Have you ever had a project that felt so impossible that you just want to give up? You are so despondent that you no longer care about all the effort you have put in.
Perhaps it hasn’t panned out the way you wanted it to, or it has taken much longer than you thought.
Maybe your family are putting pressure on you to ‘see sense’. Maybe part of you agrees with them.
I go through this too. Sometimes I despair of myself and my prospects as a writer. In terms of novel writing I don’t think I read enough. You can learn all you need to know about being a good writer by reading and looking at those books through the eyes of a writer. Steven King says if you don’t have time to read then you don’t have time to write.
Writers I admire such as Elizabeth Gilbert or Shaunta Grimes produce more than I do. They were also dedicated to their writing in their teens and twenties when I was out and about being the ultimate party girl.
In my low moments I wonder is it worth it. If I’m not going to achieve my audacious goals, why am I making all of this effort?
This is the time to keep going
There is a Buddhist expression which says that the night is darkest just before the dawn. There is another line in the Buddhist scripture that says:
For example, the journey from Kamakura to Kyoto takes twelve days. If you travel for eleven but stop with only one day remaining, how can you admire the moon over the capital?
It is when our journey is at the hardest point, where we are the most tired, when the world feels against us that we are tempted to give up. But if we can only keep going through these tough times then we exponentially increase our chance of achieving our goals. If we give up, our chance is zero.
So how can you keep going when you feel like giving up?
Acknowledge that it is hard
Don’t bully yourself and say that you are stupid or a lightweight for struggling. Acknowledge that you have come to a difficult part in your project, that it might be emotionally difficult or it might be tiring. Look back and see how far you have come. Congratulate yourself for the progress you have made so far.
Then acknowledge that you are on a steep part of the curve but it will be worth the effort in the end. Have you ever ridden a bike up a hill? The closer you get to the top the harder it gets and the temptation to stop peddling grows. But if you can just keep going for a little longer you will reach the summit. The view and sense of satisfaction will be amazing and you can free wheel down the other side.
Drop into a low gear
Like the bike ride, you have to go low and slow. Take small steps. Only focus on the immediate task. Don’t panic about what lies ahead. Make a list of the next few micro steps to get the current task done. Then give yourself the satisfaction of ticking each one off as you do it. Research has shown that physically ticking items off a to-do list boosts our self-esteem.
This is what I do every week when I sit down to tackle another section in the edits of my novel. I have to coax myself saying things like, “Just print it out and read it. Then read the feedback. Now start at the next section.”
By breaking it down into pathetically small pieces I can start. I try to view the edits as an experiment and just see what I have after an hour or two. This allows me to start work and at the end of the session I usually have something reasonable. If not, then rinse and repeat!
You might need help with the actual task in hand. Or maybe you need to tell one of your creative buddies that you are struggling and need encouragement. Who do you look up to in your creative world? Who do you know who might have had a similar issue? How did they get through it?
Take care of yourself
Make sure you are eating healthily and getting enough fresh air and movement. It is at the hardest times when we need to take the greatest care of ourselves if we are going to be physically capable of doing the work.
Give yourself some comfort
Nurture yourself. What can you do that is kind and nurturing for yourself? That might mean going to a favourite café for coffee and cake, or spending an hour or two with a glossy magazine or going for a walk in the trees.
When the going is tough and you are busy with your creative work it can feel like you haven’t got time for such niceties. However, it is worth the investment in time and money to do something that revives your spirit. This will give you the emotional juice to go onwards with your project.
Know why you are doing it
It is important to know why you want to be creative. Is it just for money or fame or for creative satisfaction or because your soul can’t rest until you’ve done your very best to express what is in your heart?
Fame and money are external validation and you have no control over this. I was at a creativity workshop with Elizabeth Gilbert recently and she re-iterated that you can’t worry about whether you will be published or how many copies of a book you might sell. You can only focus on what it is that you have to say, then do the work required to say it.
Have some fun
Sometimes work and life can become such a grind that you forget to have fun. Having fun can dissipate stress, reconnect you to your curiosity and sense of wonder, as well as replenish your creative well.
Remember the ‘F’ word – fun!
You don’t have to keep going
You don’t have to persist with your project. Sometimes the most value creating option might be to move onto something else. Four years ago I closed down my coaching practice because I felt burned out with it and didn’t feel that I could grow the business any further.
I didn’t just walk away from it on a whim though. It had been in my mind for a while and I talked extensively to my own coach about it to ensure that the choice was based on wisdom not fear. When I finally made the decision and carried it out I felt happy and had no regrets.
How do you know if the thoughts of giving up are coming from wisdom or fear? Ask yourself this question. If fear played no part in the equation, would you want to continue?
If you answered yes to this then you should continue as it is resistance trying to persuade you to throw in the towel.
If you answered no then your decision is coming from wisdom.
Give it more time
It is normal for goals to take longer than you planned. Coaching guru, Michael Neill says that giving up prematurely is one of the main reasons for failing. It is our expectation of a quick result which is screwing us, not the fact that it can’t be done.
The best tip to continuing is just to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Ask yourself this question – if you don’t do it, what will you do?
Now I’d love to hear from you
Where are you at with your project right now? Are you hitting the wall? Or have you just recovered from a difficult time? If so what made a difference for you. Please share your thought. Your comment might be just the right thing that someone else needs to read.
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