Friday, January 2, 2009


We all know there is a hot new movie out with that title, Doubt. I hear it's worth seeing. Doubt, though, is needling me this morning. I felt doubt as I wrote in my journal: doubt that what I do is not work and if it's not work, then what right do I have sitting around playing? Philosophically, I think this is rubbish, but when my devilish critical self gets on a roll, I get defensive. I argue back that, hey, I've done good work in other fields in my life. It's time to play. And besides, where do I turn for solace and distraction, wisdom and wonder? To books, stories, poems, that's where. If I can write something that offers others a moment's peace or insight, then it's all good, right? Right? I mean, all those movies that prop up the whole celebrity industry started with a writer. This is honorable work. Even if it feels like play. But there's that shadow behind me who sneers when I say this. Yeah, sure, it's honorable. Like sucking your thumb or watching dumb TV. I do watch TV when my brain is tired, but I never, ever, sucked my thumb.

I just finished Running With Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs. Now here's a good example of why we should go ahead and write. If he is honest, and I think he is, this man grew up crazy, never knowing who he was, trying to be things he was simply not cut out to be, a cosmetics tycoon, a doctor. He denied his talent as a writer, but couldn't stop writing. I get that. Boy, do I. It took, I suspect, a great deal of courage to finally say to himself and to the world, "I am a writer." Like Harlan Ellison's business card which said, "I write." Every time Ellison hands out a card, or Burroughs lays out another slice-of-life memoir, they attest to their belief in themselves and in the power of writing to change lives. If we play at it, it works. If we worry about it, it doesn't. But it is serious stuff, and those of us lucky enough to do it, should be faithful and honest. Joseph Campbell described the hero's journey as a venture into the dark, alone, taking risks, and returning with treasure for the tribe. That sure describes what we do.

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