Have you ever sat down eager to write your latest masterpiece only to remember a hundred billion other things that require your immediate attention? Well, you are in good company. Ironically, distraction was a constant companion during the creation of this post. I had laser focus until I opened a blank page – the dreaded blank page. Why does a new canvas or document feel so intimidating? Why do those interrupting thoughts choose to plague you only when you write? And is there a solution?
Resistance: the real enemy to your creativity
In his book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield introduces one of your ultimate foes, Resistance. Imagine for a moment two forces. One, your inner creative force, longs to fill the world with words, images or scented candles. The other force, Resistance, seeks to silence the inner creative. While the inner creative is propelling you forward in your pursuit of artistic greatness; Resistance pushes you back, keeping you stagnant.
According to Pressfield, Resistance is why your to-do list suddenly multiplies the instant you open the word processor. It’s the cause of all those interrupting emails. It’s the voice that whispers, “This is stupid. You’re no good. No one will read this. Give up and do something else”. Resistance is unrelenting, unforgiving, and seemingly unstoppable. So how do you win against such a formidable opponent?
Write like a professional even if you’re not one
You needn’t be a professional writer in a corporate building to reap the benefits. There are key three advantages the professional has over an amateur: a work space, office hours, and good work ethic. The good news is you can have too. By implementing three core actions, you can beat resistance and increase your productivity.
Cultivate a writing space
The professional knows what is expected of him. Every day he gets dressed, goes to the office, and does what is expected. If you’re going to defeat resistance and procrastination, you need a place to write. Writing is a sacred act and deserves an equally sacred space. So, set aside a designated writing area. This could be in your home, your room, or at a coffee shop. Find something that works for you. This is where your inner creative will play. However, you won’t want Resistance to tempt you to clean up or get some water. Therefore, regularly declutter your writing space, make sure it’s well lit and free of potential distractions – including your phone. Also, have everything you need to work close at hand.
Establish writing hours and stick to them
Once the professional arrives at the office, he has a singular focus. Dinner, phone calls, and anything not related to work becomes secondary. Similarly, you could benefit from scheduling regular periods to write. Whether it’s for eight hours or 30 minutes, morning or evening, every day or twice a week, the key is to carve out time for your writing project and honor it. This might mean sacrificing a few hours of Netflix or sleep, but it’ll be worth it once your writing habit becomes automated.
Now, don’t be fooled thinking this will be easy. On the contrary, Resistance will show up to tempt you but stay the course, do not be swayed. You are a professional writer and resistance can’t win if you stick to the plan. You may want to keep a notebook, or piece of paper handy to jot down any interrupting thoughts, ideas, or prompts. If you like, you could label the paper “Later” or something else. When you’re reminded of things that you simply have to do, write them on the Later note and attend to those tasks when your writing time is over.
Develop a killer work ethic
Finally, a professional does what is expected regardless of obstacles that come. He may miss a deadline or two. He may win an award or a few. Still, he gets the job done despite praise or criticism. Yes, its great to be honored and validated. But what happens when the praise disappears? He might do a happy dance or buy a cupcake if the boss says well done, but it neither adds to or subtracts from his motivation. The professional is internally motivated and validated. He produces excellence because its in his nature to excel. And when he falls short, which he does, he gets back up, takes a few notes, and continues on to the next task. Conversely, amateurs are motivated externally. Praise validates their work and inspires them to create more. Criticism sees the amateur give up.
It’s time to retire the amateur and approach your work like a pro. It’s the best way to overcome self-doubt, procrastination, and pride and show Resistance who’s boss.
Three Action Questions
If you’re looking to make a real change in your productivity here are three questions to help you to the next level:
- Where can you create an office space?
- How much time can you realistically set aside for writing today?
- What can you say to respond to the lies Resistance whispers?
Share your answers in the comments and let the conversation continue.