Archive for the 'Running away to join the circus.' Category

Commonplace: Pressfield on the breakthrough moment.

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

When we turn pro as artists or entrepreneurs, we do not achieve enlightenment. Nirvana still eludes us. We will not wake up tomorrow morning freed of our fears or our self-doubts or our Resistance. In some ways, these demons will be even worse because now we’re more excruciatingly aware of them.

But in the Breakthrough/Turning Pro moment we have changed everything, because we now see our problem for what it is and we see ourselves for who we are.

–Steven Pressfield, “Inside the All Is Lost Moment”

Doing the actual work.

Monday, October 8th, 2012

This weekend I actually got going on my writing.

I have a great corporate job, and in fact that part of my work is more rewarding than ever. But it’s no secret that, in the long run, I plan to write books for a living.

Lately it occurred to me — not for the first time — that the pace I’ve been following would mean that “the long run” could take 20 years or more.

I’m 40. And I don’t want to wait until I’m at retirement age to pursue my true avocation as my vocation.

So I rebooted my writing. If you’ve been following along here for any amount of time, you’ll know that I have lots . . . and lots . . . and lots of draftwork and outlines and ideas for all kinds of things: novels, short stories, essays, poems, scholarship, you name it.

But the key is to get down to work. I did some planning and housekeeping this weekend, things like organizing files and making a simple to-do list for my current projects. But I didn’t let that take more than an hour, total, because I don’t want to succumb to my weakness for planning or other meta-writing activities. For that matter, I didn’t let myself write this post (or yesterday’s, or my weekly CareOne column) until I had salted away several thousand words of actual, y’know, writing.

As it happens, this weekend I also came across a perfect tweet from an established writer, Chuck Wendig, that emphasized the same point:

Chuck is absolutely correct. And I was pleased to come across his dictum after I had written large chunks of fiction.

The moral of the story: it’s not that complicated. You don’t need a special plan or password or sacred space to do the work.

You just screw up your courage and do it.

Image source.

Let today be the day.

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

You have that dream you’ve been dreaming for so long — to write a novel or start your own business or go back to school. It’s that possibly-doable-yet-seemingly-impractical thing that you keep reverting to, in your conversations with your near-and-dears, or just in your conversations with yourself.

Let’s label it “Running Away to Join the Circus” as a catch-all.

What it’s really about is creating an alternate reality where you do join the circus and live outside the norm. It’s not that you get to shuck off all the cares of this life, because — sour news alert — that doesn’t happen, for anyone. (Buddha figured that out 2,500 years ago.) But it is about creating your own new living diorama of possibilities.

Constructing Your Own Reality, at Least in Part

The good news is, you actually get to live in that diorama, if you choose to. At least to a degree, you can construct it like a stage set. You can live where you want and how you want. You populate it. You dream up how it operates.

This is so because the real diorama is in your mind. Yes, the outside world imposes certain arbitrary limitations on us. A 50-year-old man will not bear a child. Someone in a wheelchair will not bring home the Olympic gold in the pole vault. These things happen. Yet within our natural limits, we have far more ability than most of us acknowledge to go and do the things that mean the most to us.


If you will exercise this ability, there are two poisons that you must stop ingesting.

The first one is called “Later.” It’s that deeply destructive impulse that tells you to put off your dreams, for whatever reason. It helps you draw comfort from the bad, indulgent habits of today, and it makes the new dream-pursuing behaviors you need to follow seem not just different or temporarily uncomfortable, but terrifying and bizarre. These are the lies that “Later” plants in our minds.

The second poison is called “Others.” It convinces you that you need to earn permission from someone before you can follow your dreams, or that other people will laugh at you when you join the circus — and that their laughter will matter in some fundamental way. Again: lies.

“Later” doesn’t come. “Others” — and especially the ones we imagine for ourselves — shouldn’t be permitted to run our own lives.

Let it be today that you stop taking these two poisons and join the circus.

Image source.