The Art of Self Sabotage
I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp – Somerset Maugham
The theme of the month is “routines” and I picked it so that I could get into the habit of writing every morning. I had big plans of settling into a quirky little routine where little by little, my story would unfold and my writing would improve.
But then, something very funny and strange happened.
The minute I said to myself “Okay, I’m going to give this writing thing a shot,” a giant vortex appeared out of nowhere that has proceeded to suck any and all creativity and motivation out of me.
All the writing I was supposed to do as part of my morning routine? It hasn’t happened. Instead I’ve been busying myself with other, justifiably healthy activities. I’m plowing through books, meditating more, taking cold showers and stretching every night. I did my taxes early. I’m practicing guitar and learning lots of new songs on the piano.
Want to hear me play the Game of Thrones theme song? You should because I learned it.
According to author Steven Pressfield, there’s a name for this ugly little vortex. It’s called Resistance and it’s an evil, cunning and powerful thing whose sole purpose is to prevent us from doing our work. It’s self sabotage at it’s finest.
Are you a writer who doesn’t write? A painter who doesn’t paint? An entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is. – Steven Pressfield, the War of Art
Everyone experiences resistance in one form or another for any number of reasons – fear of failing, fear of not being good enough, overwhelm, laziness, to name a few.
On top of that, practice, the kind you need to do day in and day out to get really good at something, is boring. And repetitive. There’s nothing fun about getting up at 4:30am to head to the pool to swim 60 laps, or writing 2000 words of a story that will never see the light of day, or even playing the Game of Thrones theme song on the piano 27 times in a row and still managing to screw some notes up.
That’s why the people who go onto succeed aren’t necessarily the smartest or most talented people. They’re the ones who can handle the boring and the hard, day after day, year after year. Like figure skater Dorothy Hamill who would spend four hours a day practicing intricate footwork for her compulsory figures. Or Kobe Bryant who has been known to shoot (and make – a missed shot doesn’t count) 800 jump shots after practice.
Can you imagine sinking 80 jump shots after hours of practice, and then thinking to yourself “Great, just 720 more baskets to make.” Most of us wouldn’t last more than a few days.
But that’s the difference between the professional and the amateur. The professional consistently overcomes resistance and does the work, while the amateur succumbs to it.
I am succumbing in a big way. Resistance is quite the little twat.
But I’m sharpening my sword and polishing my armor because I refuse to be so easily defeated. I have a new battle plan in place. It’s a simple, two-pronged approach:
First, make it a priority. Morning writing sessions will happen before anything else.
Second, make it small. A minimum of five minutes of writing. That’s it. I can work on my short story or write something completely new. I can type “I don’t know what to write today” three dozen times if it pleases me as long as I complete those five minutes. I’ve made the task so small and so easy that it becomes virtually impossible not to do it every day.
This morning, I got up before the sun and poured myself a glass of water. I sat on the chaise lounge chair in my bedroom, opened up my laptop and jotted down what I could remember of my dreams. Then, I started writing.
Eight minutes had passed before I felt the urge to quit. So I did, happily, because today, I overcame resistance.
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