This article is part of my Resistance series. More to come …
I just spent the last half hour ripping weeds and vines out of my yard.
Last winter my family and I moved into a new house, and I was excited to see lots of vegetation in the landscaping. There are plenty of flowers, bushes, and even a small koi pond.
However, as spring rolled around, I started feeling that something was wrong.
It was one of those things your subconscious picks up on before you fully notice it.
Something was off, but I wasn’t sure what.
But over time, it became too big a problem to miss.
There were vines everywhere.
They had crawled onto several of the young trees. They were embedded in the bushes. They were even starting to take over our back porch.
Once I finally noticed them, I began to see them everywhere.
They were choking the life out of the very things that made the house so beautiful.
Resistance is like this.
It sends out its long tendrils and subtly attaches itself to every area of our lives.
We don’t notice it at first, because it’s so subtle. It mainly does its work when we’re not looking.
We may feel like something is off at first, but we don’t realize something is wrong until it begins affecting us on many different levels.
The biggest symptom for a writer?
Seeing our creative time getting choked out of our daily life.
The thing that makes our life beautiful is no longer living and breathing, crowded out by things we’re barely aware of.
The tendrils of Resistance can spread insidiously into our day and remain there for years, without our even realizing it.
Resistance can look like spending too much time on Facebook. It can look like binge watching our favorite show on Netflix. It can look like scrolling infinitely through Pinterest.
These things are pretty easy to spot once you start becoming aware of them. But there are other time-and-attention chokers that are much harder to spot.
Resistance can also mean going to lunch with your friends every day. It can be helping a loved one set up their new computer at a time you had set aside for writing.
It can even be grocery shopping, curling up with a favorite novel before bed, or getting a solid eight hours of sleep.
This type of Resistance is hard to detect, because outwardly it seems so well intentioned.
However, hidden under this heap of good things are a handful of great things.
Unfortunately, the pile of good things can be so high that we never dig down to experience the great.
We have to clear away the good in order to find the great.
Habits are good. Right?
A large majority of our life is spent doing habitual tasks.
Think through just the first 30 minutes of a typical day. How many things do you do exactly the same way every day, that require almost no thought?
For instance, every morning I get up, use the restroom, put on some clothes, put on my watch, make coffee for my wife and me.
I’m standing outside letting our dog do her business before anything remotely thought inducing has happened.
Most of my day goes this way.
The drive to the office, getting more coffee, setting up my computer for the day, and on and on. Most of it runs on autopilot.
This, of course, can be a positive pattern in a lot of cases, because it’s vital that a lot of those things happen.
However, unless you thoughtfully approach each of these thoughtless habits and really examine them, you will be left with a busy life filled with good things, while year after year slips by without the great things – your true creativity – coming forth.
Ask yourself, “How much time do I spend consuming other people’s creativity, versus being creative myself?”
Watching TV is consuming other people’s creativity.
Reading your favorite blog is consuming other people’s creativity.
Curling up with your favorite author’s new book is consuming other people’s creativity.
None of these activities are bad in and of themselves. But they need to be balanced with time spent exploring your own creativity.
Think about using a 2:1 ratio.
For every two hours you spend consuming someone else’s creativity, you should be spending one hour creating something of your own.
Get ruthless with how you spend your time.
First, write down every single thing you do for more than ten minutes during the day. Everything.
Whether it’s taking a shower, driving to work, checking your email, updating Twitter, or sleeping. Put it all down.
Next, go through and cross out everything that isn’t absolutely necessary in your life.
Here are a few things that should be crossed out:
- Any social media
- Going out for lunch with friends
- Checking your personal email
- Reading or watching the news
- Calling your friend back
- Watching TV, including the newest episode of your favorite show
- Reading a book
- Sleeping until 8:00 am
Be extremely ruthless with this. If it’s not necessary for survival — eating, going to work, exercise — or familial obligations — taking your kids to school, making dinner, paying bills — then cross it out.
Then stop doing all of those crossed out things.
Live this way for one week.
Because what if, instead of doing all of those things you’ve crossed out, you spent that time creating instead?
What would your life look like? Would you finally reach some of your writing goals?
You shouldn’t permanently stop all of these things — calling friends or reading books, for instance.
But giving up all of the ancillary things in your life for a short period of time will show you how much these good things are crowding your life, to the point where you have no time for the great things.
Stripping Down Your Day
My wife is brilliant at finding old, ugly pieces of furniture and turning them into something amazing.
Oftentimes, in order to do this, she has to strip off the old paint first.
It’s a nasty process. It involves chemicals to loosen the paint. Lots of scrapping and scrubbing with metal tools. There’s always a bunch of gunk in the trash when it’s done.
Of course, the paint she removes isn’t bad. It was beautiful in its time. But in order for the item to be beautiful again, it has to first go through this stripping process.
This is what I want for you.
Over the next week, strip away everything. Cut all the way down to your most basic elements.
Then rebuild your days into something that ensures your creativity has the built-in time and space it needs to shine through.
June 8, 2016