Do It Now
It’s Sunday morning and I’m sitting down to a new routine, actually, better put — a new fidelity. I made a vow several months ago that I would become a writer. Now that might seem strange to you that I made such a vow considering I write regular essays and had two books published. But the truth is I’ve done all these things on the side. Like, I haven’t fully come out of the closet as a writer. I’m a coach, a horsewoman, an outdoorswoman, a mother and an entrepreneur, and I’ll wake up at 5:30 am and stop at midnight to attend to any of those things. But the writer in me is quieter, less demanding, and she always gets second (or third or fourth) fiddle.
When Sounds True asked me to write Flying Lead Change, I lived like a writer. I wrote every day without fail. I got a taste then what ‘being a writer’ really felt like. After its final submission, however, I let the tyranny of daily life consume me once more.
It’s so strange isn’t it? It is strange that something I enjoy so much gets the last morsel of my attention. I love writing. I love the whole ritual of it. I wake up early, I make myself a cup of strong coffee (with milk and sugar), I take my laptop out of my office and sit down in front a huge window that welcomes the world into my living room. I light a candle, throw on my old hoodie and exhale. The next two hours disappear as I join Something Else, some force, some existential flow that is so much larger than me. It is sacred and wholesome. So it has always confused me as to why I would resist such an elegant and delicious communion.
Do you have something like that in your life? Something you love? Something you say, “I really want to do it, and I just don’t have the time.” Or “When this big project is over, I’ll start it.” Or “It’ll have to wait until I retire (or I’m done moving house, or the kids are in college, or when I have more money…). Tell me this: does that Something wait for you patiently, igniting some kind of earie longing?
I know I’ve been ignoring a passion when I notice I’m jealous of someone. I get kind of snarky, like, ‘Well, don’t they just think they are something else!’ I will make a confession to you. I get jealous of writers, keynote speakers, podcasters, outdoor adventurers on the cover of Outside magazine. I can barely listen to Brené Brown any more without feeling utterly useless and sometimes downright mean. I’m not jealous of politicians, musicians, Nobel Peace Prize winners or doctors.
So I had a good talking to with myself this morning, after reading a book that a client recommended to me called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (by the way, reading the book was just another way I was procrastinating my writing). After reading the first couple of chapters I realized this book was for me and it was about to kick me awake. I flipped to page 65 (for some unknown reason — still procrastinating I imagine) entitled ‘What a Writer’s Day Feels Like’, and this is what it said:
I’m keenly aware of the Principle of Priority, which states (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important and (b) you must do what is important first. What’s important is the work [writing]. That’s the game I have to suit up for.
Oh man. Yeah, I have lots of urgent matters pressing me each day. Living on a ranch and running a business presents layers and layers of urgency. In addition, I have a super fun life too and there are plenty of opportunities for instant gratification — pet the kitties, throw sticks for Katy, hang a new painting, take a horse for a gallop, re-organize my closet, mess around with remodel ideas. It’s the instant gratification part that stokes the fires of resistance. Sometimes it’s the gratification for doing something fun. Sometimes it’s the dopamine hit of checking another box on the endless to-do list. Either way when we reach for instant gratification instead of attending to what is important day after day, we come to the end of a decade, or a life, without having done what we were put here on earth to do.
In one fell swoop this morning I realized that resistance was going to be a daily encounter if I wanted to be a real writer — a put-her-butt-in-the-chair-every-damn-day writer. And allowing resistance to win day upon day, for years, is the greatest of betrayals. A betrayal of what, I can’t quite say — of the divine, I’m thinking. Yes, of the divine — that life force that wills into me the capacity and gift to be a writer, an artist, a creative. That life force that has gifted me that destiny. What a privilege. And what audacity to ignore it day after day.
The world is a mess, an absolute catastrophe. Some might say, ‘who am I to indulge in creativity when so many are suffering?’ But who are you not to? Never in the history of humankind has there been such an extreme imperative that we all, each one of us, stand in and express our gifts. Because our gifts are where the hope for transformation lies. Who would we be without the creative inventions of our time, and who hasn’t felt the transformative power of a poet’s words?
I believe that humanity and the planet has a chance if we unharness ourselves from the urgency wheel and each do what we know is important. Who are you meant to be? What is that big idea you have that, if ‘if it weren’t too crazy’, you would do? Who do you blame for not being who you want to be, and doing what you want to do? When are you going to begin? If it’s not right now, then resistance has won again.
In reading Pressfield’s words a penny dropped for me — that resistance is part of the package of the creative life. And it shows up every day in its myriad forms: a to-do list, an email inbox, instant gratifications, a yucky feeling that I just ‘don’t feel up to it today’. I realized that in order to be (in my case) a writer, I must do battle with resistance and all its forms every day. I must be willing to feel uncomfortable.
I believe all humans are outrageously creative. And every one of us needs to learn to be ok in the discomfort of resistance so that our genius can emerge. We need to be willing to engage in sacred warfare each and every day. We need to wake up and face the headwinds of all the urgency, and instead no matter how uncomfortable it feels, turn towards the muse in all her forms. Do what is important.
Some resources for you if you want to join me in this sacred vow:
The Artists Way by Julia Cameron
The War of Art by by Steven Pressfield
Atomic Habits by James Clear
With all of you reading as my witness, I do take this muse to live together in holy matrimony, to love them, to honor them, to comfort them, and to keep them in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, for as long as we both shall live. Yes, I do.
Will you join me?