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do the doubt: a discipline of practice

A . E. Macha

I would say that I have had a creative block since the end of January 2020. I have doodled and sewed since then, but the flow is not there. The life-giving sanity of drawing is not there. It feels lost. I have been grieving this, especially in the face of all things 2020 and 2021. Even as I continued my creative practice, I have wrestled with this loss.

Our mission at Wondern Awe is to fully incorporate the creative process into daily life, so that our connection to God is heightened. We refer to this as Building Your Daily Liturgy. Often when one thinks of the creative process, or creative people, or artists, one thinks of talent, creativity, ideas. All of “talent” is besides the point if the creative one does not have the discipline to do the work.

People have said to me, “oh it must be fun to be an artist, and do artsy things.” OK, sometimes it’s fun. However, a lot of the time it’s sorta hard. There is a lot of pressure to do ART. And what good is creativity when there is no motivation or the discipline to do the making?

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio

One of our mantras we say back and forth to each other is “Do the doubt.” We stole this from Andras Visky, a famous Hungarian dramaturg , who I have the pleasure of knowing through my sister-in-law who lives in Cluj, Romania. Years ago when Josh and I were visiting her in Cluj, we sat in a little cafe on a rainy day and listened to Andras tell of his love of Caravaggio and how he obsessively researched him for his latest play Caravaggio Terminal.

It was dreamy and surreal to sit there and take it all in. Andras suddenly turned his attention to KJ, my sister-in-law, asking her what she was working on as she is also a visual artist. She responded with something along the lines of, “ Oh, I doubt I can create anymore. I have not been doing much art lately.”

“Don’t do art! What is art? Do the doubt.” Andras replied with authority and a bit of drama. I do not remember what was said after this.But this phrase has become a mantra that I have held tightly for the years since. What does this mean? What is the doubt? How does doubt play into a creative act?

Since the creative flow was lacking, I took inventory of what I had already made. Our Liturgy Keepers are a mild modification of a traveler’s notebook, which I have been making for our Holiday Maker’s Markets and our online shop. I looked at these, which I really enjoy making, and thought, how can I improve this?

I took inventory of not only what I have made, and what supplies I have on hand, but also what training I am utilizing. I like to ad-lib things, just make them and saw that my lack of training could be impacting what I was making. I did some research on bookbinding techniques and saw there was a local bookbinding class I could sign up for. Over the summer I took two of these classes, and found the satisfaction, if not the joy, of making. Now, there is creative flow and there is industrial flow. My current art form: the discipline of making 20 blank journals using supplies on hand.

I have only completed six. (The studio only has a small space heater and it’s been cold!)

I recently watched the documentary The Alpinist with my son Micah. One scene stuck out to me in which the main character, Marc-Andre Leclerc, talks about what he experiences when he is free climbing alone. He said that the squirrel brain he usually lives with is stilled and he is completely present, experiencing the mountain. Earlier in the film, he shares how he struggled in school because of his ADHD, and then drug abuse later in life. In mountain climbing, he found the peace he was itching for.

I think about this as I contemplate my own way through this life, where I long to have the freedom to climb a mountain just because it’s there; but I find myself needing a reason that lines up with a productive measure.

I am not sure how this current practice of making books will prove to be useful. I am not sure if the time put into each book is really cost effective. (Ok, it clearly is not.) . Will a great idea appear before me as I work on these books that will be The Thing that will make Wondern Awe successful?

Maybe . . . but I doubt it.

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