Steven Pressfield had called himself an author for years, but he’d never actually finished a book. I wonder if that made him feel smug because he thought of himself as an author.
But the psychological pain of not producing kept building until he couldn’t stand it anymore. He decided to finally beat that devil he calls “The Resistance”.
He created a situation with no escape. Rented a cabin with only a typewriter, and shut off all other options. In his book Turning Pro, he writes:
“I had a book in mind and I had decided I would finish it or kill myself. I could not run away again, or let people down again, or let myself down again. This was it, do or die.”
“I didn’t talk to anybody during that year. I didn’t hang out. I had no TV, no radio, no music. No sex, no sports. I didn’t read the newspaper. I just worked.”
After an incredibly difficult year of wrestling with those inner demons and avoiding all temptations, he did it. He finished his first book. It wasn’t a success, but it didn’t matter. He had finally beaten The Resistance. He went on to write many successful novels.
He told this story in the great book “Turning Pro”, the third in his series of little books about the creative struggle, including “The War of Art” and “Do the Work”. Read all three.
When I read it in 2015, my own psychological pain of not producing had built up to an unbearable level. I had announced my first book but never finished publishing it. I attempted it many times, but each time I completed a version, I was overwhelmed by the publishing costs (just to get seen). I didn’t want it to be a vanity book. I wanted it to matter.
To make it worse, I was on the heels of graduate school, with a lot of pressure to start making a more steady income and start paying down mounting student debt.
To get to a version I felt warranted an editor, I did shut off all other options. Time to finish what I started.
I looked for work, but I said no to all requests. It’s not the nicest mantra, saying no, no, no all day, but it strengthened my sense of mission. I made a decision to stop deciding. I made one decision, in advance, to answer to all future things is “no” until I finished what I had started. It’s saying yes to one thing, and no to absolutely everything else.