Light is temperamental in the temple of creation. I often feel as if I am fumbling, half-blind, toward a common uncertainty, searching for fire and finding only traces of smoke, trying to align a frayed thread with the eye of a rotating needle. I call this the failing attempt: it is a mistrust of the moment. Doubt is often my crippling, omnipresent adversary.
I was recently watching an interview of Sally Mann conducted sometime before A Thousand Crossings. When prompted to speak on doubt in relation to her work, she references the following from Henry James’ The Middle Years, saying that she adheres to it like a mantra:
We work in the dark - we do what we can - we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.
I carried this with me in the following weeks. Is the muse fickle, or had I been denying myself foresight? I imagined it as a vein of flight: leaping in the face of self-imposed adversity, launching yourself beyond the arc of fear, no haven below.
I’m coming to understand persistence as a collaboration between the act and doubt. It’s a negotiation fought on the hard earth under stark sunlight, a hint of cloud above, a propeller pushing loosely forward.