Uncertain Times – How Can We Embrace Uncertainty?
The only thing that’s sure at the moment in UK politics, despite claims to the contrary, is that it’s an incredibly uncertain time. Managing that feeling, embracing it even, is something you will have to get used to if you want to continue to write. Perhaps, something you’ll need to embrace in many aspects of life.
During the fallout from the election result, you could track the progression of public reaction. Initially, exuberance. A shift in the status quo, a challenge to everyone’s expectations. Anything could happen. In that free-floating state, there are nudges of hope, a tickle of excitement. At the point where anything is possible, anyone can paint the future they most desire.
It doesn’t take long, however, for fears to creep in. Not being certain about something loses its appeal. People want solutions, answers, definitions. As more time passed, new scare-mongering theories and ideas emerged, with each person’s private utopia wilting under the weight of doubt.
So the first concrete answer we see gets hailed as the best possible solution. You can bet that Theresa May is pretty much counting on this. We may well be heading into a coalition with an anti-gay, anti-abortion party that no-one’s ever heard of, and many people will welcome it. Not because it’s a good idea, but at least it’s a solid, tangible reaction. An answer. Such is the power of uncertainty.
Since I turned writing into more than a hobby, this swaying, unhinged feeling is something I’ve got used to. Each time I start a new piece, it’s thrilling. Whether it’s for a competition, a blog, a chapter, or a whole new novel. It could be amazing. The potential is overwhelming.
But, at some point, you have to put some words down. Each loop of the pen, each choice of letter or word places new uncertainties in front of you.
What should your character do next? Where should you put that great phrase that’s been hovering in your head for the last few weeks? And there are no clear solutions. It’s not like you can drop your pen and say – there! I’ve done it. I’ve just written the perfect word/sentence/book. My work here is done. Even when you’ve ‘finished’ something, there’s always room for editing, for improvement. It isn’t something that can ever really be mastered.
It isn’t as though these difficulties are confined to the process of putting words on a page. After all, there is no clear path to ‘becoming a writer.’ There are so many different ways to get there, so many options. How do you know which project do direct your attention to? How can you be sure that it’s worth re-editing this piece, rather than confining it to the ‘not going anywhere’ pile?
I’m not sure that all this precariousness is particularly good for you. Never knowing exactly what you should be doing doesn’t exactly lead to a sense of fulfilment. And once your work is out there, there’s further doubt. You might get a reply that is positive, or negative. More likely, you’ll get a vague response with no feedback, or nothing at all. Hours of graft and you’re left not knowing whether they were too busy, if they got past the first sentence, or if they even read it at all.
So how do we deal with it? For some, they throw themselves into action. Demonstrations and petitions are already happening, demanding that Theresa May relinquish her claim to power. Others might lose themselves in other things – central London was bursting with people the night the results came in – eating, drinking, either in denial of the cloud hanging over us or simply ignoring it in order to have a good time.
For the writer, I think there are a few options. Removing at least some of the unknown elements – the ones you can control. Put together a timetable of the posts/stories/poems you are going to write, for what, and when. In the foggy world of creativity, it’s good to still be able to create a list and tick things off.
Reaching out to others is important. Uncertainty only deepens when you feel alone. There are extensive networks of those with similar ambitions who will be more than grateful to share their ideas, projects and worries with you. Try Linkedin, Facebook or Instagram for a range of great writers groups.
As for the words themselves, the only thing you can do is give them an audience. Try Scriggler – it’s a fantastic place to share and read, get feedback on your work, and get it shared on Twitter. Your personal website, a forum, all these places will help you step out of your unsure puddle and into a place where you can see the impact of your work.
And don’t sell yourself short. There are hundreds of literary magazines looking for work, both online and in print (the Mslexia ‘Indie Presses’ book is a great place to find a home for your writing). Why not yours? If you don’t try, you’ll never know.
Uncomfortable as it may be, uncertainty is an integral part of writing, or any creative endeavour. While it’s difficult to truly embrace it, whatever you do, don’t let it force you into making rash decisions or giving up.
Perhaps, in fact, there is something in it you can take to the rest of your life. After all, the most important emotional experiences in life are not something you can be certain about. Follow your uncertainty, it might just take you somewhere wonderful.
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