Start Before You’re Ready

A few weeks back I was finally able to tear into Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art and Do the Work. I wasn’t disappointed. Both of these books are right up my alley, dealing with the process of actually doing things in the face of the myriad ofbarriers that prevent the doing of said things. He refers to those barriers as The Resistance.

Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize. We don’t tell ourselves, “I’m never going to write my symphony.” Instead we say, “I am going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.”

Everything he says about The Resistance is incredibly familiar. In fact, I’m pretty sure that he wrote both books specifically for me. It’s all really useful thinking, but after my first read through there was one take-away that really stuck and proved the most practical of everything he writes about:

Start before you’re ready.

Don’t prepare. Begin. Remember, our enemy is not lack of preparation; it’s not the difficulty of the project or the state of the marketplace or the emptiness of our bank account. The enemy is Resistance. The enemy is our chattering brain, which, if we give it so much as a nanosecond, will start producing excuses, alibis, transparent self-justifications, and a million reasons why we can’t/shouldn’t/won’t do what we know we need to do.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” Begin it now.

And then, for the planners:

Research can become Resistance.

It’s probably a no brainer for most people. As for myself, I’ve become really good at making sure that everything is ready to go before getting down to business. Sometimes it’s physical noodly things like topping off my coffee or getting a new pen. Sometimes it’s some sort of bizarre pressure that I put on myself to do better work…like if I start at the right time it will be great, but starting at the wrong time will lead to absolute ruin.

Turns out that just starting will take care of all of the angst and anxieties lurking about in your head. Oh, and that actually working on things is the best way to figure them out.

It’s been really helpful for me. I highly recommend the books if you’re at all into this sort of thing. Otherwise, you may resume eye-rolling.