Do the Work- This short book (more like a manifesto) by the irrepressible Steven Pressfield is a gem on overcoming procrastination and self-sabotage to create something beautiful that you are passionate about. Do the Work outlines three simple yet profound steps to create something that comes truly from your authentic self.
The quote below sums up the book perfectly. Children have no trouble to believe the unbelievable. Nor do geniuses and madmen. It is just you and I. We and our big brains and tiny hearts, who are doubting, overthinking and hesitating.
Introducing Enemies & Allies The three main enemies that stop us from accessing our creative self are: Resistance: It is a force so negative and evil that it blocks our true calling. It is extremely hard to detect as its crafty and takes on many different forms. It is impersonal and infallible and everyone who has ventured out to be creative has had Resistance as his or her enemy.
It works relentlessly 24/7 and its main intention is to kill. Be scared, be very scared of Resistance. Rational Thought: These thoughts come from the ego (as opposed to our inner authentic self) and blocks access to our intuition, instinct, and unconscious. Friends and family: These groups of people mean well but they have a vested interest in keeping us at the status quo. If you want to create something truly magical then prepare to make new friends and new friends will surely appear.
The good news is that we have twice the number of allies. Stupidity: It sounds counter-intuitive but being ignorant, arrogant, not over-thinking but just taking action may well be the elements that fuel our creative pursuits. Stubbornness: Never ever giving up. Being a pain in the ass. Blind faith Passion: The main factor that kills passion is fear so conquer fear to find the passion that is simmering inside of us. Assistance (opposite of Resistance) Friends and family Step 1: BEGINNING Start before you are ready and do not overindulge in research.
At the beginning, keep two caveats in mind: Stay Primitive: Remember that creativity in its rawest essence is primal, just like birth happens amidst blood, sweat, and tears. Swing for the Seats: Give it your all. Go big or go home. All creative endeavors, be it, a story, business venture or charity, can be broken down into a Three Act Structure with the whole idea fitting into a single sheet of paper.
Act 1: Beginning
Act 2: Middle
Act 3: End A
Always start at the end and ask “What is this about”? This enables you to work backward from the end to the beginning and then the middle. During this process be mindful of separating thoughts which are authentic and original from chatter that is unoriginal and regurgitated brain farts.
Step 2: MIDDLE Forget about fancy ideas about the Universe being all about unicorns and rainbows instead be prepared for it to be actively hostile opposing creation with Resistance.
Respect Resistance because it’s a worthy enemy. It can’t be beaten but we can enlist equally powerful allies to outsmart and outwit it. When we are in the middle start filling in the gaps. David Lean’s guideline of a feature film having 7-8 major sequences is an appropriate framework. Do the research now but stay on diet and do not be seduced by research because at the end of the day research is NOT work. Emulate a screenwriter’s pitch: Killer opening scene Two middle major set pieces Killer ending Theme in a concise statement That’s it and now start filling in the gaps. Work relentlessly and quickly.
Don’t self-judge, worry about being stupid or crazy or expect ideas to come in sequentially. Just work your ass off. The process involves acting and reflecting but for now, act much more than reflect and never ever act and reflect simultaneously. Ignore rational thought and just go for it then something magical happens.
Assistance. Assistance is the opposite of Resistance. At this stage, work progresses and Assistance rewards you with ideas. Don’t stop, keep working, keep working and keep working. Reflect at most only twice a week to keep fine-tuning the theme by asking questions like “Is the work serving the theme?” or “What’s missing?”.
Never stop working, keep filling the gaps because just when you think all is going well. BOOM. Resistance sets up the WALL and you hit your face hard against it. Panic sets in and feelings of overwhelming suck arise within you. Panicking just does not stop and that’s when we have entered THE BELLY OF THE BEAST. Welcome to HELL. The HELL of Resistance and the best way to get through HELL is to understand the
7 Principles of Resistance and answer its two tests.
1. Be Aware of the ENEMY: Resistance
2. The Enemy is RELENTLESS
3. The Enemy lives INSIDE YOU
4. Inside YOU but is NOT You
5. “Authentic You” Must SLAY the “Resistance You”
6. Resistance will REAR its Ugly Head Again
7. Opposing Force of Resistance is Assistance
Two Tests of Resistance
1. How badly do you want it? Dabbling Interested Intrigued but Uncertain Passionate Totally Committed
2. Why do you want it?
- Prove a point
- Fulfill vision
- Fun or beauty
- No other choice
The answer has to be further down the list for both questions. Attitudes: Leave everything behind except for love for work, will to complete and passion to serve the muse. Now everything should be going well. After all, we have understood the 7 principles of Resistance and answered its two questions. WRONG. Now the inevitable Big Crash happens taking your emotions in a downward spiral making the urge to quit seem like a viable option. Will you QUIT? The wimp in you wants to quit but the professional in you wants to carry on.
Why should you carry on? Because it’s all GOOD. Crashes force us to grow and panic is a sign we are growing even though it may seem like we are back to square one. This is the point we must reconnect with our allies like stupidity, stubbornness, and blind faith. Be too dumb to quit and too stubborn to back off. Always remember: 1. Problem is NOT Personal 2. Work the problem No one is immune to Resistance and be prepared to REWRITE. The only way to escape the belly of the beast is by rewriting and solving the problem.