I haven’t picked up my camera in eight days.
Sure the light’s been lousy and my kids are in school most of the day so the only live subject I have to photograph during the day is myself, but that’s really not it. Those are excuses. It’s really what Steven Pressfield calls “Resistance” and it’s working overtime on me. A good friend of mine introduced me to his work last year and now Pressfield feels like a kindred spirit, navigating me through my creative stops and stalls. In a rut? Resistance. No inspiration? Resistance. Making excuses? Resistance. Basically, Resistance shows up whenever you’re supposed to embark on anything that’s hard or scary or essential to your growth – which is pretty much everything I’m doing these days. When it shows up, you can usually tell that whatever you’re working on is worth doing because it scares you enough to stop you from starting or finishing your Big Important Thing.
My Resistance typically shows up in some form of procrastination, usually under the guise of research or self-discovery or housekeeping. I just need to read one more book, listen to one more podcast, go to the library one more time, reorganize my closet, wash the kitchen floor and the baseboards and clean out the fridge, sit and stare out this window for a while and wait for inspiration to strike – then I’ll get started. When I was first battling Resistance while procrastinating starting my photography business, this took the form of just needing to do another week’s worth of market research, take a few more classes, get a website, have a logo and packaging, learn a bit more about this way of shooting or that lighting technique, practice more, do more unpaid work before I can start taking a dime. Does any of this sound familiar? The list was and is never-ending.
The truth is that I’m never really “ready” to start a new project. What I do when I’m starting something new can be likened to getting ready to jump off a cliff. I essentially pace around on the edge of the cliff asking myself “what’s the worst that could happen?” until I either jump, fall off, or get pushed. But once I hit that free-fall that follows, the Resistance gets quieter and the work starts to take shape. It’s being on the edge of the cliff imagining everything that could go wrong – that’s the really hard part.
Today, I wrote all day. I wrote all day yesterday and the day before that, too. I’ve been writing for weeks – starting with outlines, moving to notes, and now things are beginning to really take shape. I’m writing about creativity, about voices that lure us into self-doubt, and about how to embrace the fear that surrounds the process of making. The more I write about these things, the more introspective I get and the more I realize that while I have come a long way since those early days where I let fear and procrastination paralyze me – I still have a lot to work on. We all have a lot to work on. And I’m learning that these things never really go away, even when you reach levels of success where you thought you’d have your shit together by now. Resistance just has new tricks to play on you and you find new ways battle them. When I sat down to write tonight I had this little voice inside me saying, “Are you insane? Don’t say that! This is the stuff you leave out. Just put up a cute picture and be done with it.”
Shut up, little voice. Shut up, Resistance. Just shut up.
When I picked up my camera again today, it quieted the Resistance. When I’m able to sit down and actually get the words out of my head and onto a page, it gives the Resistance less power over me. Because it always gets quieter when I’m doing the work. Sometimes it screams at me that I’m not good enough and sometimes it whispers that my project is going to tank, but when I’m engaged in the process of making – that’s when I can get the damn thing to finally shut up. It’ll be back again tomorrow, but each day I’m getting better at quieting it down – and every time it gets quieter, my confidence increases. I feel stronger. I feel closer to “ready.” And I feel like that day might just be the day where I’ll actually jump – ready or not.