Just Showing Up


I like to think of Resistance as looking a lot like Gollum from The Lord of the Rings: a whiny, sniveling little demon that sits on my shoulder and urges me to do anything else but the work I’m meant to do.

* * * * *

Some time ago, I started working on a new book. But Resistance won, and soon I allowed other obligations (and plain laziness) to interfere with pounding out the day’s allotment of words. I stopped showing up … and the book stalled.

And then, eight days ago, I did four important things:

1) I forgave myself. Yes, I lost sight of my goal. Yes, that will delay the completion of the book. I have to stop crying over spilled milk and start moving forward again. So, I forgave myself … and got back to work. 

2) I picked a project. No more worrying about choosing the “right” project or the most commercial project or the project best aligned with my existing platform. Instead, based on advice in Steven Pressfield’s Do the Work, I let Resistance be my guide. I asked myself, “Which project has been interrupted, delayed, or derailed the most?” Pressfield suggests that’s the most important project … because that’s the project Resistance is working hardest to abort.

3) I set a clear, realistic goal. Now, having chosen a project, I can move ahead — and to be sure I’m moving ahead, I need clear, measurable goals. Every day, I will crank out 1600 words for this book. No exceptions. In addition, I set aside a specific time of day — first thing in the morning — as my dedicated writing time. Whether I’m at home or on the road, my day begins with writing those 1600 words. (In order to keep things from getting unruly, I am going to devote one or two hours every Saturday to editing this text a bit … but that editing time is *in addition to* my writing time, and will never be a substitute for it.)

4) I set a deadline. This book feels about like a 75,000 word book. At 1600 words per day, I’ll draft the entire book in 47 days. The draft, then, will be finished by July 27th. I’m giving myself 30 days to do final edits … and then the book will be ready for release into the wild on Monday, August 27th. 

Are there other things involved in producing and marketing a book? Sure! But first and foremost, you have to have a book. 

So: I’m committed. 

I should mention this artistic Renaissance — and my approach to this particular project — was inspired by this post about Jerry Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret:

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task … I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain … Your only job … is to not break the chain.”

At this point, I’ve only got eight days in my “1600 words a day” chain … but I’m already protective of it, and don’t want to break it. It’s funny how something that simple can have such a profound impact. 

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

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Who Wrote This?

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

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