There is a difference between planning to write the book and actually writing the book.
I was wading through some notes this morning, thinking about how many times I’ve started my book and then lost momentum, gone back to start again, second guessed everything I’d written before, scrapped it and started over. I was thinking about how many times I’ve bought another book about process and structure for writers. Gone for long walks. Allowed myself time and space to reconsider the real point of what I’m trying to say and the voicing. Brought it to my meditation cushion. Joined another writing class. Discussed my writing with people too soon. Listened to podcasts, listened to other voices. Become flooded with new ideas. Scraped the other writing again. Started over.
I’ve always subscribed to the concept that we write our books even when we’re not sitting in front of the keyboard. That all the daily living we do funnels into what we bring to the page. And that every iteration a writer goes through before she lands on her final draft is a sacred and necessary step in the direction of her ultimate creation. Meaning: you don’t have the opening night without all the messy dress rehearsals beforehand. I still honor this and believe in it. But there’s something else that’s equally true that I haven’t been allowing myself to understand or see clearly: When I’m in complexity I’m in resistance. And when I’m in resistance something is scaring me. Resistance is a delay tactic from the subconscious mind. Resistance says: Wait! I’m not ready!
So rather than taking practical measures to chisel down to the heart of my message, when my writing feels more lumpy coal than diamond, I’ve started asking myself: What are you afraid of?
Creating complexity, just like creating extra weight on our bodies, is a way that we put some distance between ourselves and the rest of the world. There is something we can’t bear to see, feel or know when we’re in complexity. There is fear and avoidance here. Complexity is always connected to ego. Simplicity is connected to soul. The ego loves to be complex, extra, precious, impressive etc. The soul already knows its worth completely and doesn’t need to tap dance to earn its keep or feel its value.
We are very good at doubting ourselves. We live in a culture which tells us there’s always more to know before we’re “ready”. More to discover, to buy, to assemble. Not there yet, not there yet. Almost. The ego doesn’t want us on the mountain top, fully empowered. It wants us lost in the hall of mirrors. dependent on it for feedback and whip cracking. Not good enough, not ready. When we allow ourselves to put the work out into the world in its perfectly imperfect realness we get to move on to the next project, the next level of actualization and self understanding. When we are lost and helpless and not good enough we are reinforcing our egos. When we are taking action, moving forward and allowing ourselves to be known by another, we are strengthening our souls.
There is beauty in giving ourselves privacy behind the curtain to try on our costumes, learn our lines, go through the moves, refine, hone, practice. Planning and preparing are supportive and important to any work of art. But there can come a time when planning, preparing and practicing slide into hiding. And we must stay honest with ourselves around this. We owe it to our work. It is terrifyingly easy to lose years in the weeds. We want to be checking in with ourselves daily, taking stock of what we’re working on and asking: am I in my own, soulful momentum with this or am I distracted and fearful, at the mercy of ego? And if the answer is the latter, trusting that the moment we recognize the ego it loses its grip on us. The spell is broken. We can pivot toward progress again and address the right question — which is always: What am I afraid of?