Bench Pressing the Muse

I am not in a writing mood in the least tonight, and indeed the only reason I am here is because I promised myself I would I’m determined to keep at least one promise to myself, however trivial. Trivial, of course, because I am writing into the abyss, with no intended audience and no… well, point. No point except to accumulate words on the page. A rather dull point.

Writing regardless of mood is definitely a sharp point and one I am pursuing from every angle as of late. I just finished this amazing eBook from Behance called “Manage Your Day-to-day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind.” It’s staggering in its insight.

Normally I get productivity or other self-help style books and they are like reading Oprah: the cover is intoxicating in its possibilities and after I’ve finished reading the entire magazine, I feel hungry. A day or two later I see the cover again, and excitedly pick up the magazine, forgetting that I’ve read all these promised improvements and solutions and they’ve left me neither improved nor solved.

But this book, slender and hyper-focused, is a gem. It features experts from all over, many names you’d recognize. Best of the best. And there is an essay by Seth Godin, my hero and yours (even if you’ve yet to meet). He writes about creating daily regardless of mood, and how the myth of inspiration can derail a creative mind to the point of oblivion.

This one quote struck me so strongly I’ve printed it up and pasted it all over the damn place.

The notion that I do my work here, now, like this, even when I do not feel like it, and especially when I do not feel like it, is very important. Because lots and lots of people are creative when they feel like it, but you are only going to become a professional if you do it when you don’t feel like it. And that emotional waiver is why this is your work and not your hobby.”

Whew. When I first read that statement, I felt shamed. Silly hobbyist. But then it caught up with me and I realized how freeing it could be. It eliminates the need to drum up this mythical beast called “inspiration.” All this time I’ve been trying to figure out how to summon the gauzy priestess of inspiration, so that I could finally sit down and get some work done.

But Seth’s all, “do it anyway.” While finding the motivation and energy to execute delivers its own set of hurdles, that particular dilemma somehow more approachable. Like math. The motivation to sit down and write is an equation I can grapple with more clearly.

And imagine! If I actually could develop this wee little discipline muscle enough to get my behind in the chair daily to produce, the possibilities to what I could create are endless!

So it has become my mission to build my discipline in relation to my writing, my content production.

Steve Pavlina, another in my line-up vying for hero status, goes into great detail talking about self-discipline as an actual muscle. And it’s amazing that it’s not discussed more – whether in creativity circles or the business and entrepreneurial forums I participate in. The analogy is simple: you wouldn’t walk into the gym on day one and expect to bench press 300 lbs. Even if you tried it – you’d fail. Can you imagine walking out after that? Thinking, “I totally can’t lift weights – I tried it, I couldn’t do it. Not for me.”

But we do that to ourselves every day with other things. If I can’t sit down and generate 3,000 words of high-quality, polished content like clockwork my first day at the desk, do I assume I’m not cut out for it? That I just don’t have it in me?

What if I approached it from the assumption that one day I’d be able to bench press 300 lbs. But I needed to start with just 35 lbs. Every couple of days I’d add some weight; if I couldn’t lift the new weight, I’d back it up a few pounds.

It’s sensible. So why do we get so crazy when it comes to creativity? Like putting words down on paper is somehow subject to different laws of physics. Creation has its own atmosphere and gravity, didn’t you know?

I think wildly of all the things I could accomplish if only I could eliminate this need for “inspiration.” If I could learn to operate regardless of whim.

Think I’ll start with this 35lb. dumbbell.