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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

New Book Update: My Early Attempts to Embrace Uncertainty


Embracing uncertainty or uncertain embrace?

I’m embracing uncertainty. Admittedly, I’m embracing it with the one-handed, two-second pat-his-back-and-push-back kind of hug you give an uncle you never really liked far more than with the open-hearted, lingering enfolding you give your Beloved. But it’s a start.

I’m in First Insight (described in chapter 4 of Around the Writer’s Block). This is the inspiration stage of the creative process where the first glimmer of an idea emerges. I really, really like this glittering, brilliant idea that’s emerged for my next book. I’m attached to it.

Embracing uncertainty means surrendering that attachment and asking open-ended questions without assumptions about what the answers will be.

To discover the book’s full potential, I have to stop assuming I already know its boundaries.

The Tricky Bit

It’s my attraction to the idea that engages my imagination and prompts me to go exploring. It’s my assumptions about what I’ll find that gives me some idea of where to go exploring. So of course I don’t want to let go.

On the other hand, if I hold too tightly to assumptions, I could narrow my focus so much that I fail to see related ideas that could be worth following. If I’m not willing to venture into the unknown, I can’t discover anything new.

I want to discover something new, but not too new. I both want and don’t want to move forward. In short, I’m resistant.

I know I’m resistant because I’ve been “too busy” with other writing projects to find 15 minutes for my next book. I’m honoring my commitment to show up; I’m just not showing up where I say I want to show up.

One Guarantee

What makes the Hottentots so hot? Courage!

What makes the Hottentots so hot? Courage!

Where can I find the willingness to invest time, energy and attention in an idea without holding onto assumptions about what I’ll discover or creating expectations that I’ll discover anything at all?

I have no guarantees that this idea will work. In asking open-ended questions, I might get evidence that contradicts what I think. I might not discover anything at all. I might realize there isn’t enough to the idea to support an entire book.

And that’s just the tip of the uncertainty iceberg. Even if it turns out my hypothesis is valid and useful, there’s no promise that I’ll be able to write an effective proposal.

Even if I write an effective proposal there’s no guarantee I’ll find a publisher interested in it.

No guarantee that a publisher, if found, will give me enough creative freedom.

No guarantee that readers will welcome the idea and embrace my book. No guarantee how many books I’ll sell or how many readers I can have a positive impact on.

No wonder so many writers hold onto our brilliant ideas, promising ourselves that someday we’ll get the time/energy/skill/opportunity/support to write our way from idea to manuscript. What could make today that someday? What makes the Hottentots so hot?

The only guarantee is that if I don’t do something, I have absolutely NO chance of writing a book that will influence readers. That one certainty gives me the courage to hang out with uncertainty, make friends with questions and say goodbye to assumptions.

But just for 15 minutes at a time.

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6 Comments on “New Book Update: My Early Attempts to Embrace Uncertainty”

  1. Anonymous June 11, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    I can understand your thought process. I will give you the same advice that I would give my husband Bob. He can ponder things for quite some time also and think of all the negative things that could happen but almost never do happen. You are over thinking it. Go ahead and get started. I for one am excited to see what you are thinking about.

    By the way, I got the revision of my book about Helen’s life up as a kindle book and am doing print on demand for the revision which will be done soon.


    • rosannebane June 13, 2013 at 7:38 am #

      Thanks Anonymous. Yes, if I stay focused on the fear of negative things that could happen, I can over think it and delay my process. On the other hand, if I don’t acknowledge the fear, I stay stuck circling (aka resistant). My goal is to acknowledge the fear so that I can move forward. What I’m striving to not under think are the questions that will drive and direct the research I’ll do for the new book. It would be easier to just jump ahead to what I know how to do, but I could easily jump over some significant questions that way.
      Thanks for telling me you’re excited about this — that really motivates me.
      Congrats on the Kindle book and POD revision! Helen’s story is inspiring — I love the variety of publishing options that make and keep books like yours available.


  2. Joel D Canfield June 11, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    No more trunk novels. No more great books waiting to be perfect BEFORE THEY’RE WRITTEN.

    A book isn’t perfect, isn’t even GOOD, until it’s READ.


    • rosannebane June 13, 2013 at 7:45 am #

      Complete agreement with you Joel: No more great books waiting to be perfect before they’re written!
      Writers need to trust that our book, like every book, has the potential to be great and the only way to reach that potential is to risk being “not great yet, in process” for a LONG time.


      • Joel D Canfield June 13, 2013 at 9:41 am #

        Have you watched (or read) Ira Glass’ commentary on how our ability to appreciate art is what makes us dissatisfied with our own attempts?


        • rosannebane June 15, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

          Joel, I looked up an Ira Glass quote “nobody tells this to beginners…” I had read it before, and it’s a good observation worthy of a second read.


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