Contrary to what some readers may believe, I am a man who at times can be crippled by self-doubts. It may sound strange to hear that a writer who refers to himself as a wolf and world-eater can be emotionally fragile, but it’s easy to portray confidence when manipulation of the written word is your craft. The truth is that I’m my own harshest critic, and often find myself writing from a place of pain or discontent rather than happiness. I question myself, my decisions and my talents every single day. I ask if I am the writer and man that I long to be, and what I have to do in order to become that person. I deconstruct myself and my works over and over, constantly pushing myself to become more, and to give more of myself to my dreams and to others.
But living your life this way is foolish. When you continuously deconstruct and scrutinize every aspect of your life you either end up accomplishing nothing, or sending yourself insane. For me personally, I feel as though I’ve been spinning my wheels as of late. After finalising the editing process of my sophomore novel ‘War’ two weeks ago, I’ve struggled to find the creative drive that usually consumes me.
I’m not really surprised to find myself feeling stifled. It’s a bitter-sweet feeling to complete a manuscript that has taken almost eighteen months to create. And it’s a scary thought to think that I’ll now have to open up a blank document on my computer and start penning my way through an entirely new piece of work. And yet, I know that once I do, the creative urges that are currently escaping me will come flooding back in waves.
When I find myself stuck in a slump like this I am notorious for being abrasive and difficult to be around. I internalize conversations with myself, picking apart my life more vigorously than I already do. My self-doubts can cloud my judgement, and leave me feeling crippled with anxiety and the fear that I’m not good enough to start over again with a new creative endeavour. And yet, it’s often when I reach this point of frustration and defeated self-loathing that I find the inspiration to create once again.
…Which is exactly what happened when I found myself staring at the road.
People often tell me that the path or road that I choose to travel ultimately defines who I am. The proverb usually comes as a result of a conversation in which I try to define what it feels like to constantly be treading the fine line between being fulfilled, and feeling inadequate in one’s accomplishments. So while I know that my friends and family aren’t referring to a roadway in a literal sense (I’m not going to become a new man by taking a different route to the grocery store), the comment leaves me frustrated and often creates a point of contention between us.
But as I recently sat inside a café and stared down at the roadway outside, an idea settled into the back of my mind and made me realize that maybe there is more adage than I had previously realized. The thought went like this:
At some point, every single road within the country is connected. You can choose the wrong route and find yourself lost, or at a dead-end. But with the right direction, you could end up anywhere you wanted.
In a purely physical sense, if I was to walk out onto the roadway right now and stand on the two unbroken yellow or white lines that mark the centre, I could theoretically begin a journey that took me to just about any location within the country. In a psychological sense, if I were to close my eyes and envision those same two lines as my starting point, I could embark upon a journey within myself that is limited only by my own imagination and the routes that I decide to take.
It sounds like the plot for terrible children’s movie doesn’t it? The man whose imagination allows him to follow the roads he creates within his head; all his dreams are connected and within reach. He can be anything or anyone he wants to be… If he follows the correct route.
And yet this is essentially how we all live our lives. Inside of our heads we are constantly exploring the roads of life, making decisions that have the potential to alter our psychological location just as much as our physical one. As children we walk alongside our parents and guardians, holding their hands as we take our first delicate steps and begin to map the contours and gradients of our own life maps. With their help we learn the rules of the roads of life, and understand that poor decisions can lead you down alleys and laneways of frustration, angst, heartbreak or regret.
Then as we grow older and our carers release us from their grasp, we begin to forge our own paths. We follow highways of conventional thinking, and explore side streets and back alleys that are traversed only by minds inspired to do so. We become lost, and are forced to trace our steps backwards until we become found again. And we find others to explore the land with, forming relationships that allow us to experience love and companionship.
But we can’t wander forever. There are moments when we need to stop and assess where we are on our maps, or to appreciate the beauty of the roads that we are choosing to walk upon; or maybe even to admit that we are a little lost. There is no harm in standing still. There is no problem with arriving at a fork, or a T-intersection and taking the time to understand where each decision will lead us. When I feel as though I am spinning my wheels, or I begin to over examine my talents and desires, I shouldn’t beat myself up. This is just my mind’s way of saying that it needs a moment to refocus, and see where I am verses where I want to be.
So while I may have had a couple of slow weeks creatively, my mind has consulted the map of where I am and where I want to be, and I’m ready to start following those unbroken yellow or white lines inside my head once again. I might take some detours, or end up off course, but eventually I’ll reconnect with the writer that I want to be and we’ll start creating a new story together. Until then, I’ll appreciate that no matter where I am physically or emotionally, the road beneath my feet has the ability to connect me to wherever it is that I choose to go.
72 thoughts on “Roads”
Very inspiring article ! Thank you x
Absolutely speechless I am. Have been following your writings for some time and I applaud you for your honesty in accepting with stark nakedness your insecurities and scars.
It’s very important, to keep on, pushing yourself, to question your own abilities, as that would be how you can make yourself better, and, it sounds to me as though, you’re, being too harsh on yourself, and that, would be the flaws of the perfectionist personality, and yet, it’s this constant strive for perfection that makes us better than we were yesterday…
Beautifully written Chris, an honest and inspiring post I can relate to. We’re all on a journey and our roads are often full of uncertainty, potholes and detours with many challenges and forks along the way. Ultimately though they all connect and we find our way. Warmest wishes to you as you continue on the journey.
I really needed this. Thanks for sharing.
Excellent. I am much more trusting of people who experience self doubt than I am of those who seem to be completely sure of themselves. Self doubt is part of the process of creating, and we need to give ouselves room for it and for blockages. I like your analogy to roads and interconnectedness, it’s right on. And it shows how our subconscious is still at work even though we cannot seem to move on. Thanks for this!
This was a great boost for me. I’m working on my freshman novel now and some days I don’t see the road much less the end of it. Thanks for this!
So much here to respond to…very relevant and insightful. I have had a similar experience yet now,…it’s changed. If you get a chance, read ‘The Untethered Soul’ by Michael Singer. It may serve as a different set of eyes and enhance the view.
Oh wow!!! …..I LOVE this ….yep …keep your mind map open …keep on learning and growing ….anything no longer helpful …ditch it ….and confidence crisis? ….we are ALL a work in progress:)
Some say that all writing is about pain. Writing has taught me patience. I’ll soon publish the memoir I’ve worked on for 8 years. I’ve learned from the wrong roads I’ve taken. My motto is, “It’s never too late.”
This is great! I think your thought process is true for most writers, who are reflective by nature. Self doubt comes along with that; its a matter of connecting the roads. You do that very well! -Jennie-
This was such a fantastic read! Thank you.
come what may, you should never really be too hard on yourself. Love yourself. Nice piece! Thanks fot sharing…
Thank you for this, Chris. I want to know you more. I hope we can be friends.
Well, you certainly have a way with words. I, personally, like to have more than one project going at a time and going back through notebooks to see what ideas I have written down helps.
Awesome article Chris! Thank you for always sharing thought provoking and awe inspiring articles. This would be another favorite reads.
Honesty is beautiful, and very rare. Embrace the new season in your life and charge ahead. As everyone seems to be saying, so there must be a common thought-you got this!
Taking a new route to the store may not transform you into a new man, but it may transform your writing. Think about it. No matter how intense our imaginations, some of our richest, deepest writing comes from our real-world experiences. What if our ruts in writing are a reflection of our ruts in life? What if, by taking that left turn, or by leaving the house 20 minutes earlier than usual, we step into a mini-adventure? What if we see sights we’ve never seen, hear music we’d never tried, taste foods foreign to our imaginations? We writers don’t live in one world. We live in a world filled with worlds, and each experience creates yet another world for us to explore, and then, ultimately, to share with the world. Enjoy the journey!
I relate to much of what you’ve written here, and I’m glad to hear that your aha moment is getting you to a better place.
Falling off course is sometimes necessary to see things from a different perspective. It becomes a new source of direction and a necessary experience to complete the task at hand.
That’s how I feel as well sometimes. Thanks for sharing these thoughts!
Great post. You just have to get on the road right…
Since the beginning of spring, I do take a different route to go to the grocery store and I do feel different. 🙂 It reminds me I can open my own field of possiblities anytime. A childish feeling that I share joyfully with my kids.
Thank you for sharing this, I can how deep into thought you are on this.
I think part of any good renaissance move is self-discovery and examination, and in this case you’ve done a great job in talking through your rationale and decision making process. This is a healthy thing to do (I do this too), and I also tend to over-analyze at times when I think the answer isn’t so obvious.
One of the things I keep in mind is this saying – “Wherever you go, there you are.” This is just my own way of taking stock of the situation, and sort of the (what am I going to do now) internal statement.
I understand how one can feel being lost in a place or in a train of thought, I think ultimately we all want to know that we’re making the right move or decision, and we want to know that 100% before proceeding. Problem is – this is life we’re talking about… and it’s a series of good and bad moves all packed into one living document which we call our history.
Sometimes I firmly believe that if we spend too much time reviewing options and choices that we allow good situations and good decisions (the window of them) to close and we miss out on the opportunities connected to that opening. For myself, I find that when I went with my gut instinct I always ended up better off. When I went against it, I instantly knew I made a mistake and had to deal with it..
I think the challenge of it all comes down to this… Deep down inside we KNOW what the right move is to make, but we let our egos get in the way of doing the unpopular thing. We want to believe that _____ is a good person for us, because we want that. But we know that _____ is a totally bad fit that will bring us down. We rationalize our way into bad spots instead.
For me, being an adult has given me the perspective that I can make a good decision if I’m really honest with myself, and if I don’t do something counter to my goals and mission. I enjoyed reading about your self-doubt, that shows me you’re real and that you agonize over life the same way I think we all do.
Keep doing what you’re doing, it’s a great thing.
Loved your blog…I am a writer too…just writing my first fiction and I wondered what would happen once it’s done! Feared it almost. But I am a long way from the end…thanks for the insight!
Hi Chris! I’ve only read this post, but so far, I like your writing. Don’t beat yourself up. I think it is okay to reach a lull in writing, or in any pursuit. It doesn’t mean that you are bad at your craft if you need a break. Even a brand new car that goes 100mph all day, everyday, needs to pause for gas and a tune-up, despite the driver not wanting to stop.
I feel like, if you aren’t suffering a little in life and doubting yourself.. you aren’t living correctly. Deconstruction is a part of building something good. I feel your journey to refine your talents through your self doubt and deconstruction is helping you build who you are today. It shouldn’t be something working against you. Think of it like a rock refining in the ocean. It gets rounder over time as conflicts or waves crash and push it. I have to agree though, we are interconnected to the roads of life and sharing it like we are allows us to tread places or create paths of creativity we’ve never been before. Say I share a story with you, and you listen.. you recreate it in your head and you have your own version of it except with your flare to it. It now exists as a different interpretation and maybe express itself down the road as something else. I aim for purpose in my conversations; I try to say something meaningful if I speak and when I speak it.
I guess I just felt the pain resonating through you being known as a wolf when the wolf can be interpreted as a negative aspect sometimes. The wolf is a free spirit that just exists to balance the equation called life.. for example in a population of deer left alone with no wolves will eat all the grass in the area.. the grass dies and biosphere slowly collapses along with the rivers drying. When the wolves come in and chase away or eat the deer the biosphere re-stabilizes after time.. and grass grows back.. rivers flow again. There’s a lot in life we don’t understand but life happens for a reason. Some times not for the right reason also but that’s entropy for you. Keep doing what you’re doing. Struggles will happen and you just take them as you go. gl.
One of my favorite quotes: “The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing. Isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination, consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing, and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.” Robert DeNiro (2015 Academy Awards). After 10 books of my own the feeling never ends, and I’m in the same place once again in a slump of procrastination and self doubt. It goes with the territory. Good post.
thats a movie i would totally watch! and honestly im all for taking a different route to the store you just never know what you might come across could be something so simple and beautiful but change the way you look at the day…give it a shot what do you have to lose? good post ty for sharing!
I think your honesty is very admirable. My sense is that we get trapped in binary notions of identity. We say to ourselves “I wrote a book and enjoyed it, therefore I am a writer. And I must always write.” Maybe this is not accurate.
I myself wrote a book – non fiction. i shopped it around agents, and realised that I had not created anything terribly brilliant (no offence or judgement on your creation, by the way). But the process was the reward. It had been therapeutic, and enjoyable- it was out of me, and that was important. Writing the next thing was not. I too couldn’t get started, though I tried. So I stopped and picked up a camera and did that instead. Then I decided to break the 4 minute mile. I did that. It took a lot of effort to realise that I could do things, and enjoy them for what they were, and that my identity was’t tied to one of them.
Now I write a blog. It’s probably not very good, and barely anyone reads it. That’s okay. I am enjoying writing it, and it helps me. Maybe it will help others, but that’s not my goal. And one day I will run out of things to write. Then the challenge will be to direct the energy to where it will best flow . I don’t know that this a popular notion, in our current idea of success, it sounds like giving up, not committing.
TLDR; There are no ‘Writers,’ only people who write.
You’re very courageous for revealing such a tender ache. Any road can be the right one, and in your hands, I suspect it will be.
So true. Thank you for putting this into words and sharing. 🙂
This post is really good I suppose it’s like you say life is kinda just what you imagine it. If you can imagine something a road to success you can create it I suppose.
well done, nice writing..
I appreciate your thoughts and transparency, and like many of the others who commented I, too, have this experience after publishing a book. I also thank you for the sweet visual of all the roads being interconnected. You could say they all dead end somewhere, whether at the top or bottom of the continent, deep through Canada or Mexico and all the way to any coast. So then we come back upon the question, where are we going really? I say nowhere! One can only hope to find fullness in living and adventuring, in the moment itself!
Ah yes, the end of a novel, been there! It’s like a void has opened up underneath you sometimes!
For me writing is how I tend to escape my weakness, not that I don’t experience plenty of self doubt as a writer, pretty sure I’m writing a pile #@$# at any given time. Wonderful feeling right? I guess the difference for me is that my writing is an escape, has always been. For those times when I need to shut off, shut out, or give expression to my pain, or fulfill a need for some excitement. Or there’s just a thread or idea I have to chase.
Whatever the case, seems like all roads lead back here for me, guess I’m stuck being a writer.
I’m glad you found your way to your next burst of energy, thanks for sharing, it was supremely fascinating!
I’ve got a ‘part-written’ novel called ‘Pathways’ – it’s been sat buried for several years and this post is inspiring me to dig it back up and continue… Fabulous post, very honest and many things I can relate to as I’m sure can others.. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – I love that quote! x
I really liked your post here. A lot of thought and depth went into it.
You are fortunate you had parents to help guide you. Mine did not.
May I use your quote about the roads all meet? Would you want me to use your name or a or another name?
It is an eye opener..especially for me. Thank you. 🙂
Thank you for liking my post also.
You are correct in choices in life. But a person also needs someone with some wisdom to help guide you sometimes.
My father just laughed at me. No advice.
Those who have parents that care are very fortunate indeed.
You’re more than welcome to use the idea if you see fit! It would be an honour to know that you found such value in my work.
Thank you! Your writings are very good.
Some have helped me already. Some have awoke me up from the ” sleep mode.” 🙂
You write a lot of thought provoking things.
Keep it up! I’m following you. Nice to have a good read. 🙂
This i beautifully inspiring, thank you. I’ve been spinning those wheels for the last seven years, since i dropped my career in publishing and struck out on my own, trying to identify as anything but a Writer (capital intended). I still write a lot, as a therapeutic practice, but my published output has been very low since then, and i find myself constantly shifting between a creative drive and a crippling absence of a suitable means for expression. A few years ago i found the concept of “drifting” in Robert Pirsig’s book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle” maintenance, which resonates very much with what you’re describing above. If we can allow ourselves to drift for long enough to arrive at the new shores we could never have found by continually striving to arrive, we can find ourselves in beautiful (albeit daunting) new territory. It sounds like you know exactly what i’m talking about. Thanks for the like on Black Dog Barking – i look forward to sharing the creative journey via the digital stratosphere.
Such a beautiful writer! I love finding fellow Aussie writers & bloggers 🙂
Such a beautifully written piece!
Beautifully said. These periods or self doubt can sometimes linger. I find it difficult to move past these but must think ahead and believe this is temporary. Thanks for stopping by and liking my blog. Best to you !
I actually think the journey you write of – “terrible children’s movie,” sounds fascinating.
At what point does self-awareness become self-flagellation?
Provocative line of sight from a wonderful writer…. thank you.
Beautiful insight Mark, thank you….and in the stillness we feel the loving connections that are with us, no matter which road we are on. Xx
I’m a beginner blogger……your words encourage my imagination…keep blogging
Inspiring words. 🙂
Thank you for liking my first post. I had to come to your page and read your blogs & I’m so glad I did. Your work is very inspiring, powerful and moving. Keep it going!