Apollo, the Muse and the Resistance

This entire post is inspired by and drawn from Seth Godin, Austin Kleon and Steven Pressfield. The more of your stuff that I read, the better I become. I just need to ship it!

A while back, I took a career break and during that time, I did so many things, certainly more than expected. The fear of having “nothing to do” and firmly believing in the mantra of do more suck less, conspired to keep me very busy.

You know what they say – if you want something done, give it to the busy person. It also helps if that person can’t say no. That was me. And when you play this game, you get far too busy and then constantly kick yourself for committing to things that while nice to do, matter very little to you.

What is it for? Who is it for? And really, why am I doing it?

Seth Godin (Ash – last question only!)

Great questions to ask for the inevitable decluttering.

However, there is one thing that I have yet to do. One that I have wanted to do for many years and so far has eluded me. I prep myself to start and even before I get going, I fail at it. I said I would write a book and I have not. It’s disappointing to me.

You see, I have not been visited by the Muse. That illusory inspiration that will allow me to create something so wonderful, so original, so unique, so perfect. A piece of work that is worthy of me and of you. Where are you Muse? Please inspire me!

Nothing. I have, what do you call it, writer’s block. I sit in front of the computer, stare at the screen and the words don’t really come out.

It was a sultry evening…

No, that’s not it. Maybe,

It was a balmy night…

Wait, night implies later, like 9:00pm. I am not sure this is what I want.

Frances looked out the window and…

Frances? She’s not a Frances. Definitely not. How about something more exotic, like Sigourney?

Oh wow, is that the time? Time to pack up as I need to pick up my dry cleaning. Didn’t get much done but I feel I am on a roll, so let’s do it again tomorrow. Wait, I can’t tomorrow so it may need to be Thursday or perhaps I will do it on the weekend.

Yes, I am struggling to find my Muse but even worse, I am overcome by the Resistance.

Fear. Self-doubt. Self-sabotage.

Steven Pressfield

In his books, Steven Pressfield introduces the Resistance as a mythical concept that encapsulates the universal forces that stifle our creativity. Explains a lot!!! I always knew I was dealing with something greater than me. No Muse and plenty of Resistance is a difficult combination to deal with.

But let me break this down. I have three fears when it comes to writing a book.

  • What to write
  • How to write
  • Why write

In other words, will anybody bother reading this book?

What to write?

It has been said that we should not write what we know about, simply write what we like? Wait! Why? Because if I write what I know about, it may be interesting to me but there is a pretty good chance that it may end up being a pretty boring story in which nothing happens. Nobody needs this.

But if write about something I like, then things get more interesting. I read a lot and like many authors. So perhaps I need to write the story I think they would write next. The story I would like to read. Will it read like something I have read before? Maybe. But this is fine because,

Nothing is original

Austin Kleon

Let this sink in. Everything we seek to create has already been created by someone else. When we embark in a creative process, all we are effectively doing is stealing a great idea and transforming it into our own. We are stealing what is valuable and what is worthy. And when we transform it, we do it the right way, with honour and respect to the original work. We transform it with our input, our thoughts, our experiences and we create a piece of work that is respectful of those who came prior. Nothing is original so I cannot let this stop me.

How to write?

Great! I now know what to write but I I still have writer’s block. Except that there is no such thing as writer’s block. As Seth Godin reminds us,

No one ever gets talker’s block. No one wakes up in the morning, discover he has nothing to say and sits quietly for days or weeks until the muse hits, until the moment is right, until all the craziness in life has died down. Why?

Seth Godin

Because we talk a lot. We do it without worrying too much about it. Talk is cheap. It is not permanent, it is transient, it is deniable. So we are not afraid to talk and begin rather poorly and eventually we get better at it. In other words, we practice.

It then follows that I need to do the same thing with writing. Write. Poorly. Often. In public. The more we do this, the better we will get because we are effectively practicing. Every day. It doesn’t have to be long, it doesn’t have to be great, it only has to be done. And when we do this consistently, we move from being an amateur to being a professional, a pro. And remember,

A pro does the work.

Steven Pressfield

Why write?

Because it matters. It matters to me, it matters to you and it matters to our audience, whether it is made up of one, twelve, seventy-six or thousands of people. Our stories matter because when we tell these, we create a union of the physical, the spiritual, the psychological and the emotional.

When we craft our work, with passion, with beauty, with generosity, we matter. And our work matters. Our work becomes the death of the Resistance and an offering to the Muse. This is why we write.

I now know I have to write that book.

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