Most creatives quit.
That’s the #1 reason for failure in any creative endeavor. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an entrepreneur, Medium writer, or trying to publish your first novel.
It gets difficult, there’s no positive feedback (or any feedback at all), and so people quit.
But before we talk about how to fight this enemy, let’s understand what it looks like. We have three versions of it: the Resistance, the lizard brain, and the dip.
Stephen Pressfield – the bestselling author of War of Art, gave the enemy of creatives a name.
He called it Resistance.
In his words:
«Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.»
According to Stephen, Resistance is a powerful force that hinders any pursuit for inner growth. You want to write a movie script. Lose weight. Build a business. Write a blog post. Anything at all. Resistance is there. It’s inside of you, and it doesn’t want you to succeed.
Stephen knows about Resistance more than others. He spent decades trying to make it as a writer. He worked in advertising, picked apples, drove trucks, and even wrote scripts for porn movies until his first novel was published.
By that time, he was in his forties. He wrote his first novel 99% through and stopped.
Rule of thumb: the more important the project is to your advancement, the more Resistance you’ll feel. You can use that as a compass. Pick the project you’re most terrified of. It’s the one you need to do first. You can’t get rid of the Resistance, but you can use it to guide you.
The Lizard Brain
«The lizard brain is hungry, scared, angry, and horny. The lizard brain only wants to eat and be safe. The lizard brain cares what everyone else thinks, because status in the tribe is essential to its survival.»
In other words, whenever you’re terrified of publishing your art, that’s your lizard brain talking. Not you.
Pressfield calls it Resistance. Seth Godin calls it ‘the lizard brain.’ You can also call it fear. Whatever you call it, realize that the enemy is there. Respect it. Never forget it’s there.
Resistance is the reason why so many creatives drink, get high, procrastinate, scroll Facebook feeds, think of things to do – anything, but facing the terror of doing what you’re supposed to: make art.
Seth Godin has a great short book, called The Dip.
Key idea: there are two types of quitting in the world: the good and the bad.
Good quitting: when the project isn’t going anywhere. When it’s a cul-de-sac (dead-end). When you’ve been waiting for the bus for an hour, and it’s still not there. Some people say, «I’ve already waited for an hour! I am not going to leave now.» No. You’ve already waited for an hour. Now quit, and don’t spend a minute longer.
Bad quitting: when it gets difficult. It will get difficult, no matter what you start. Hence, if you quit now, you’ll just sabotage everything you’ve done to this point. Starting something new is not an option. There will be difficulties, too. There will be a ‘dip’.
The key is to know the difference between the two and quit when you have to.
In any project you start, there will be a dip.
How do you get past it? And how do you keep Resistance in check?
The Six Month Rule
I used the six-month rule when I started my video production business. I also used it to start writing on Medium. (I also wrote about this rule in my short book – Success on Medium.)
If it worked for an ADHD type like me, it will definitely work for you.
Here’s what to do:
1. Create a habit. For me, it was writing (and publishing) a piece every day on Medium.
2. Set a deadline six months from now. Six months from October 2 was April 3, 2020. Which, as it turns out, is also my birthday.
3. Commit to sticking to the habit until the six months are over. The key here is to not judge your success (as it can change rapidly), not check the results (for me, it meant not thinking about claps, followers, or money made earned), and just keep going.
4. Don't think about the results. Don't judge your progress. This is critical. Too many people because they judge themselves too early.
5. Once the six months are over, wake up. Look around. And then decide whether to stay in the game or quit.
The six-month rule is the closest thing to a ‘quick pill’ against ‘the Dip’ I know.
It allows you to be stubborn and not quit too early. Six months is also a long enough timeframe to know whether you should quit. And if the project isn’t going anywhere, you’ll know it once the six months are up.
My six months expired on April 3, 2020. During those six months, I increased my Medium following by 3,000 people and made more than $5,000 from Medium alone. Not to brag, but to illustrate what sticking to one thing can do for you as a creative.
Have a habit in place
Woody Allen said, «80% of success is showing up.» The other 20% is luck.
A creative life is a life of showing up. That’s your most important job as a creator. You’re not paid to sit on your butt in the office for 8 hours and scroll Facebook, occasionally getting the work done. No. You’re paid to show up for your audience on a regular basis. And to bring the most value you can to the reader (or viewer or listener).
There’s no better way to show up consistently than to create a habit. It’s also the best way to tame Resistance.
If you are a writer, write every single day.
If you’re a podcaster, record a story each day.
Whatever you do, your showing up consists of sitting at your desk, each day, for 2-4 hours, and working. (And yes, I said ‘2-4 hours’, but even that’s a pro-level. Nobody can do deep, concentrated work for more than 4 hours per day.)
This doesn’t mean you should publish something every day. (Although if you’re starting out, it might be a good idea to get as much stuff out there as possible.) This simply means you should sit down and make time each day to create content.
It’s your only job.
Write every day, publish when ready. The quality of your content should still be your most important KPI.
I see a lot of people stressing about choosing the right Medium publications, or picking the right gear to record podcasts, or obsessing over their bio description on Instagram…all of that is irrelevant, if you don’t show up.
Do 80% of the work: show up. Let the rest take care of itself.
I have a T-Shirt from ConvertKit. The print says, «Create Something Every Day».
Best advice for creators.
Now go create something meaningful.
The Dip by Seth Godin
Linchpin by Seth Godin
War of Art by Stephen Pressfield
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