I have had a writing project on my desk for a long time now. Too long.
Every so often I come back to it thinking I will finish it off and ship it. But after a half-hearted attempt, I put it back on my shelf with a thud and walk away grumbling. The last time, I shoved it in a file folder and stashed it in a closet that rivals the government warehouse where Indiana Jones’ Ark of the Covenant is hidden. This particular writing project might indeed be powerful enough to melt the faces right off Nazis. It scares me.
But it just would not stay in the closet. Some mysterious force compelled me to shuffle all the boxes blocking the closet / dig through the boxes inside the closet / retrieve the file folder with the dog-eared pages. Again, it sat on my desk for more than a few weeks. Not long ago, I re-read it. Oh man! It’s good work. At least the first draft of it. I need to finish. There are people I know who would benefit from it… maybe others I don’t know.
Still the motivation to re-engage the project eludes me. And I am desperate to understand why.
I am capable. I am competent. I have all that I need to do the work. Why won’t I?
Because it’s really hard work. Creatio ex nihilo… I need to create something from nothing.
Okay. Not nothing. From a few small somethings. This writing project is about sorting through a collection of random thoughts–all on the same subject–from a random group of thinkers / adding my own ideas and original thoughts / putting them all together in a coherent, cohesive essay.
It’s not for a grade or a boss. Not for a conference or research project. I’m doing it because I hear all these people putting out all these great ideas… but they aren’t talking to each other. The conversations are standing alone… and I don’t hear anyone connecting the dots in a useful way. A ton of insightful scholarship and research and high-level thinking that isn’t getting to people who can use it.
I think I have something to offer. I think. So I’ll give it a whirl.
But lately I’ve been stuck. Held in check by the Resistance. No one’s fault but my own.
I have tried all the little tricks they suggest. Whoever they are. You know them too because they appear on all those Facebook links and Tweets: 12 Steps to Understanding You / 10 Ways to Be More Efficient / 5 Shortcuts to True Happiness. There is certainly no shortage of self-help in the cybersphere.
Bottom line: This project is just hard. Plain and simple. And the Resistance is beating me.
Trick the Lizard
The Resistance is the lizard living in my brain. The fight-or-flight response throwing out all the stupid reasons why I can’t finish my project.
There is a lizard in your brain too that holds you back from all you want to accomplish. And your lizard says the same things to you as mine does to me. None are valid.
When the self-help mantras didn’t work, I decided I would have to get tougher and sneakier. I needed to trick the lizard.
I need to quiet the lizard so I can hear. The lizard is happy when he is doing routine mundane stuff. For me, that’s walking. In circles.
Almost every day, I walk around the outdoor track at my local high school. Some days, it’s a lot a lot of laps. Because I don’t have to think about where my feet are stepping or where the path is going. I can just follow the white lines on the black rubber asphalt and let my lizard-brain focus on going round and round in circles. The rest of my brain can think about other things. Pretty sneaky, huh?
I can split my brain. You probably can too if you are a multitasker. But keep in mind the whole point of splitting the brain is not to get more work done. It’s to trick the lizard and beat the Resistance. To finish the work and ship.
Do whatever it takes to make the lizard-brain’s voice fade to the background. Then you will be able to finish your own project and ship it.
It’s hard. But then, I signed up for the hard part. I don’t do easy.