It never, ever, EVER goes away
“I have a hard time writing,” she says.
“Why?” I ask.
“Because every time I sit down to write, I just feel stuck. Nothing comes to me. I feel like I have nothing to say.”
“And what’s the problem with that?” I probe.
“Well, I just can’t write with that feeling. I want to know how to make it go away.”
I laugh. I big, hearty laugh from my gut. She looks confused.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I’m not laughing at you. I have some good news and some bad news.”
“Okay, I’m listening,” she says.
“The bad news is that feeling never, ever, EVER goes away. I can absolutely guarantee that. I’ve written a minimum of 1,000 words five days a week for ten years and I get that EXACT same feeling EVERY time I sit down to write.”
“You’re kidding,” she says in disbelief.
“Nope,” I chuckle. “You think I’m a professional writer because I don’t get that feeling. But what separates amateurs from professionals isn’t that professionals don’t get that feeling, but rather that professionals simply push through it and do the work in spite of it.
“And this doesn’t just apply to writing. It applies to any creative endeavor, whether that be making music or building a business, painting or architecture. You ask any accomplished professional in any field and they will tell you that they still experience that same feeling every time they go to work. Great works of art emerge only on the other side of that feeling.
“You can’t wait for that feeling to go away to create; you’ll be waiting all your life and you’ll die with your song still in you.”
“Okay,” she says, disappointed. “So what’s the good news?”
“The good news is that you are not that feeling, and that you can learn how to work in spite of it, every time, without fail.
“That feeling, that voice in the back of your head telling you that you have nothing to offer the world, is Resistance. Julia Cameron calls it your inner Censor in her book, The Complete Artist’s Way: Creativity as a Spiritual Practice.
“In his book The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, Steven Pressfield gives this rule of thumb, which is right on the money:
‘The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.’
“Every artist, creator, or producer of any kind has an intimate relationship with Resistance.
“In fact, I actually think of my inner Resistance as a pet — a little yappy dog I call Fluffy. Every time I sit down to work, Fluffy comes tearing around the corner yapping his fool head off.
“Like any insecure yappy dog, Fluffy has good intentions — he wants to protect me from the pain of failure and humiliation. What he doesn’t realize is that the remorse of not trying is far, far worse than the embarrassment of failing.
“The more I yell at Fluffy, the harder I try to drop-kick him into oblivion, the louder and more obnoxious he becomes.
“I find that he quickly loses interest when I ignore him. So every time I sit down to work and he starts snarling and yapping, I smirk and say, ‘Fluffy, go lay down.’ And then I ignore him. He yaps for a while, and then he lays down and leaves me alone. He’s still there, but he stops bothering me. When Fluffy stops yapping, the ideas start flowing.
“Amateurs are those who hear Fluffy barking but they never get close enough to see him. He sounds ferocious, but if they were to see him, they would laugh at him. But they never get close enough to see him. They turn tail and run away every time they hear him.
“The trick is to sit in the chair long enough to prove to Fluffy that you’re committed. Then and only then will he settle down and leave you alone to work.”
She ponders. “So all I have to do is sit long enough?”
“Yep. Resisting Resistance only makes it stronger. Just learn to ignore it and work in spite of it and it fades into the background.”
“Anything else I should know?”
“Yes,” I say. “It’s worth it.”