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January 21, 2014

Sudden Moment of Certainty

by Dan

Matt Gemmell is switching careers. For years, he’s had a job programming and a hobby writing. Those will now be reversed. He’s feeling excited, nervous, and—my favorite part—alive.

I need to come back to fear at some point, but today I couldn’t stop thinking about this comment:

It’s a big gamble, but I walked into my office last Monday morning for my first full week of exclusively writing, I opened the blinds, and I felt something I’ve only felt one other time in my life: this is right. The last time I had that certainty, my next words were “I do”, and my fiancée became my wife.

I know exactly how that feels. There have been four times in my life when I’ve had that sudden clarity of thought, when I knew the right answer with complete confidence. They are rare, exhilarating moments that have occurred after spending time in deep thought or wrestling with a major decision over a period of weeks or even years.

I’ve found that the feelings of certainty don’t last. And doubts can begin to creep in almost immediately. But when I keep the memory of that moment alive, and trust myself to continue despite doubt and fear, it has given me the courage to move forward, commit, make a change, and keep going.

The artist Jordan Voigt mentions these moments of certainty too:

Sometimes it happens almost incidentally and you suddenly realize: I’ve got it! As soon as this moment of certainty is there, sometimes I can work for four or five months at a time on a single subject – and it’s a continuous flow. But I can also wait four to five months or longer for this moment to arrive!

I didn’t know what to call that feeling. Defining moment seems too general because those can be caused by external events happening to you. This seems more personal, the result of some internal process or effort.

Thinking about it again, I had a sudden flash of insight (of course) into what to call it:

Sudden moment of certainty (noun)
A point in time when you realize, with perfect confidence, that an idea is true or a choice is right.

I don’t know if it will catch on. I don’t know that it needs to. Good enough that I now have words to identify such a sublime and catalytic event.

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