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 or or .
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?