Looking Back While Pushing Forward

Admittedly, I felt a tinge of panic when I came to the blog and found that others had written about something that I had also been thinking about. EVEN THOUGH in all of the classes I’ve taken with Dr. McCoy, she has given us permission, and even encouraged my classmates and I to go back… To remember what others have written on or spoken about… To build off of different ideas that are already taking up space. Sometimes there is a discussion already occurring that sparks a thought or a question within us that allows us to propel forward.

Recursion and repetition are concepts our class keep circling back to (this wasn’t nearly as funny as I thought it would be. I apologize.) We addressed how repetition can feel cyclical. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the idea of repetition and being stuck in one place can be conflated. However, repetition is also what helps push us forward. This particularly stuck with me when Dr. McCoy asked if there were any creative writers in the class, and if so, how the idea of recursion applied to this craft. I said, “it seems obvious, but the more that you write, the more that you work through what you know, the better you become.”

It seems obvious. It seems SO obvious that the more that you practice, the better you’re supposed to get. But sometimes it’s not obvious at all.

For anyone who is a writer, a creative writer, I would imagine you’ve felt doubt or uncertainty at one point or another. Personally, I’ve felt an enormous amount of self-doubt in recent years. I often feel stuck in a cycle of writing the same things I don’t like over and over again with no improvements. I feel like I am stuck in the same place. Completely ignoring the sentiment I expressed in class this semester, at one point I stopped writing entirely and even pushed off academic assignments. Seems counter-intuitive right? Pushing my writing away did not seem to get me unstuck.

This experience led me to be particularly interested in the last epigraph on the syllabus:

Doubt is the big machine. It grinds up the delusions of women and men.” – – Victor Lavalle, Big Machine

When I first looked at this quote, I was sure I knew what it meant. Doubt is a terrible thing. It encroaches on people’s lives. It hinders them from pushing forward. Maybe this is part of what Lavalle is saying, but when I started thinking more about this quote and took the words a part (specifically the word “delusions”), I wondered if it could be interpreted in another way. Can doubt be a good thing? The word “doubt” seems so cynical, but perhaps approaching a situation with a tiny bit of uncertainty, as opposed to fully uncompromising conviction can be beneficial? Rather than just buying-into (for lack of a better word) a situation, a bit of hesitation and questioning can allow us to make more informed decisions. While dwelling in doubt can feel repetitive and inhibiting, remembering and building off our already formed beliefs while also raising some questions allows us to cycle back to what we already know and feel and then push us forward. Perhaps it is a balance of all these things.   

Ricky Rice practices plenty of doubt and questioning in Big Machine. From chapter one to chapter ten, much of Ricky’s narrative progresses through his own questions, it feels repetitive in this case. But these questions are also what push him forward. When Ricky first reads the note inside the envelope that says, “You made a promise in Cedar Rapids in 2002,” he immediately flushes it down the toilet. (Lavalle 6) Out of sight, out of mind, right? Well, Ricky continues to think about the note, repeating it in his mind over and over again, raising questions like “where was I going?”, “could something good be waiting for me there?”, “how did they know?”, and “who were they?” (Lavalle 8) Ricky’s constant questioning almost stop him from leaving his job. What I think is a mix of uncertainty and somewhat of an already convinced position (I mean, he holds on to the bus ticket before raising any of these questions), forces Ricky and his narrative to ultimately progress and take the bus to an uncertain future.

While Ricky’s situation is entirely different (and more daunting) than mine, I am intrigued by this concept of doubt. Like I said before, I think only holding on to doubt or uncertainty can be repetitive and inhibiting, but questioning your decisions and your surroundings at times is a good thing as opposed to maintaining an unchanging mindset.

I hope to apply this to my writing and blog posts in a way. Going back to what I previously said, living in that arena of only self-doubt was absolutely unhealthy and prevented me from moving forward. I was stuck. But I also do not think the other end of this spectrum would be beneficial either. That would be to view my writing as pristine, unable see my weaknesses. Dr. McCoy spoke about how we would be responsible for our own grade on our reflection piece at the end of the semester, and that neither under-selling or over-selling ourselves would be acceptable. It is about finding a balance, rather than holding onto a steadfast belief which may or may not be true. By looking at our writing this way, we must revisit and recognize what we already know and think about our abilities, but at the same time be just a little bit doubtful, be evaluative, raise questions.

One last point is that since the beginning of my schooling experience, I have been told to question and express uncertainty (pose questions) toward the concepts and frameworks I am expected to believe. To not simply feed into a narrative without taking a step back. By raising questions and concerns, examining sources, listening to other people, I’ve been able to make more informed decisions. My thoughts and ideas are constantly being revisited and reshaped, by myself and by doubts, uncertainties, questions. I hope to able to approach the conversations we have in this class through this way everyday, thus propelling forward.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.