There is a point at which creators go from dream to action.
From intention to execution.
But in between there is a space.
Sometimes that space can feel uncomfortable. Ridiculously uncomfortable.
Intellectually, you know you have to take action, but sometimes you struggle. You get distracted. You’re not motivated. Or you’re in the grips of impostor syndrome. Or that negative voice in your head won’t shut up.
You’ve hit the wall.
There is also energy in that space.
It can act like an alien force field to prevent any progress.
Or it can act like an accelerant to set your genius on fire. When your best work gets created. When you look at what you’ve done and think, “I didn’t know I had it in me.”
Creators know the space. Where the yin and yang of genius reside.
Who are creators?
Writers. Coders. Bloggers. Vloggers. Designers. Artists. Musicians. Entrepreneurs. Thought leaders.
I want to offer you the wisdom grounded in the quotes from a dozen thought leaders that have helped me.
And they can help you.
To overcome resistance.
To build momentum.
So that your genius — your best work — can be shared with the world.
Resistance, Distraction and the Monster Under the Bed
Steven Pressfield, in the War of Art, describes the force field version of the space:
“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.
The unlived life within us. Your dreams. Your genius. It’s a tragedy if that “unlived life” stays hidden. (If you’ve never read George Gray by Edgar Lee Masters before, read it now. If you’ve read it, read it again. Don’t let that happen to you!).
Pressfield describes the toxic power of resistance on creators:
“Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole. Resistance is protean. It will assume any form, if that’s what it takes to deceive you.”
We’ve all been there.
So what do you do?
Listen to the wisdom from your fellow creators. Some of these quotes are recent. Some are ancient. All ring true.
There are more things … likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality. — Seneca
Fear can paralyze you. Fear of failure. Fear of ridicule. Fear of wasting your time (a bit of irony there, no?). Fear is based on our perceptions about what might happen. Yes, our brains go to the dark side. But generally we fear things THAT NEVER HAPPEN.
One way to boost our will power and focus is to manage our distractions instead of letting them manage us. — Daniel Goleman
Distraction is a way of life for most people tethered to a smart phone. Apps, social media, texts all screaming at you for attention. Laptops aren’t much different. Gloria Mark conducted a study that suggests when we get on a computer, the average person goes 40 seconds before getting distracted or interrupted. 40. Seconds. 🤯
Protect yourself…from yourself. Turn off notifications. When you need to do deep, creative work, turn your phone off or put it in another room. An hour of focused work with no distractions is magic.
Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity. — T. S. Eliot
There is a certain amount of anxiety that goes with the territory as a creator. The most successful creators in your field have off days. Doubts. Anxiety. Take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone.
When You’re Stuck in the Space
“I write only when inspiration strikes,” he replied. “Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.” — Somerset Maugham
If you wait for the muse to come, you may have a long, long wait. Sometimes just the discipline of getting started is enough. One paragraph. One line of code. One minute of video.
This is like the person trying to get in shape who does one push-up and then thinks, “Well, while I’m down here on the floor, I might as well do some more.”
“Do one thing every day that scares you.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
This is a great way to condition your mind to overcome fear. Challenge yourself on a daily basis to do something uncomfortable. Give a speech. Take a shower in cold (really cold!) water. Post a video message. Eat a food you’ve never tried before.
You begin to embrace challenges and you think like an overcomer.
“Next time you’re in fight or flight mode, Run! Run as fast as you can!” — Dan Miller
Dan Miller is a wellness coach and provided me a valuable perspective on stress. When you are getting torqued up into a ball of worry and stress, the amygdala portion of your brain is signaling a fight or flight response. Dan recommends exercising full-out for two or three minutes (run up a flight of stairs, jump rope, do some push-ups) and afterwards, your mind will be clearer.
Depending on where you are, the time of day, and the weather outside, you may need to consider Plan B — meditation. Meditation can calm your mind. Studies suggest that meditation can enhance your creativity and your positive emotions.
I recommend you incorporate both — short bursts of intense exercise and regular meditation.
Let Your Genius Shine
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” ― Marcus Aurelius
Consider your biggest fears. They often illuminate the part of you that needs to be shared with others. The story. The image. The idea. Maybe it is the effort that strengthens you in the process.
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” — Joseph Campbell
Sometimes you have to dig deep to come up with your unique contribution. Your unique voice.
Creators operate in a space that is full of repackaging someone else’s stuff. Just change the names and add a stock photo we’ve seen a hundred times before.
True creators aren’t satisfied with copying someone else. It’s sacrilege. It’s an insult to their genius.
Sharing your genius is treasure. For you. For others who are starved for what you can offer.
Determination, energy, and courage appear spontaneously when we care deeply about something. We take risks that are unimaginable in any other context. — Margaret Wheatley
Once you identify what drives you, your “why,” it can be a powerful motivator. When we can focus our will on our why, spontaneous action can result. When we care about something deeply, it allows us to tap into courage and confidence we didn’t even know we had.
Whatever you do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. — Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
Action leads to momentum. Momentum is magic for a creator. A moment of courage before we talk ourselves out of it. Before we get distracted.
All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. — James Clear
Tiny decisions lead to small actions… which is sometimes enough to stifle the negative voices in your head. Small actions can create habits that lead to progress — and then out of nowhere, the creative genius is back and gathering momentum. Powerful, unstoppable momentum.
One gear engages with another to turn the flywheel of your creative genius.
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ―Maya Angelou
Successive days of keeping your genius hidden doesn’t just lead to frustration. It leads to agony. It leads to the oppressive weight of regret. Your untold story — your genius — needs to be shared. As you begin to share it, the adventure begins.
The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward. — Amelia Earhart
Creators want to bring a project or product to life. Embrace the journey. There is growth and learning along the way. There are insights gained and wisdom to be shared — not just at the outcome, but in the journey itself. Don’t be so consumed by the destination that you miss the ride!
When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” — Alexander Graham Bell
Sometimes when you’re stuck, you need to take a fresh look. There is an expression in writing, “sometimes you have to kill your darlings.” It may be a fresh perspective and a different approach that can make all the difference. Don’t confuse persistence with stubbornness.
You know what’s better than building things up in your imagination? Building things up in real life. — Ryan Holiday
Not only do we get the satisfaction of creating something ourselves, but we get to share that gift with the rest of the world. And it builds on itself. We can do it again.
Let the anticipation of that feeling of satisfaction pull your genius out of you.
Embrace the Space
When you’re a creator, you have point at which your dreams and desires need to lead to action.
So you can share your genius with the world.
Unfortunately, it isn’t like flipping a switch.
Sometimes you hit a wall. And there is a space that you find yourself in.
Doubt. Anxiety. Distraction.
But sometimes that space leads to your best work.
Too many people fall prey to what Seneca describes:
“You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire.”
Follow the advice embedded in the quotes above from other creative thought leaders. They struggled with the same challenges. The same wall. The same space.
Use their wisdom.
Overcome the resistance.
Share your genius. Let it shine.
We can’t wait.