The Story Economy Blog

Faith and Measuring Tapes

When I’m in the process of sewing something, there is always a moment where I have to decide to trust the numbers. I measure and re-measure and make sketches of what the numbers mean and how the fabric is oriented. I draw arrows just in case. I look at it and ask myself: Is this right?Did I measure right?Am I thinking about this in the right way?

As I sat there Saturday afternoon with my sketchpad and a measuring tape, working on a curtain for the closet at the top of the steps that my husband just built, I realized that this moment wasn’t really about confidence or skill. It was actually about faith.

Believing that I’ve collected the right information and that I know what to do with it is an exercise of faith. At some point, I have to just believe that I’m right, and start ripping the fabric.

This is the very same process I go through when I write for clients. Except for instead of trusting the math, I have to trust the gleanings. I talk to them about their book or web site or speech, about who they’re trying to reach, and about what their voice should be like. I ask them the questions that I think will help us get what we need to craft a story for them. And then, when I’m sitting at my computer the next day or week, there is this moment when the information is floating around in my head and a thought drops in: “oh this is how the “About” page should start,” “oh, this is what the central metaphor for the speech should be,” or “yes, this is the tone of the book.”

It takes a piece of faith to trust it. But I (almost) always do.

 An Imbalance of Faith

Doing creative work for other people means living in faith all day long. It’s information and decision: you take something in, and you decide to go a certain way with it. (This isn’t limited to writers, of course. Lawyers coming up with a defense or taxi cab drivers choosing a route do the same thing. And a zillion other examples.)

But it’s not just faith in the work; it’s faith that I’m on the right track. Faith that I’m taking on the right projects to begin with. Faith that I’ll know what to do to make the right projects and people keep showing up. I’ve (almost) always had this faith.

Yet I feel like the one thing lacking in my life right now is . . . faith. The kind of faith that helps you answer questions from your 3-year-old about life and death, that is.

A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation about this with a friend of mine who has tons of the spiritual kind of faith, which I regard with a mix of envy and impossibility. I kept asking him ridiculous questions like, “but how do you know that you believe it?” Then, we started talking about the business I absolutely 100 percent know that he could create (he’s skeptical). “You have so much faith,” he said. “How can you say that you don’t have faith?”

So I wonder: can faith be in both abundance and scarcity at the same time? Is it like having strong quadriceps with weak hamstrings? You can still be a great runner with an imbalance like that. But you can easily get hurt.

Maybe faith is just information and decision, over and over again. Or maybe this is just my approach. Perhaps we each use our own process for faith and apply it to various situations across our lives and lifespans.

The funny thing about this whole business is that I actually have faith that I’ll figure it out. Because more than numbers or words or stuff I can’t see, I (almost) always trust myself.

And, if nothing else, I finally made a new curtain for the closet at the top of the steps.

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