We creatives prevent ourselves from succeeding.
We put food in our bodies that drains us instead of fuels us.
We scroll for hours through endless social media feeds.
We sit on the couch and watch mindless TV.
We obsess over other peoples’ lives and tell ourselves we are not good enough.
We succumb to The Twitch and create a self-perpetuating cycle of poor decisions.
Ultimately, we hold ourselves back.
The Way We Live
Our habits build over time and inform the decisions we make each day. Our decisions inform the way we live our lives.
The way we live our lives informs what we write about and how often we write.
And time passes — minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years float by in a surreptitious bubble, unnoticed, our gaze averted by the latest trend, controversial Tweet or buzz-worthy Netflix show.
We find ourselves in the exact same place we were a year ago, struggling to find the time and energy to write.
No new ideas are revealed.
No inspiration forms.
No change has occurred.
And so, our story is abandoned and our potential is wasted.
The potential to change someone else’s life because of something we would have written vanishes.
If we only had the time.
If we only had the energy.
We didn’t try, but at least we didn’t fail.
We’ll do anything to maintain that reality. Anything to keep us safe; away from the challenge of writing the book that lies hidden beneath piles of self-doubt, apathy and conformity within the dusty attic of our minds.
Unsatisfying lives, unsatisfying stories
It’s the same with stories. If we’re reading or watching something, and there is no character change, we feel duped; like our time is wasted.
And we writers are passionate about works by other writers. If our appetite for a good story is not satiated, we don’t just feel unsatisfied by the story — we hate it!
In the same way, if we see things in our lives that we know we need to change and then do nothing, the feeling of dissatisfaction grows and, in some cases, turns into self-loathing; a dissatisfaction with our own life story.
The way to combat this is easy in theory, hard in practice.
It’s about three basic things:
1. Making plans
2. Taking actions
3. Repeating over and over.
But, before we do any of that, we must get over the hurdle of ourselves.
Not caring what naysayers say
In order to get to that point of taking actionable steps toward meaningful change, we must get over the fear of what others will think.
That fear stops us in our tracks, keeps us from moving forward and prevents us from writing something important.
We create scenarios in our head that are different from reality but have the consequence of keeping us pinned down.
I think one of the keys to creative success is posting creative content without regard for how it will be received.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t listen to others.
Constructive criticism is invaluable and helps us view our work through the eyes of another in a realistic and meaningful way.
But if the feedback we receive is not constructive in any way, it can be safely ignored. If we don’t focus on destructive criticism, it’s far easier to move forward.
We’ve got enough working against us as it is (i.e. ourselves).
The fear of what others will think leads us into the realm of excuses. Whatever reason we can conjure up to not do the work becomes our default.
The transparency created by social media can be a positive thing. On social media, we can find our tribe. We can interact with people we wouldn’t otherwise be able to. I have met many people online who I really enjoy interacting with. It is an unprecedented time in history and is truly amazing.
The problem occurs when:
- Social media acts as a substitute for a real, physical social life rather than a complement.
- We validate our feelings of guilt over not writing by feeding the thing that is distracting us from writing in the first place.
- We compare ourselves to those we deem more successful.
Then the feedback loop, the cycle of negativity in our minds starts up again.
We writers create any number of excuses to not write; to avoid it; to put it on the back burner. Yet, the fact remains that writing is work, and requires a great deal of concentration in order to do well.
With social media, our concentration is impeded and excuses become far easier to make. Social media becomes our distraction from the fact that we are distracting ourselves from writing.
We make excuses and write posts about how we just can’t seem to write; we just can’t focus. Then we place that focus on social media for the next hour, and see others on their own writing journeys who also struggle, which helps us feel better about ourselves.
We can absorb the reality that there are others just like us, struggling just as we are.
Too much social media is like too much sugar: hypes us up and makes us feel good before the inevitable crash. It becomes the cause and solution to our problems.
An Obligation to Improve Ourselves
If we arm ourselves with a self-defeating attitude we reinforce the status quo, which is this:
I’m not good enough.
But the cold hard reality is this: we cannot get good at the thing if we always look for excuses to not do the thing.
Pushing through the fog inside our minds is part of the process of getting better.
And the less distracted we are, the more the fog begins to lift.
If we make positive changes within ourselves and are solid with who we are, we can share that positivity with others. Each of us has a unique worldview; we can say things in a way that no one else can.
And we should share our worldview, because the world is changing:
- whether or not we like it.
- while we distract ourselves and hole up inside our bubbles of safety.
- and we have full access to what it has to offer.
If we want to succeed, if we want to reach others, we must work harder than we ever have before.
We must be committed to doing the Deep Work and allow it to inspire us.
We must be willing to make ourselves vulnerable.
We must make sacrifices.
We must also take care of ourselves.
We must fill the well with that which nourishes our bodies, minds and souls.
Eat well. Exercise. Make sleep a priority.
Use social media responsibly.
If You Do That…
You can handle it.
You have support.
Don’t feel guilty. Many of these behaviors are programmed into us and are difficult to alter…but not as difficult as you think.
It’s never too late. Change is possible.
Our ideas, our world views are worth spreading.
Our ideas percolate, reverberate, circulate.
For better or worse.
If we each took a single step forward, the ripples would flood the world.
In a perfect world every writer would have a finished book.
But that’s not the case, because writing is hard.
On the long and winding road we will inevitably encounter challenges from time to time. And sometimes, stepping away is the right move. But if we remedy every single challenge with distraction rather than perseverance we rob ourselves of the opportunity to improve. Not only that, we rob others of the chance to experience what we can really do.
So…what can you really do?
What are you truly capable of?
If you are fearful or hesitant about sharing your writing or ideas in general, take some time to evaluate why.
What are you afraid of?
Do those fears clash with who you really are?
We need your writing.
We need you.
Don’t underestimate what you are capable of.
Don’t sell yourself short.
Even if no one ever reads it.
If you need some more encouragement read these:
Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? By Seth Godin
And listen to this podcast:
They’ve changed my perspective about everything.