Writing is hard. And writing is easy.

When it’s hard, it’s torture. Getting words out of one’s head is the creative equivalent of the ancient Egyptian embalmer removing the brains of a soon-to-be mummy through a nostril. The ideas refuse. The characters sit grumpy on the page with their arms folded, refusing to do what they’re asked to do.

Other days, the act of writing is pure joy. Even after a night’s sleep broken by ideas that refuse to wait until morning…even after waking with a hand cramp from a tape recorder gripped too tightly in sleep…the prospect sings.

And then there’s the shadowland between. The place where Trickster Doubt creeps in and pushes judgment out. These are the what-was-I-thinking? days—or, worse, the things-are-quiet-too-quiet days.

In the alternate universe, the Bizarro place, things can go too well. And sometimes the work that comes too easily is an invitation to doubt.

Has the work gone so well because it’s good? Or because you’ve settled? Has it earned its way onto the page because it’s right—or is it there just because you haven’t tried hard enough?

Creatives never stop looking for a better way. “John went to the grocery store” is fraught with the imperative to give it a more powerful turn: “Hundreds of thousands of choices. Shelf upon shelf of possibility. John faced the automatic doors of the supermarket with an emotion close to fear, and a paycheck that mocked him from his pocket.”

Okay, not a great example, but it’ll do for now.

The point is, a character’s smile is not a smile, a description is not a description, a plot is not a plot. It’s a crossroads. Step on one path or the other and the destination changes. And if the writer (this writer) can’t commit, the end will never be reached. Take no step, and go nowhere.

Often—very often—that unwilling choice yields a wildly unexpected result: The end of The Spiritkeeper is a perfect example. Arriving at an idea that amazes reader and writer alike is where joy lives. But taking the step requires a supreme act of faith.

Call it faith in one’s ability, not judgment, and the whole equation changes. Alien concepts, those two, with a Grand Canyon gap between them. Judgment is cruel. Faith is forgiving. And for a writer, maybe that’s what we need to remember: When judgment goes missing, take comfort in the Faith of Me.

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