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Finessing Uncertainty


No. 152 | By Christine Carron

Sometimes it feels like the only certain thing on the writing adventure is uncertainty. We might work for years on a project only to abandon it when we realize it doesn’t work. We may get a project done and then experience rejection after rejection. We may get the publishing deal, but then our editor retires or moves to a different publishing house. We may get a book out into the world and then . . . sales crickets. 

It’s a wild, uncertain writerly world out there, for sure. And, absolutely, uncertainty can be a whole lot of not fun. Yet without it, there would be no writing adventure

We would just be writer drones, plodding along a preset path, no room for creativity, ingenuity, persistence, determination, or triumph. Not one iota of anything remotely related to writerly adventuring at all. 

Luckily, I am pretty confident that such a world is not yet upon us. Uncertainty is here to stay. The even better news is that we don’t have to let uncertainty tank our mindset or our forward momentum.

In a New York Times article, Maggie Jackson, the author of Uncertain: The Wisdom and Wonder of Being Unsure, writes that: 

“A growing body of evidence and a range of new interventions suggest that skillfully managing uncertainty in the face of what’s murky, new or unexpected is an effective treatment for anxiety, a likely path to building resilience and a mark of astute problem-solving ability.” (Source: New York Times, How to Thrive in an Uncertain World.)

That evidence validates my experience working with creative folk, of all types, for decades. When we embrace uncertainty on the writing adventure instead of fighting it, we can navigate ourselves out of doubt and overwhelm and back into confidence and flow. Here are three power tips to do so.

Have Faith

Faith, in context of finessing uncertainty, is about where you anchor your equilibrium. If you only anchor it outside yourself, becoming overly occupied (i.e., obsessed) with extrinsic measures of writerly success, then the uncertainty of the writing adventure will have its way with you.

It will yank your mindset, your confidence, and your calm every which way.

If, on the other hand, you have a practice of returning inward to you, to your dreams, to your writerly purpose, your equilibrium will become more deeply rooted. Less perturbable. When the tempests of writerly uncertainty whip up around you, it will be much easier to stay grounded. You will be able to maintain healthy productivity practices, lean into your inner determination, and keep moving forward.

Be Flexible

Flexibility is about rolling with the reality of uncertainty. Researchers have identified ways to measure a person’s tolerance for uncertainty. As with most variables, these tools show a broad range of responses. Some folks hate it. Others not so much. And some naturally embrace it.

Regardless of your starting point, your uncertainty tolerance can be strengthened. Returning to the New York Times article, Jackson shares that in one study a participant “who believed that feelings of uncertainty at work stymied her productivity took on new responsibilities and learned that she could be effective in situations filled with unknowns.”

Emotionally and tactically tightening up in the face of uncertainty, which is extremely common, leads to reactivity. It may even lead to us trying to force faux certainties on ourselves and others. That makes us less resilient. It stops us from responding to what is actually happening, which is not good for our productivity.

Responsiveness is the fuel of flow. 

If you want to create sustained progress on the writing adventure, the fastest path to do so is to meet yourself where you are. Over and over. That allows you to dynamically chart your next steps forward. Steps that will be grounded in reality and that will spark vibrant flow. Sweet!

Feel Good

This final tip is about leaning into what brings you delight. I am big on delight. Often folks have a sense of delight as being extreme happiness, but what it really means is extreme satisfaction. 

I absolutely want you to be happy as much as possible on the writing adventure. I want that for me, too. But even more than that, I want us all to be satisfied.

So . . . write what you want to write. How you want to write. For the readers you want to support.

Write while drinking tea. Or coffee. Or a pop. Or nothing at all. Listen to music. Or don’t. Write in a cafe. At your desk. In the hallway while your baby goes to sleep. At your secret spot in the Redwoods. Or speak your words into your phone on your way to work, if that is your only time to get them down.

Claim your creative space however you can claim it in your life as it is right now. Even if you’re blocked, delight in that. It will pass, and then you will get to delight in that.

Make it a practice to choose what feels good for you on the writing adventure. Not always in a sugary, quick-fix way. (Though the occasional writerly indulgence can be super motivating.) Instead, center yourself in the practices, behaviors, relationships, tools, etc. that lead you toward yummy, purpose-led creative delight.

Which, yes, may mean you occasionally do things that have a level of discomfort and uncertainty as you do them.

(Note: I did call these tips power moves for a reason.)

Bottom line: When you create in a way that feels good to you, it boosts your ability to deal with whatever uncertainty you encounter. That leads to more confidence, progress, and flow, which is super satisfying. Hello, delight!

Uncertainty Finessed

These three power tips will help you manage the uncertainty of the writing adventure with greater ease no matter where you land on that uncertainty-tolerance spectrum. So go for it. Take uncertainty out for a spin around the dance floor. 

And then keep the faith, stay flexible, and have a absolutely feelin’ good time. Then, just like that . . . uncertainty finessed. Wahoo!

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