Last week I was feeling pretty high. I had just finished the first draft of the manuscript of my first non-fiction book: a memoir of how I smashed through all sorts of barriers in my life in the last few months, including losing 40 pounds, finally starting to follow my dreams that I had given up on 20 years ago, and learning how to create every day. And I had just made my first 35 cents as a published author. Yes, I was feeling pretty smug. I had just given Resistance a huge bitch-slap to the face. Nothing could stop me now. I was ready to start my challenge to write my first novel in 30 days, before my 35th birthday on June 19th, using Victoria Schmidt’s Book In A Month as a guide and a motivator.
That’s when all hell broke loose.
Well, not literally. But pretty much. I had been doing well writing every day, finishing my memoir at 163 pages. So what was the problem with writing my fictional novel every day? Writing is writing, right? And I had already successfully published my short story RoboGirl: Episode 1: Dance Robot, and it was selling like hotcakes, with 2 downloads so far. I had even received an incendiary email from a member of a forum saying I had spammed their forum since I posted a link to my ebook in their forum for projects, labeled “post your project here.” (Who would have known that actually meant “post your project here only if your name isn’t Daniel Bean?” I later realized that he was just acting as an agent of Resistance, which we’ll discuss below.)
Yes, my work was already making waves. So this novel should be a cinch for a professionale such as myself, right?
It’s never a cinch. Resistance makes sure of that.
So what is this Resistance of which I speak, you ask?
I call it “Pressfieldian Resistance.” (Since the term in this specific use was coined by Pressfield—not because he is the one causing it!) The concept of Resistance is expounded upon greatly by artist Steven Pressfield, in his groundbreaking book, War of Art. In a nutshell, here it is:
Pressfieldian Resistance - That part of the human psyche with attempts to stop us, using every trick possible and at all costs, from achieving anything of real value, from becoming who we were meant to be.
I would say about 99% of people on the earth (probably more than that) are slaves to Resistance every day of their lives. Most people realize at the end of their lives that they never spent 5 minutes of their life pursuing the things they really wanted to do. That’s because Resistance is such a sneaky little devil. It stops us from doing what we really want to do without us even realizing it.
Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.
- Steven Pressfield
How do we overcome Resistance? By awakening to our divine nature: awakening to the higher, holier calling to be who we were born to be. By creating art. By doing noble things. By helping people. By inventing things. By keeping a journal. By developing your talents. By making this world a better place. By doing the things that are important, not urgent. By spending real time every day pursuing your passions, doing something nobler than just making ends meet and surviving.
Life is Time
What most of us don’t realize, and which Resistance uses to its great advantage, is that that stuff we squander everyday, that we feel like there is an infinite supply of—that’s right, that stuff called time—is actually the substance that our lives are composed of. 70% of the human body is made up of water, but 100% of the human life is made up of time. (A more actionable statistic to remember.) When we use up an hour of our day, we’re not spending time, we’re spending life. Time is the only resource we have, ultimately, since after our time is through, everything else we think we have runs out. The only thing we have is time. So use it wisely.¹
A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.
- Charles Darwin
Whatever we chose to spend our time on, that’s what we’ve spent our life on. Want to live a life of meaning? Start spending time doing meaningful things now. Today. Not tomorrow.
Seize the day, and put the least possible trust in tomorrow.
It seems like we are always referring to this quote—carpe diem, seize the day. But the only ones who are living it are the ones who bold enough, even crazy enough, to follow their passions.
So how did Resistance try to take me down last week, as I began my 30 day journey to write my first novel?
If I had to sum Resistance up into one concept, it would be this one: self-doubt. Most of us don’t follow our dreams, because we don’t believe that we can achieve them. The opposite of self-doubt is faith. You have to have faith in yourself—you have to believe in who you are, and even more importantly, in the power of inspiration. Once you believe in this power, and act on it, consistently, then it will come to aid you. This is what is sometimes referred to as an artist’s Muse. Actually, the Muses in Greek mythology are not limited to art, but are defined as “the goddesses of the inspiration of literature, science and the arts.”²
But the Muses don’t just inspire any old fool. You have to work your ass off. You have to prove yourself. You have to make it through the trial of fire unscathed. And much of this trial by fire is self-doubt.
Why did Thomas Edison say “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration”? when clearly we can accomplish nothing without inspiration? Surely, the greatest works of art and inventions did not come about because the humans who manifested them were so amazing, taking credit for 99% of the idea, while the heavens only really inspired about 1%. No, inspiration is what accounts for 100% of the shear beauty, awe, and magnificence of true art, of truly great inventions, but the artist, the inventor has to slave their butt off to even get close to being worthy of receiving that inspiration. That’s what I believe Edison meant: you slave and you slave and you slave, most of the time creating lame-ass stuff, and then once in a great while, true inspiration strikes, and that’s when you have genius.
But what happens when you first begin to work? You start cranking out that lame-ass, mundane, uninspired stuff. And it sucks. And you thing “What the hell am I doing this for anyways? I’m no good at this! Why did I ever think I could take it upon me to create a work of art? Who am I to think I can do what Michelangelo, Leonardo Davinci, Charles Dickens, James Joyce, Emily Dickinson did? Those people were artists. They were inspired. I’m not like that. I’m just your every-day Joe Schmoe.
As I began to follow the steps in Book In a Month, as I began to outline my novel, as I began to realize the infinite possibilities of where the plot could go, and how much sheer work lie ahead of me, I started to be overwhelmed. That voice in my head (a.k.a. Resistance) started saying “Maybe you’re not cut out for this. Maybe you’re in way over your head. Maybe it’ll suck. Maybe you’ll just waste your time and be a miserable failure.” And that led to…
Next to self-doubt, procrastination is Resistance’s most powerful weapon. If you’re going to procrastinate, procrastinate something unimportant. Don’t procrastinate on what’s truly important: following your dreams. Living the life you’ve imagined. Do that today.
But self-doubt and procrastination are related. Once you start to have that nagging feeling like maybe you’re not good enough, then you start making up all sorts of excuses. Once you get overwhelmed by the enormity of the task before you, everything, every little thing other than writing now seems uber-important. And so even though I had been writing my memoirs every day, all the sudden I was paralyzed by fear. And I reacted by not writing. For the first time in a long time, I skipped a day without writing. And a few other days I didn’t reach my word count goal. My 30 days had just barely started, and I was already feeling like crap. I knew that I couldn’t quit, but I felt horrible. I felt like maybe I had made a mistake.
How did I over come it? First, I realized that all those things that I was getting hung up on, the complexities of plot, and structure, and acts, and turning points, those things weren’t important. And what I mean by that is:
The first and most important rule, when undertaking any creative endeavor, is to just do it.
As soon as that thought came to my mind, all that other stuff that I was fretting over seems to crumble into dust and vanish. I realized that my first objective as a writer was to write. So I put down all the forms that Book In A Month was having me fill out, and said screw it. And I just started writing. And that’s when I started feeling better. That’s when I started feeling good about the project again. I even started feeling like inspiration was on the horizon.
Are those things that Victoria Schmidt talks about in Book In A Month important? Of course they are. I am reading and learning more every day. But whenever I get overwhelmed, whenever I start feeling stressed, I remind myself: 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration. Just start doing the work. Get the ball rolling. Without momentum, nothing can be achieved. Keep moving forward.³
So who cares if I have to go back and heavily rewrite my first draft, and make sure it actually has structure, pacing, character arcs, all that good stuff? The important thing is that I’m learning, and I’m not giving up.
Now is a good time to insert Wayne Gretzky’s quote which has become cliché but which is absolutely essential if we are every going to become who we were born to be: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
So whatever it is we do, or dream to do, let us be bold enough to do it every day, and to keep moving forward, only looking back to learn from our mistakes.
1. That’s why I’ve never understood why once a person has enough money for their needs, they would want to continue wasting their time, their life, in exchange for amassing more money, when they could be using that time to do something important, to follow their passions. That surplus money won’t make their life any more enjoyable, and they won’t be able to take it with them when they die.
3. “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” -Walt Disney