Overcoming the 10 Biggest Obstacles to Creating

Overcoming the 10 Biggest Obstacles to Creating

Guest Post by Leo Babauta

Every day I struggle with the resistance to writing, and every day I lose the struggle … but then I beat the struggle.

I lose more often than I win, but I win every day. And that’s what matters. Because we can’t get rid of the resistance to create — whether that’s creating art, starting a business, or writing. The resistance will always come up … but we have to learn how to overcome it, to work with it.

Do you face this resistance, and struggle with procrastination? Do you want to create daily, but face difficulty finding focus and fighting off distractions?

Let’s talk about creating that habit, and how to overcome the obstacles that get in the way of the creation habit.

Today I’ll share the main obstacles and what I do to overcome them.

What stands in our way of the creation habit? Here are the main ones:

  1. Distractions. We all face the problem of distractions, and we all give in to them. The only way to overcome them is to clear them away with a clean sweep: bookmark all your tabs, close your browser, close all other programs, turn off your phone, and open only the program you need for your creating. A blank text editor, a sketch pad, nothing else. Set a timer for 5 minutes, and just start. When the 5 minutes is up, congratulate yourself, let yourself be distracted, then set the timer again. You can work your way to 10-15 minutes over time, but start with 5.
  2. Fantasies about how easy/nice the creating will be. It’s not easy — it’s hard and messy. These fantasies get in the way, because when we face the reality, it never measures up to what we’d hoped. Instead, we need to recognize that our fantasies aren’t real, turn to the reality, and be grateful to be here in this moment. It’s hard and messy, but still great, and we should be thankful for the opportunity.
  3. Fear of failure. Yes, putting ourselves out there is scary, and not being good at something is frightening as hell. But how do you ever get good if you don’t try? You have to suck, daily, for a long time. Unfortunately, that’s not easy. So to get us through the suck, we have to have fun, embrace the suck, allow ourselves to play. Write a shitty first draft, work on it some more until it’s a bit better, get the help of someone who knows what they’re doing, get feedback and get better. And play around the whole time, like we did when we were kids. We didn’t stop from finger painting when we were kids because we might suck at it — we did it for the fun!
  4. Discomfort with the difficulty/confusion. It’s uncomfortable to do something that’s confusing, where we don’t know what we’re doing, filled with difficulty. The only way I’ve learned to overcome this is to sit there, as I’m feeling like quitting, and just feel the discomfort. Allow my mind to complain. Allow myself to want to quit, to feel sorry for myself. And just sit. I’ll feel this discomfort, and realize it’s not that bad. Then I can just write, even though I’m uncomfortable, and realize that I’ll be OK.
  5. Perfectionism. We want things to be great, so we nitpick and are unhappy with the results. It stops us from actually creating. So we need to smash through perfectionism, embrace shitty first drafts, and get into the habit of just putting stuff out there imperfectly. I do this by not allowing myself to edit before I publish a post. I just publish, tweet it, then go back and edit. It’s scary, but by forcing myself to put it out imperfectly, I don’t worry about perfectionism anymore.
  6. The urge to switch. As you’re trying to write/create … you’ll want to switch to something else. Check email, check social media, check the news, clean the kitchen. The timer method (5 minutes) helps to highlight this … set the timer, don’t let yourself switch to anything else until the timer is up. Just write one sentence, draw one line. Just start, then when you get the urge, sit. Stay. Feel the urge. Let your mind complain. But don’t give it anywhere to run. Then start again.
  7. Interruptions. I write in a house full of kids. I just kindly tell them I need to write for an hour (or whatever), and plug in some headphones. Or get out of the house and go somewhere with solitude.
  8. Not enough time. We are all busy. Who has the time to focus for an hour or two? Well, forget about an hour. Just do it for 5 minutes. You have that much time. Cut out some distractions, some social media, some TV, some online reading, and you have an extra 5 minutes (or more). After awhile, find another 5 minutes. If it matters, you’ll find a few minutes here and there, and put the creating first.
  9. Being tired. It’s impossible to focus and work hard when you’re tired, right? Wrong! You can do it, if you really want to. You can go for a run if you’re tired. You can carry a stranger to safety if their life is in danger, even if you’re tired. You just need to really want it. So ask yourself this: why do you want to create? Is to help others? To express yourself? To do something good for yourself or other people? How important is this intention to do good? Is it important enough to prioritize, to set aside time, to push through confusion and distractions? Is it important enough to push through tiredness? If not, just forget it.
  10. Negative self-talk. We tell ourselves, “I can’t do this,” or “I suck at this,” or “I can do this later.” This kind of self-talk, often unnoticed, can be defeating. So how do we counter it? By paying attention. Shine some light on it. Use the timer method, and when you want to quit and the timer is still going, force yourself to sit there. Listen to your talk, but don’t believe it. Your mind will do anything to get out of this work, so don’t heed its commands, but just sit there and heart the talk, like the complaints of little kids. Give your inner child some compassion, but don’t give in to the complaints!

You’re doing this for a reason that should be as important as saving the life of a loved one, or it’s not worth doing. Ask yourself how much you want this, then take the steps you need to take — sweep away distractions, put on headphones, set a timer, sit through the urge to switch, push through the tiredness.

If it’s important, you have it in you.

trust the process

Motivational Monday…connections.

So, after a full weekend in Yoga Teacher Training, Monday is usually “catch-up” day.  I find myself spending too much time trying to reciprocate on Twitter, FB, Instagram, Pinterest or wherever I feel like I have not kept up.  Then I realized that I had neglected connections on here.  The actual blog.  This is where my heart was/has been/is.  The connection that I make to my readers is actually the thing I value the most.  If you go way back to my first posts, it’s about establishing a connection to you through my life with invisible diseases.

It did morph into a holistic type of connection…mind, body, social fan page, because I felt like we needed a variety of ways to stay in touch; however, please know that if you comment here, like here, share here, this is where I feel it the most.  My blog to me, is like ripping parts of my soul out and pressing it onto paper for you to read.  At first, it hurt.  It left me raw and exposed to the world.  You know I have issues.  You know I’m not perfect.  You know I’m a hot mess at times.  And…it’s okay.  Nothing fell apart.  I didn’t die from this experience.  In fact, I think it made me stronger. 

So my friends, my message today is simple.  Don’t be afraid to make real connections.  Some will not understand.  And that’s okay.  Everyone is brought into your life for a reason.  They all have lessons to teach us, and some might sting.  Some might walk away from your life because the truth is just too big for them to understand.  The only way to keep on living with that truth, is to remember that being you is the real lesson.  Being real.  The connections you make out of that are far more substantial.  I’d like to end with this piece shared by one of my readers, and hopefully you can read the whole poem.  It’s still amazing after all this time.  If poem, by Rudyard Kipling.  Thank you for the reminder friend.

Stronger Me

Save

Choices…

Look at that.  Right there, I made a choice to change the way my blog looks just by adding this quote at the top.  Wouldn’t it be fabulous if all choices were that easy?  When Deepak Chopra writes about Applying the Law of “Karma” or Cause and Effect, he has this to say:  Whenever I make a choice, I will ask myself two questions: “What are the consequences of this choice that I’m making?  and “Will this choice bring fulfillment and happiness to me and also to those who are affected by this choice?”change>>> More choices under Head|Heart|health Club <<<

How often do we genuinely pause and ponder these two questions?  You see the problem is, I think we don’t stop to think about it at all.  If you are about to do something, but you have not given much thought as to what happens next, it is best to actually pause and consider this.  The last year I was teaching, I made a plan to begin changing my career and go after what I really wanted.  I wanted to write, and I found that I had a knack for social media.  I knew that the consequences were going to include struggle as I continued to build up a writing portfolio.

The first time I was contacted by an editor who wanted me to submit an even longer piece for publication, I felt the excitement and happiness of my choice.  The first time I got a rejection letter in the mail, smeared with some sort of greasy substance, I felt the doubt of my choice.  All in all, I knew that my well-being was better off for having made the choice to take a chance.  I knew that without a doubt, my life would not change working all the time and coming home too exhausted to write.  I am happy with change.  Hopefully, my life is about to change again as I am ready for something new. 

 

Save

Choices…

changeLook at that.  Right there, I made a choice to change the way my blog looks just by adding this quote at the top.  Wouldn’t it be fabulous if all choices were that easy?  When Deepak Chopra writes about Applying the Law of “Karma” or Cause and Effect, he has this to say:  Whenever I make a choice, I will ask myself two questions: “What are the consequences of this choice that I’m making?  and “Will this choice bring fulfillment and happiness to me and also to those who are affected by this choice?”

Choices do have consequences.

How often do we genuinely pause and ponder these two questions?  You see the problem is, I think we don’t stop to think about it at all.  If you are about to do something, but you have not given much thought as to what happens next, it is best to actually pause and consider this.  The last year I was teaching, I made a plan to begin changing my career and go after what I really wanted.  I wanted to write, and I found that I had a knack for social media.  I knew that the consequences were going to include struggle as I continued to build up a writing portfolio.

The first time I was contacted by an editor who wanted me to submit an even longer piece for publication, I felt the excitement and happiness of my choice.  The first time I got a rejection letter in the mail, smeared with some sort of greasy substance, I felt the doubt of my choice.  All in all, I knew that my well-being was better off for having made the choice to take a chance.  I knew that without a doubt, my life would not change working all the time and coming home too exhausted to write.  I am happy with change.  Hopefully, my life is about to change again as I am ready for something new. 

Guest blogging…

Hey everyone, I am appearing as a “guru” this week.  Isn’t that a fun word to say?  Guru.  “Sheila Burke is an inspirational and spiritual author and the founder the online communities of Hello Peace, Irie and Zensational Living” and this website called HelloPeace.Guru has my latest article.  Please pop over and have a look at her page.  Of course, I ermmm, used my funny GINORMOUS sunglasses photo, and should have used a different photo.  But that’s me…going all Elton John on you.  Except I’m pretty sure his glasses aren’t $5 or less.  Okay, next up, I found out the e-zine I wrote 2 articles for isn’t going to continue.  Sad face.  So I will publish one of those articles here soon as it really went in depth about illness and how to come back from it.

Being a guest blogger is fun and it’s also an easy way to get your name out there.

I also wrote something for this lovely lady that I met in my Wellness University group and she is publishing it on Tuesday I believe.  Here is a little something about Tina C. Hines.  “Tina C. Hines strives to educate, empower and enlighten women as they embark on their own personal journeys.  Tina’s professional career has always had one major focus – to inspire women to recognize that a part of them may be lying dormant within and reconnecting with that woman can transform their lives.”

So if you would like for me to write for you, just let me know.  My goal is to get all of my writings together on living with invisible diseases and publish a book.  I already have it started…just have to complete it.  I also want to launch a better website.  I love blogging and loved that this was a free site, but I need more.  So my next goal is to offer a free sort of e-letter, maybe a newsletter, and then the book.  The days of Facebook being the way I got the word out on my fan page seem to be dying.  I do have my business Vitalize You there, but even that has trouble getting seen.

Don’t be afraid to ask me questions about your own invisible illness.  If I know something that might help you, I will tell you.  I am not a doctor as you all know.  Merely someone who has been researching these diseases for 17 years now.  Give or take which one we are talking about.  And my nightly reminder for everyone:

 

Nice_2

 

NaNoWrMo or procrastination…

Sigh.  I have been putting some ideas together for November, but none of them “feel” right.  If you are wondering what that word is up top, it stands for National Novel Writing Month.  I actually have several ideas, and one that I was working on, but it doesn’t feel like it wants to be written yet.  One idea for a children’s book came out of the blue, so it might be the next thing I develop.  A painful yet ignored idea for a story came through as well one day, and I started a poem of sorts just so I could get it written down.  To be honest, I have some ideas almost everyday; however, if they don’t feel like they are right, I ignore them.  That part could be the procrastination setting in, but it really doesn’t feel like the right time to tell that story…yet.

Why I procrastinate:

  1. I feel overwhelmed by the task at hand.  I have an awesome idea in my head, but it requires massive amounts of research, so I push it to the back of the line.
  2. Apparently perfectionists are known to do this because they think if they don’t have the skills or resources to do it perfectly, they will just wait.  I didn’t think that was me, but now I do.
  3. I believe the muse needs to speak to me.  Ha.
  4. I am afraid of making the wrong choice, and getting that rejection letter in the mail.

What can I do to change the above:

  1. Make my own goals.  Find one place to send a query letter to a week.
  2. Keep a to-do list.  I did that.  Ermmm, and was doing a good job with it, and then decided it was annoying me.  Just sitting there, waiting to be crossed off.
  3. Schedule things…well, if it doesn’t strike me as urgent, and that means I really don’t have a deadline, it goes to the back of my imaginary project line.
  4. I need to break the project up into smaller tasks…get one clean copy ready to go.
  5. Reward myself with a nap when done.  Seriously.  I need one just thinking about getting half of this done.

Uncompleted

 

Ghost stories…

I have been wanting to write about this all day, but things got in the way.  I had an amazing experience today at my daughter’s school, but to tell you about that, I have to back up.  My family takes many trips around Virginia.  I have been dabbling in genealogy for a while, but my grandparents think technology is the devil, and therefore have not “turned” loose of some papers I need, so I stubbornly refused to finish that side of the family.  However, that being said, I still enjoy the stories about distant famous relatives.  I researched a local witch a while back and wrote a really cool little historical fiction piece for a children’s magazine.  While traveling, I picked up another magazine that had local ghost stories.  I was telling my mom one of them when my daughter walked in and I promptly stopped speaking because the ending was terribly gruesome.  Two days later, my daughter comes home from school all excited, and said she heard the ghost story I was telling and knew the ending.  I was like, say whhhhat?

Ha, well apparently, her teacher has our local famous author come to school around this time every year and explain his process for writing non-fiction ghost stories.  It was just too coincidental for me that it was the exact story, and there was a permission slip to go listen to him.  His name is L.B.  Taylor and he writes the Ghosts of Virginia book series.  When I arrived at school, I talked to the secretary and she pointed to an older gentleman in a burgundy sweater who had just sat down in the lobby of the school.  I immediately went up to him, and started to introduce myself.  He stood to shake my hand like a true gentleman, and waited to sit when I sat beside him.  He probably didn’t know what to make of me because I immediately started talking about how wonderful it was to see him and I told him about my research into a local story.  He started talking about his methods, and I think we could have chatted for hours.  He perked up when I mentioned a certain old house that I believed I was kin to.  I then asked him what his favorite story was and it is in the above link to his name.  It gave me chills.  I will never forget when my grandmother passed on my mother’s side and sometimes feel her watching out for my girls.

Whatever you believe in, call it fate, the universe, or God, it was strange how this all lined up today.  It gave me some great ideas for future stories.  He said he didn’t have the “brain” to figure out fictional characters so he just told it like it was.  I told him I had cool ideas on spinning it into historical fiction.  Now to see if I can get those ideas where they belong.

Angel booby trap

 

Short stories…

Years ago, I was in London with other college nerds English majors.  The tour focused primarily on our research for a Children’s Literature in London class, but we visited other places.  It piqued my interest in a certain scary tour they were offering and well, I did some research into that area…after the tour.  Here is my quote prompt for today and the story I wrote is in the comments section.

Can I quote you on that?

Be sure to read yesterday’s picture prompt, because there might be another comment.  When I wrote these, I wanted to leave them up to your interpretation and think of your own ending so to speak.  I actually have more planned out and had enough material to make them longer, but I wanted you to guess how they would end.  One friend read it and messaged me, and when I told him the real story, he was surprised.  Ha.  I like hearing your thoughts though.

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”  ~ Virginia Woolf

I don’t write for you…

I know WordPress means well when it sends me my year in blogging, but quite frankly, I don’t write for you.  I write for me.  I always have and I hope I always will.  Oh sure, I want to write for a magazine or even publish my short stories one day, but it will still be for me.  I think that’s how writing should be.  If it helps other people, good.  That was my intention, but ultimately, I am my own critic.  I am the one who writes and re-writes posts in my head a hundred times.  I am the one who gets up at 3 a.m. and pounds away on the keys when I can’t sleep.  I am the one who can’t let an idea go until I get it out…even if I shove it away from me because I don’t feel like posting it at the time.  It comes back.  Sometimes better, sometimes worse.

It’s like an argument I have with myself.  I don’t always say the right words when I want to, and they certainly don’t always come out the way I planned.  In my head they sound better and I can hear the way I meant to get the point across, but occasionally, it morphs into something else.  That’s fine.  I know what I meant.  The best part about all of this is when you do get me.  When you click “like” or find me days later, and say, hey, you know that piece you wrote on the horrible thing?  And I look at you like you are crazy because I don’t know what you are about to say, and you say it really meant something to you.  That’s the part about this that I love.  So thank you for a great year even if my stats aren’t the highest or I don’t have the most likes on my FB page or the most followers on Twitter or you don’t read this every time I publish something.  Because I write for me.  You are an added benefit.

“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”  ~Graham Greene