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There is a special kind of doubt that arises when we close the study door and attempt to make a safe space for our writing.

Suddenly the safe space turns into a very difficult place to stay in. When the door closes we find privacy but we are also separated from our tribe. Everybody is out there doing useful things and taking care of their duties, but we are sitting here chewing on a pencil, wasting time.

Now it’s just us and that imp who sits in the corner mocking us for our self-indulgence and our naivety. Who are we to think we can write anything? Maybe we’ll never have anything to show for it and we’ll have lost our place in the tribe. It sounds melodramatic but the threat of expulsion is one that lies at the heart of the artist’s dilemma. Artists are called to separate themselves from the tribe for a time so they might find the medicine that will heal themselves and their world – but they can also end up with nothing that the tribe finds valuable. It’s no wonder that when we close the door we feel a pang of doubt. Do we really want to walk this path? Do we really want to take the risk?

Facing the blank page

There is no easy answer for these questions. We breathe into them, feeling the fear, the uncertainty, the doubt. We can get up and abandon our calling but we know that will bring a sorrow of a deeper kind. In the end we know there is no escaping this moment of being alone with ourselves. This is where the real work happens. It’s not about the writing, it’s about sitting alone, facing the blank page, listening to the whisperings of the heart.

Words might flow or they might not. The tribe might say we are wasting our time. That’s OK. We are healing our relationship with the self. We are learning to sit in its presence and not abandon it for the quick fix of convenience and sensibility.

This is the healing the world needs. It just doesn’t know it. But we do.

Writer coaching with Russel Brownlee. Start writing, stay writing. Book now

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