the fear of beginning.

Steven Pressfield, author of the brilliant book The War of Art, argues in that particular book that all creative artists encounter this thing that he labels “the resistance”.  Basically, it’s anything that keeps us from doing the work that we love.  It often comes in the form of procrastination.  The resistance knows that if it can get us to put off the work that we need to do, there’s a good chance we’ll never come around to doing it.  It will also feed you lies that your work is not good, will never be good, and what’s the point anyway.  He states in the book that the force of the resistance often gets stronger as we get closer to doing what we NEED to do. 

Why do I mention this, you ask?  Well, because I’m encountering it right here. 

The process of writing really isn’t that hard.  You sit down at the keyboard and begin hitting the keys with your fingers.  Most people can do that with little or no thought, forming words and sentences as they think of them.  The hard part, however, is beginning.  How do you arrive at the point before starting your first sentence?  You grumble and moan about the work, about the million other responsibilities that require your attention, end up getting distracted, and never start that first sentence.  And this is how the resistance wins. 

I’m realizing that creativity isn’t bestowed upon us gently.  It requires perspiration and finger-numbing work.  This might sound completely obvious, but it’s funny how often we fool ourselves into thinking that genius is going to appear simply by magic.  We must work at it.

I’m convinced that social networks have contributed to us becoming infinitely more distractable.  The Internet is one large looming distraction, and because we typically do our work on a computer with a browser icon glowing in our faces, we are constantly tempted to jump online.  I’ve found this true in my experience, as I check out the status updates of friends on Facebook rather than cranking out the daily writing I’ve “committed” to.  The core of this is merely a matter of discipline…I need to set a writing goal each day and fight to meet that goal…whether it’s 4 pages or 4 paragraphs.

In the end, though, this isn’t just about creative endeavors.  We delay beginning anything, because beginning means changing.  Change is hard, and therefore we resist.  I’m as fearful of change as anyone, but that fear only holds us back from being the artists and humans that we should and can be. 

Our world needs passionate people right now, who are willing to work hard at the things they love and bless others with those talents.  Whether your passion is writing, painting, or something else entirely, we are all capable of producing great work.  It just depends if we’re ready to begin.