With a new year just beginning, I’m committing once again to three motivational words that helped me successfully remake my writing schedule to become a morning writer and achieve my goals in 2014. DO THE WORK.
That’s it. The words are simple, and they’re not just for writers. You want to run a marathon? Make time to volunteer? Finish a certification program for a new skill? Improve relationships with family and friends? DO THE WORK. There’s no other way. No fast way. It’s just work. Day after day.
WHY THIS EXPRESSION?
“Do the work” comes from Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art, which I read at the end of 2013. Immediately after finishing the book, I wrote three essays and one short story by the end of the week. Three essays! One story! One week! And each of those pieces found a home.
Most of Pressfield’s War of Art explains what happens to me (and many of us) in those fruitless writing sessions (insert your own goals and passions) when we intend to do the work, but waste time instead. He calls it Resistance (always with a forceful capital R) and he says it happens to anyone trying to accomplish a goal. You intend to organize the house by the end of the month, but shelves seem to be get more crowded? Resistance! Your goal is to spend less money, yet every time you shop at Target you’re buying new clothes instead of detergent? Resistance!
Pressfield says that Resistance is the force that takes over our best intentions. Too much shopping, eating, drinking, watching TV, Facebook time, and so on—it’s Resistance. IT’S ALL JUST BUSY WORK TO KEEP US FROM DOING THE REAL WORK THAT MATTERS TO US.
When it comes to writing, I feel the Resistance in different forms. Some examples:
- Worrying I have nothing to say that matters.
- Worrying I have too much to say and not enough ability.
- Worrying about alienating friends and family. W
- Worrying that when I put myself out there by publishing essays and promoting them in any way (a big part of the writing gig these days), that people I care about are saying, “Who does she think she is?”
- Worrying that people I don’t care about are asking the same question.
Seems like quite a bit of thinking and worrying about myself, I know. But this Resistance I’m describing is under the surface. I don’t sit with my computer and actually think, “What if everyone thinks I suck?” The fear of failure and worry are subtlety there. Always. This Resistance is some kind of bizarre self-protection that can end in self-sabotage.
HOW DOES PRESSFIELD SUGGEST WE GET OVER RESISTANCE?
The specifics of the answer would be different for every person’s goals, but the theme doesn’t change. DO THE WORK.
So I started doing the work. Instead of continuing to complain that I did not have enough time to write, I followed the advice of many writers I respect who say they work in the morning. I’ll never be able to do that, is a lie I told myself for seven years. I imagined Pressfield rolling his eyes at me, and that’s how I got my work done for all of 2014.
With my husband and our four kids asleep, I stumbled into the living room at 5AM five days a week, put my butt in my favorite chair, and opened my laptop. Halfway through the year I was hired by two different sites to write regular columns; I remained a contributing writer at two other sites; I became a regular guest on a radio program; I had several short stories and guest posts published; And I completed some paid print work as well.
Now I still wake up groggy at 5AM, but I’m happy to begin because I don’t just do my work, I love my work. I can’t wait to see where it brings me this year.
Please share some of examples of Resistance in your life. I would especially love to hear some success stories in moving beyond it.
A version of this essay appeared on Nina Badzin’s Blog.