I Can Do That

February 11, 2013


Remember how happy I was to get my office back?  Every day I enter it I get a little thrill of satisfaction. Followed quickly by an emotion I was not expecting:

Abject and overwhelming terror.

You see, I’ve just removed my last significant excuse for not spending the time I said I wanted to spend writing. My files and books and computer are neatly arranged at my fingertips. I can close my door, play music, gaze up at all the little talismans I keep for inspiration. I can spread papers all over the desk, all over the floor, even. I can burn the scented candle my husband doesn’t like. There’s no one to bother if I want to go in there to write at 8 a.m. or 2 p.m. or midnight.

What this new division of offices suggests is respect for and acknowledgment that I am working, not playing. But with that respect and acknowledgement comes pressure. Now that I’ve lost my “I have nowhere to work” excuse, I’d better start producing. What does producing look like? Is it pages done? Money earned? A skill honed or a connection made? How will I know I’m productive?

Instead of steadily tapping away at the keyboard, I look in my idea file and have a sudden urge to clean the kitchen ceiling fan. I take out my notebook and pen and stare out the window. I pull out a piece already in progress, hate its guts, and want to chuck it. It’s so hard. Why is it so hard?! I love the feeling of words flowing through me, when my pen lags behind the words spilling out, and my fingers curl into a cramp.

What I’m truly afraid of is: there is nothing inside. There are no words. And if a few dribble onto the page, they will be of absolutely no interest to anyone else. I read writers I admire and cringe at my own awkward prose.

Not long ago, I read a fantastic book called The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. Now I turn back to its pages for advice. Pressfield writes, “Are you paralyzed by fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do….Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that the enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.”

Resistance and fear, huh? Check and check. So what do I do? Pressfield’s solution to Fear/Resistance is “turning pro.” Turning pro means you are now a professional as opposed to an amateur. A professional focuses on the work and its demands. “Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying. Why is this so important? Because when we sit down day after day and keep grinding, something mysterious starts to happen. A process is set into motion by which, inevitably and infallibly, heaven comes to our aid. Unseen forces enlist in our cause; serendipity reinforces our purpose.”

“Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”

I can do that. I can practice butt-in-chair using the kitchen timer if necessary. Filling pages with nonsense, if necessary. The only way to overcome the terror of writing is.to.write. Even if it’s morning pages, or a journal entry, or a description of the wren hunting bugs in the shrubs outside my window. I can do that.

Do you ever experience this type of fear/resistance when you want to create something? (Please tell me I’m not alone!) How do you overcome it?

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10 comments

  1. This is exactly what I am going through. You are definitly not alone. Ever since about 3 weeks ago, when I sat down a jotted down a bunch of notes and funny stuff from my childhood and then went right to FB and announced, okay, now I am ready to write a book. I got a bunch of thumbs up and encouragement and even a how to from one of my BFFs. Then, I froze! I can still do blog posts, but that is about it. Resistance, self-doubt, all of it.

    I am already in the routine of writing and producing posts each morning, but not in the form of a book or long story. I will give this idea of turning pro a go. I have nothing to lose except the fear, right?

    I really appreciate your post, Kathy.

    Kathy M.

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  2. Kathy--I don't wish this on anyone, but I'm glad I'm not alone! We just have to keep going, keep showing up, and the words will find us. Keep at it, Kathy--I know your discipline will pay off.

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  3. love your colorful inspirational blog. Good advice.

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  4. Thank you so much for your kind comments, and thank you for visiting, Carol!

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  5. Kathy ... your blog posts are real articles and are real writing. You are an awesome writer! I wonder if we sometimes think that the things we are afraid of tackeling, fiction writing for me, make us feel like not real writers? That isn't really true though. Just thought I would throw that out there.

    Kathy M.

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  6. I can relate to what you are saying & I think your writing here is honest, courageous & touching. A children's book author/artist, Johanna Wright, on her website's blog, shares her stages of creating. She calls one "Ugly Town" where she hates everything she creates. The next one is called Very Hard Work. It does help me to know other people go through these things.

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  7. Kathy--Thank you for your encouragement. Blog post writing is definitely real writing--it's different than what I used to do (articles for magazines) so I still find it challenging sometimes.

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  8. Rita--Thank you for your kind comments. I didn't think I was alone, but sometimes it feels like it. I'm comforted to know that others face the same stages I do (Johanna Wright's Ugly Town sounds familiar--when I get to the point where I really hate what I've written, I know I'm almost done writing and about to start editing!)

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  9. I'm sorry to hear you're facing this right now, because your writing is wonderful. I love reading what you write. You do NOT write awkward prose. You write interesting, insightful, flowing prose. It sounds like you have the start of your solution with "turning pro."

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  10. Cheryl--Thank you so much. You always make me feel good about my writing. I'm glad you enjoy it. Hopefully, "turning pro" will only make it better (and easier!).

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