

Fortunately, while I was earning my degree I made a new friend, named Determination. We’d met before, but we never really connected until the last several years. And now that we're friends, she encourages me to push Self Doubt away. For example, as I try to write something witty or meaningful or just anything at all, really, Self Doubt whispers softly in my ear, “You've clearly forgotten how to write and you should just move on already.”

But you know how sometimes you get a song in your head and you don't know how it got there but it's there and it won't go away? Like that, Determination has been playing the same line over and over in my head for days now. She’s saying, "You can't edit a blank page." It's a line I equate to writing, but I realized today it's so much more than that. You can't edit a page if you don't write something first, you can't take a trip if you aren't willing to travel, you can't succeed if you aren't willing to try.

I love everything about writing; even the part where I start to write something but abandon it because it's total crap. I leave it there, untouched, and sometimes days or weeks or months later come back to it and find something in it that sparks a renewed interest until I can start moving phrases and words, editing it into a new creation that I can read through and think, "Well. That doesn't completely suck." I think there are traits you can learn, but for me writing has always been in my blood and I will not allow Self Doubt to take that away from me. 

Clearly Determination has taken over, which is inspiring and wonderful, but it doesn't mean I'm forever cured of Self Doubt. I mean, I'm writing this now and thinking about a lot of exciting things, but I'm also wondering if maybe we should take a break to watch a movie and order a pizza or something?