How To Be Ok With Doubt

My previous post going public… that was a mistake. Or at least I thought it was a mistake. After scheduling it to go live a week after I’d written it, I got the collywobbles and decided to make it private and come back to it later for a bit of a redraft.

I doubted my first instincts, felt during this initial process – that perhaps I should be more on the ball with scheduling and how this nebulous process of creation should in fact be way more ‘concrete’. I doubted my own (albeit anecdotal) evidence from my own life experience: it’s worked before so it’ll work again.

(Not least because in other parts of my life I’m as systematic and forward-planning as anyone you’ve yet to meet. Talk about conflicted.)

Firstly, I’m an incessant doubter, but I’m pretty used to ignoring it. From everything I’ve gleaned from recent writings on the psychological subject, the human mind feels bad about anything it doesn’t know, or understand – anything from a slight feeling of distant malaise to fully full-on flight-or-flight response. When dealing with the creative process, these feelings are very common and should be observed but not inhabited. Seen for what they are – a part of the brain (I think it’s the amygdala, but don’t quote me on that) saying I DON’T KNOW WHAT THIS IS, MEMORY IS BRINGING UP NADA, I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH THIS EFFECTIVELY, THEREFORE BEST COURSE OF ACTION: GET OUT OF THERE TOUT DE SUITE.

Not the most useful of strategies.

So we humans have developed this wonderful prefrontal cortex (or something, I think, again, don’t quote me) to give us the ability to observe the other bits of the brain that deal only in perceiving the ‘now’ and then, through some awesome virtual reality software, time travel from past events into the future to see potential outcomes of that perceived ‘now’. “The pitfalls and the promise; the perils and the possibility…”

(If someone could let me know where that last quote is from I’d be eternally grateful).

But sometimes (read: most of the time) the prefrontal gets a bit wrapped up in the amydala’s perceptions and starts trying to find reasons for said perceptions without bothering to find evidence for the opposite – to disprove this first feeling; the first principal of the scientific method: come up with hypothesis (= feeling) then attempt to disprove said hypothesis. The feeling comes first, and logic trusts it as written (not the other way around, which would make loads more sense, but evolution isn’t perfect and the human brain is testament to that).

So I guess what I’m trying to say in a very longwinded, roundabout fashion is that we all have doubts about our creative process and products, but often they come from a place of lack of comprehension rather than a true intuitive gut reaction of badness. Often there’s no real way to tell without a bit of effortful introspection, but you get better at it after a while, after experience shows you that you’re in no real danger, the worries you had were unfounded and based in a pre-historic caveman experience of life-and-death rather than getting-paid-VS-not-getting-paid (or even people-like-me-VS-people-don’t-like me). Neither of which is actually life-threatening.

That last post went live despite my interfering amygdala, and my acquiescing prefrontal cortex. Does make me wonder if a little bit of some other part of my brain decided to interfere after deciding it knew better. Some part of the subconscious super-computer, perhaps?


Massive thanks to everyone who wrote to me with kind words about the usefulness of that last post. Means a great deal to me.


Photo by Elaine Li on Unsplash