I feel like quitting.
Not all the time. But at least once a day.
But in his book, the War of Art, Steven Pressfield told me to use feelings like that like a compass.
The Resistance we feel when we try to do creative work is wonderfully predictable in that it always becomes greatest when we’re confronting the things that we really should be doing but are afraid of for some reason. For me, it also gets really loud right before I have a creative breakthrough, too.
No matter how often I think about this and reassure myself of this truth, it’s still difficult to act in the face of such overwhelming emotion.
“This is hard. This hurts. Do something else. Check your email. Go to the bathroom. Check your email again. Clean up your desk. Have a snack.”
My inner voice has a great way of coming up with really important, really urgent other things to do whenever I’m uncomfortable.
And every time, it seems like the brilliant idea I’ve been wrestling to get to is beyond my current level of endurance. It feels like it’s probably a million miles away. And it’s hard to steel yourself to walk another million miles when you’re already tired and frustrated.
But in most of these cases, success wasn’t a million miles away. Usually it was just a few minutes farther down the path than I thought I could make it.
And like a reward for hanging in there just a little longer than I thought I could stand, the idea, or inspiration, or answer I was searching for appears out of nowhere.
For some projects, though, you really have to go the distance with the Resistance. It’s at work for a long time before the reward comes. Seth Godin calls this The Dip.
But endurance is like a muscle and by straining every day the thing that’s telling us to give up, we can increase our stamina and thereby hold out just a little longer next time. And hopefully we’ll be that much more ready when a bigger, scarier, more rewarding task comes along tomorrow.
As it always does.