Inspiration has failed me today. I have started four or five different posts and stopped. Uninspired, they failed to grab my interest. If I’m not interested, how the heck do I think I can interest anyone else? This doubt grew into an I can’t. How do you turn I can’t into I can?
Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art, left me pretty unimpressed. I disagreed with much of what he wrote, except for his primary concept, resistance.
Creatives aren’t the only ones who struggle with resistance. Resistance, or the naysaying inner voice, is a part of being human. Some call it fear. Long before I read Mr. Pressfield’s book I called my naysaying voice “the dark side” (a la Star Wars). It’s the inner voice that says, “I can’t.” Its name doesn’t matter. Recognizing when that inner voice speaks is what matters.
Don’t Go to Battle
I take exception to Mr. Pressfield’s insistence that we must battle resistance. The “I can’t” means something. Sometimes “I can’t” means I’m exhausted or I’m sick or I’m distracted. Sometimes it means I’m tapped out as in empty or I’ve got nothing more to give. Forcing yourself to work when you’re empty or too sick or too tired is fruitless.
Don’t battle your resistance. Figure it out. You must be able to figure out what your resistance today, at this moment, means. And that calls for honest self-evaluation. Are you really too tired? Why? Is this a way for you to procrastinate? It is because you’re afraid of failure? As yourself why over and over. When you get to the real cause, you’ll get that ah-ha feeling.
Feed Your Resistance
Get back to your baseline. By this, I mean, if you are lacking enough rest—rearrange your schedule to allow for more rest. If you are sick, take care of yourself. If you are empty, refill your creative or spiritual well with the things that restore you.
Lacking inspiration on how to refill your creative or spiritual well? Spend time in nature, read a book or poetry, enjoy music, or plays. Go to a museum or special exhibit.
Be careful. Unless you write screenplays, television and movies are unlikely to refill your creative or spiritual well. The same is true of online games and the like.
Deal with Distractions
If your distractions are must-dos: a day job, caring for your family, or whatever—do what you need to do. This is another place where you have to be honest with yourself. Are you using your distractions to keep from doing your creative thing? Don’t.
Give yourself a time limit during which you will deal with the distraction. When your distractions are high, find a minimum of ten minutes for your creative endeavors. Doing a little every day will feed that creativity and keep your muse working on it.
Face Your Fear
Do you know what it is you fear? Get specific. Do you fear public backlash? Perhaps you fear success. Again, ask yourself why over and over.
Once you know specifically what your fear is you can begin to face it. Sometimes you need to work despite your fears. Some fears need to be resolved. Only you can decide what you need.
Don’t Give Up
The one thing you mustn’t do is to allow your “I can’t” to become the mountain you can’t climb. Just as you give distractions a time limit, give your “I can’t” a time limit. Set goals. If goals are intimidating, set a tiny goal for every day or every week and set a stretch goal.
This is particularly true if your “I can’t” is because you don’t have the skills you need to be successful. Learning new skills takes time. Give yourself the gift of that time.
Need more about not giving up. Check my post, When You Want to Surrender.
There are valid reasons to give up a particular pursuit. Before you permanently give up your endeavors, be able to answer “I can’t BECAUSE…”
If your desires have changed, stop. If your physical, emotional, or spiritual abilities prohibit safe execution of that pursuit, you might need to change pursuits. Otherwise…
Do the Work
Yes, at a certain point you will have to do the work. For me, a writer, that means butt in chair and typing or editing words. It also means marketing and learning. Again, it doesn’t matter what the work is. What matters is that you don’t use your “I can’t” to stop. You use it to take care of yourself. If you take care of your I can’t you will turn I can’t into I can.
My dark side almost won today. How did I overcome my “I can’t?” I sat down and began writing I can’t because…until I had my answer. What was my answer? I’ll bet you can guess. I turned my I can’t into I can and I did.