Creativity follows commitment: The secret to getting work done

“Uuuuggggghhhh! It’s time to write another blog post. I don’t want to write a blog post! I have client work that needs to get done, I haven’t finished my taxes. I’m behind. Why did I decide to write this stupid blog anyway…”

That’s what goes on in my head every time I try to write. I don’t like it, it’s too hard. I feel incompetent at it. It sucks. And I whine a lot.

commitment

But I do it. I open my text editor and start writing. Once I start, it gets a little easier (just a little). There’s something about starting, even if what I’m writing is terrible, actually writing gets me in a better head space. Before you know it, there’s a crappy first draft! Somehow, re-working a crappy first draft is way less intimidating than creating a crappy first draft.

The worst part of a writing project is staring at the blank page. The worst part of creating a budget is the empty spreadsheet; the worst part of a performance review is sitting down to write it; the worst part of doing dishes is looking at the sink piled high. Starting is always half the battle (and for some of us, the larger half!), because once you are started, you’ve increased your commitment to the task.

But starting is not the whole battle. Soon you arrive at the “messy middle”. Before the “messy middle” I’ve got enthusiasm, possibilities, and dreams to get me through the planning phase. I’m pretty quick at building a plan, afterall, for me, that’s the fun part. But executing it is something else. Where am I going to find the time? How much is it going to cost? Is it going to be worth it, in the end?

This is when the fears start to creep in; (Steven Pressman calls it The Resistance in his brilliant book The War of Art). According to Pressman, The Resistance will interrupt you with questions like: Can I really do this? Will it work? And comments like: I was a fool to think I could finish. I don’t have enough….X, Y, or Z. In the messy middle, all the reasons I’m likely to fail, all the reasons I hesitated to start, come up — front and center in my brain. The longer I stay in that in between state — “the messy middle” — the more those fears grow; and the bigger the challenge gets! Pretty soon I’ve convinced myself that it will never work. This, my friends, is The Resistance in action. Sound familiar?

But wait. That dyanamic changes if I commit to the project. (Steven Pressman calls it “going Pro”). When you commit, when you decide that, regardless of what you fear and what the voices in your head are telling you, you are going to do it. And then, something changes. And I’m not saying, “I’d like to do it”. Something changes only when you say “I will do it”.

committing

You may already be familiar with the quote above. It’s not clear who said it — Faust? Goethe? It makes no matter, you should look up the whole thing and read it. The author’s message is clear: begin. And commit. When I commit myself, then I start solving those problems instead of fearing them. That’s when the creative juices really start flowing! When I decide this will happen, the fears of what might happen turn into real live tasks for me to engage. I can engage my crappy first draft much better than a blank screen. When I make the decision to commit, I can get down to the real work of getting the project done.

When Cortés arrived in the New World he burned the boats that brought him there. He was saying to his men, “We are going to make this work, there is no going back.” That kind of commitment is what gives you the creativity and energy to scale the mountains that stand between you and finishing. Commitment to the project means there is nowhere to go but forward; and that you will find a way, that you will spend the time, learn what you need to learn, and reach the finish line. Commitment is gold.

How many of your projects are you truly committed to? Which projects should you just put on the shelf? Which projects are suffering because you haven’t said “Now is the time…” to get this done?








Photo credit: eschipulBoaz Arad

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