TORONTO, ONTARIO: Doubt gets a bad rap. The word usually conjures a negative connotation and is synonymous with weakness. Perhaps it is time this has changed. Sure, doubt can introduce indecisiveness, provoke fear and produce anxiety. But doubt can also help humble someone that needs it, push those filled with insecurity towards a new direction and create empowerment when it is defeated. There is no shame in doubt.
I have talked before (and probably too much) about attending a workshop at the Humber College School for Writers. There was no reason to doubt my abilities as a writer, putting aside the fact that I never published anything, anywhere. No magazine stories, no book deal, not even anything in the thousands of online journals. There was also no reason to believe in my abilities. I have come to the conclusion that always being behind is just part of my charm. However, not so good when eradicating the anxiety and fallacy of my most recent career choice. Writing.
When we registered in the morning, students received a nametag. Instead of wearing it around my neck, I tied it to a loop in my jeans. Like I was embarrassed. Like I shouldn’t have been there. The first two days of the workshop were a lot of meeting and greeting and pretending that I was better than I felt. Classes didn’t start until the third day.
Also, as I have talked about before (and probably too much), I was in a class with Wayson Choy. I recognized his face from the author photograph found on the back of his books. Whenever I passed him, I automatically turned my nametag around. Our work was sent out to the teachers beforehand and I was sure my writing reinforced his reasons for retiring.
I was convinced that he was actively searching me out with the intention of asking me to leave. The conversation in my mind went something like this:
WAYSON: Thank you for the 15 pages you sent in and for the half hour of my life that I won’t ever get back.
WAYSON: Let’s put the brakes on this. Is there anything else that you could possibly do with your life? Something that does not involve creativity of any kind?
PAUL: I’ll have to think about that.
At this point in the fantasy, he ripped my nametag off and pointed towards the door. With head down, I gathered my things and went home.
I avoided Wayson, running in the opposite direction whenever I saw him. On the second day of the workshop, we divided up into our smaller classes. It was time to face up to his scrutiny. I sat down at the table to his right and the feeling he was going to ask me to leave was so strong the backs of my retinas were vibrating.
And the experience started changing. He didn’t ask me to leave. Over the next few days, his compliments seemed part of a different fantasy, one outside of my control. The doubt shifted, evolved into something else.
Doubt pushed me to go to this workshop in the first place. Doubt pushed me to stand up in front of everyone and read some of my work. Doubt pushed me to think differently about my abilities.
It’s not such a bad thing.