Belief vs. Doubt

“Franzen thinks that there’s no way for a writer to do good work — to write something that can be called “consuming and extraordinarily moving” — without putting a fence around yourself so that you can control the input you encounter. So that you could have a thought that isn’t subject to pushback all the time from anyone who has ever met you or heard of you or expressed interest in hearing from you. Without allowing yourself to think for a minute.

It’s not just writers. It’s everyone. The writer is just an extreme case of something everyone struggles with. “On the one hand, to function well, you have to believe in yourself and your abilities and summon enormous confidence from somewhere. On the other hand, to write well, or just to be a good person, you need to be able to doubt yourself — to entertain the possibility that you’re wrong about everything, that you don’t know everything, and to have sympathy with people whose lives and beliefs and perspectives are very different from yours. ‘The internet was supposed to do this for people, but it didn’t. ‘This balancing act’ — the confidence that you know everything plus the ability to believe that you don’t — ‘only works, or works best, if you reserve a private space for it.'”

—Taffy Brodesser-Akner. “Jonathan Franzen Is Fine With All of It.” The New York Times Magazine. June 26, 2018.

Strikes me as the same idea discussed in the “It is the Worry That Made the Work Good” post a few days ago, i.e., you need to have optimism that a solution can be found and skeptical in the approaches you have tried thus far.

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