Do your most important, Creative work right now. You haven’t got much time.
In ‘Do The Work’ and ‘Turning Pro’ and ‘The War of Art,’ Steven Pressfield talks about the importance of finally sitting down to do our work. He lists every excuse we’ve got because he has had to fight through them as a writer and creative himself. We’re all professional excuse makers. All of us. Together. No one is exempt.
The question is, which of us will push through the self-generated B.S. and be so disciplined as to sit down and do our work at the same time every day, even including the weekends if we’re supremely disciplined? Who has such emotional and physical means? Who would possess these superpowers?
After much wrangling, taking us through mental gymnastics and gyrations and teeth gnashing, Pressfield says that our coming out on the other end alive and in one piece is predicated upon whether we care, yes, but also how dedicated we are to the craft once we decide to turn pro.
The Pro sits down and goes to work. Period. No excuses. No B.S. (even if there is lots of B.S. going on in your life at the moment). No bragging about the work. Simply do the work. Quietly. Quickly. Just like a Craftsman punching a time clock and hitting the crafting table to do his work each day. Our creative work ethic is the same.
Like capturing a moment in time with a photo, you block off the 90 minutes to execute on your creative project(s) for the day. Then, during that 90 minute time block, you get after it because you come to realize that you don’t have that much time. You definitely do not have so much time as to goof off for 90 minutes. It is more than that. You feel obligated to creatively contribute. To make something you feel will help others. To write, to draw, to express yourself and your emotions, to uncover what is really bothering you, to record, to capture, to connect. But the only real way to get the privilege of the exercise is to sit down and do our work like a craftsman at the crafting table. Grab your work boots, roll up your sleeves, put on the safety glasses and get to work!
I know it sounds so simple, and it is. And you would be surprised how hard it is to actually execute sitting down to do our work.
Take writing. To actually sit down and write for just one hour per day is asking a lot of someone. A lot. It is a new discipline, similar to developing a regular gym or running routine. Starting is hard. Keeping at it consistently going forward is even harder. It is a new behavior, and new behaviors are always difficult to keep going. While non-writers won’t know what I’m talking about, writers definitely know what I’m talking about. Most writers look at writing as pure pain, and yet they feel some sort of strange obligation to do it, almost like it is self-flagellation. Why do we keep beating ourselves up over this awful writing business? What have we become!? Who are we?
Sitting down to do our creative work is a mandate, of course, as Pressfield coaches. It is a creative coach’s calling. The subtext to what he writes in his wonderful books is, “Stop being such a p**** and go get after it! Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’ve got excuses. You’ve got kids. You’ve got a full-time job. You volunteer. You’ve got in-laws that are kicking your ass. You’ve got a spouse that just got done dressing you down in front of the kids. All this while you’ve got the flu and a cold. You’ve got Christmas coming up. You’ve got to travel. You’ve got all the same excuses I’ve got. I know — I’ve lived them. And enough of them already! Why aren’t you sitting down to do your most important work right now?! Get after it already! You haven’t much time…”
Few of us can weather this harsh messaging, and yet it is vital if you wish — actually want — to proceed.
What do you really want? What are you willing to give up for this? Who might you have to give up for this? What bad habits and beliefs do you have to discard in order to continue with this? What scares you about this?
The last question digs deep. It, along with the others, requires emotional honesty. To finally, truly, be able to answer these questions with honesty to self. Sure, you can B.S. others for a long time, but you can B.S. yourself your entire life! You can B.S. yourself with the same, lame, aforementioned excuses for your whole life.
Or, you can choose — right now — that you’re not going to let these things stand in your way any more. That you’re taking the higher path to self-discipline and self-mastery. You’re on a new path, a new journey, with new, upgraded beliefs and tactics and a new, personal OS, and people who support you along the way. And what a better way of operating this is! You’re so much better off going this way that it isn’t even a contest. This actually is your New You, and you do not have to wait until January 1st to pick it, to be it. All you have to do is decide this is what you want and then continue along with it on your journey.
This is actually harder than it sounds because people, processes, systems, social media, the news and other distractions will do their best to conspire against you. Their M.O. is distraction, displacement, disinterest, disengagement from the path. They don’t want you to blaze your own trail. They want you to be just like them: distracted; feeling displaced; feeling down; feeling uninterested in just about anything; feeling disengaged from the work, from the job, from life. Just pulling away from everything and every one because, well, that’s just how I feel right now since I am adrift in a sea of distraction. Because when you get punched in the face from a bunch of different directions all at once and combine that with the undisciplined ability to simply say NO to it all just to get some breathing space, you get derailed. You can’t make good decisions because you can’t even breathe! It is like they’re trying their best to strangle you into submitting to distraction, any place but allowing you to do your most important work right now. Conform! Or, else we’ll destroy you! Worse, you may come unhinged. It is the fierce battle for your attention and action, and you must guard these behaviors with your life — because everything is riding on your ability to say NO to the deleterious distractions that eat away at your mind, body and spirit like a school of tiny, hungry piranhas.
Guard your attention and actions with your life. It is a nonstop, daily battle. It is why Navy SEALs turn out to be great writers. They have trained over and over and over and over again to guard their attention and their actions and their emotions and to look after their fellow SEAL Team members. As they say in SEAL Teams, when you encounter enemy fire, you default to your highest level of training.
What about you? When you encounter your main enemy, distraction, to what level do you default to? Do you know? What happens next?
The great news is you get to decide who you are going to be today. You get to decide how you’re showing up today. You get to decide what you’ll create today. You get to decide where you place your focus today. You get to decide what is most important to you today, and where you’ll allocate your limited time, attention and energy to. The four operative, powerful words here are: You. Get. To. Decide.
Go. Now. Decide.