This weekend I was reading The Adventure of Living, a book written in the mid 1960s by Paul Tournier, a Swiss doctor and author who has been called the 20th century’s most famous Christian physician. This book is one of my wife’s all-time favorites. I’m not sure why I plucked it from the bookshelf, but I’m glad I did. And there’s a writing angle.
In discussing the paradoxical nature of life’s various adventures, Tournier offers his book manuscript as an example, describing paralyzing moments and what he calls “taking the plunge,” the name of a chapter. He gets it right. As someone who wrestled with a book manuscript not long ago, I can certainly relate to how internal conflict coexists with the act of writing.
Tournier: “This was the case with me a few days ago as I sat on this balcony with my blank paper in front of me, in a state of perplexity. This is the case with every book I write, with every consultation I give. I hesitate anxiously, assessing the risk, and secretly ashamed of my hesitation, which I look upon as culpable timidity. And when this sense of guilt becomes intolerable I take the plunge, saying to myself, ‘Oh well! I must say what I have got to say, and accept the consequences.'”
Then the magic happens. (Or can happen.) Maybe you’ve experienced this.
Tournier: “One page written calls for another. The adventure has begun, and I cannot withdraw from it. It becomes compelling. It forces me to be bold where previously I was in doubt. I have burned my boats and cannot turn back; I have crossed the Rubicon.”
Momentum carries him (and other writers ), but insecurities and doubts never completely vanish.
Tournier: “My fears, the objections which I make to myself, have not in fact disappeared. I have merely repressed them, and I must brace myself, and rush into action in order to counteract them and stop them from calling everything in question.”
Keep writing. Write through the gremlins. It’s the only way.