Monday, May 15, 2017

Welcome Writing Uncertainty

By Bryan E. Robinson 
If uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it turns into fear. If it is perfectly acceptable, it turns into increased aliveness, alertness, and creativity. —Eckhart Tolle

“Welcome uncertainty?” you might ask with a grimace. I realize that’s a bitter pill to swallow. First of all let’s get one thing straight. I’m not on crack, and I haven’t been sniffing the furniture polish. Now that that’s out of the way, there is this thing that most of us writers carry to our writing desks.


When certainty is upended, it can feel as if the ground beneath us has opened up, threatening to swallow us. Like most people, we count on predictability. Our very survival depends on it. We want to know who, what, when, where, and how things will happen with our work. We never know if our days and months of blood, sweat, and tears will pay off. Whether we’re first timers or seasoned old timers, we wonder if we have it in us. Will the words come? And if they do, will it be good enough for the readers, editors, and publishers. Uncertainty is our constant companion, but that isn’t the problem. How we deal with it can either propel us to success or sabotage our writing efforts.

Uncertainty is baked into the writer’s life. It’s one of the few certainties we can count on in the topsy-turvy literary world. Resisting uncertainty doesn’t get rid of it, and it doesn’t give us anything to count on. If uncertainty is unacceptable to us, we only amplify our fear and end up at war with ourselves, arguing with the writer’s life rather than living it. Things won’t always go as planned. Our writing will go awry, unexpected events will blindside us, and we will experience disappointments and rejections.

There’s a payoff to accepting uncertainty before we sit down to write. When we can avoid grasping for certainty to cushion our fall, we won’t succumb to fear of the unknown. And we gain a peace of mind that reduces fear and contributes to our creative writing. This acceptance sustains us through the tumultuous literary world and frees us from the clutches of writing woes: a lousy review, an impossible deadline, a bludgeoning rejection, impassable writer’s block, sounds of crickets at book signings, and the seismic rumble of our own spewing torrent of self-doubt.

We have the choice to stew in the uncertainty of the writing life or change our perspective. Taking the risk of stepping into the arena of “maybe” grows us as authors. It loosens us up to the fact that for every possibility there are numerous ways a situation can resolve. It’s possible to live in serenity without always having things our way or knowing a definite outcome.

Instead of arguing with uncertainty and letting it hold us captive, why not accept the challenge to welcome it with all of its upsides and downsides? The writer Danielle Steel said, “Sometimes if you aren’t sure about something, you just have to jump off the bridge and grow your wings on the way down.” What edge can you go to in your writing today? What unpredictable bridge can you jump off to sprout your wings?

Take a few moments to contemplate the uncertainty in your writing life. Consider the risk of welcoming it with openheartedness and open arms as you might a lantern guiding you in the darkness. Then see if you’re able to accept unknown future writing outcomes no matter what, using them to grow fully into the writer you’ve always aspired to be.

BRYAN E. ROBINSON is consulting editor for International Thriller Writers’ online magazine, The Big Thrill and past coordinator of their Debut Author Forum. His latest books are Daily Writing Resilience: 365 Meditations and Inspirations for Writers (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2018), and the thriller, Bloody Bones (forthcoming). His debut novel, Limestone Gumption: A Brad Pope and Sisterfriends Mystery, was a multi-award winner for best psychological suspense. He maintains a private psychotherapy practice in Asheville, NC and resides in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his spouse, three dogs, and occasional bears at night. He is currently working on his third mystery/thriller, Michael Row the BODY Ashore and Crazy Papers: A Southern Memoir. His website link is

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