Creativity, in any field, is hard. Not only do you have to squeeze out time from your schedule and already demanding life, you also have to conquer your inner demons in order to create something original.
You know what I'm talking about, that voice in your head that says, nay shouts, “Don’t bother, it’s been done before”. Or if it truly is original, then it will say, “You’re not good enough to do something this ground-breaking”. This voice is always telling you why something can't be done, or shouldn’t. It is difficult to take any creative steps with this voice nagging away.
I have been working on a project, one that is very close to my heart, and the main reason that its taken so long is because of this voice in my head. It makes me so nervous I avoid working on my project altogether, and set it aside sometimes for weeks, even months at a time, giving myself excuses like ‘I’m too busy’, or ‘I’ll work on it after I finish this current project’, or ‘I just need to take some more notes first’. Despite all these excuses, I know deep down, that they are just those, excuses, and I really should be working on my project. Its only when I can't bear being away from it anymore, that I get back to it, wishing I hadn’t spent all that time away, wishing I didn’t succumb to that voice.
Recently I decided that I was sick of the voice’s control over me, and also that I needed to clear house, accomplish some of the older pending smaller projects, all the better to gather steam for this larger one. I decided to republish an e-book I published online a few years ago, on a different site; one that provided better distribution options, but required a fairly involved submission process. I had been putting off this task, since I was quite apprehensive about what it would entail. As the end of the year approached I was determined to accomplish this task, however long it would take; but secretly I didn’t believe I could do it. Not that I wasn’t capable of doing it, just that it would be too difficult, or I would make lots of mistakes, or find some reason or the other to give up.
While I started work on this mini-project, I was finishing up a research project with a collaborator, and in between edits on that manuscript, I decided to start working on this one. I told myself I only had to work for short bursts of time, which was the only way I could do it, as I had to keep going back to my collaborative project. While waiting for my colleague to revert with changes, I would put in 10-15 minutes on formatting my manuscript. These little bursts of work were non-threatening to the voice, pre-primed with thinking you can't really get into something in 10 minutes, so therefore there was no need to criticize. By flying under the radar of detection, I started to pile up the amount I got done. And it started to look like I was making real progress, like I might really get there.
Finally the other project was done, handed in, and I breathed a sigh of relief. This would usually be my cue to take a break, call it a day, after 2 days of almost non-stop work, late into the night. But I was pumped with adrenaline, and besides, I was really into the task now, and decided to see how much further I could get before bumping into trouble.
I did hit a few trouble spots, and each time the voice came back, telling me I would have to give up. Or wait till I found someone to help me. And then it told me that it was unlikely I would find help. But I took a short break, refueled, and told myself I would give it another 15 minutes, and if I made no progress in that time, I would give up for the day. Each time I either found a solution in 15 minutes, or was so engrossed that I kept going, and eventually figured it out. Ultimately, I did it. I published my book. But more importantly, I realized, that I may not believe in myself and my creative ability all the time, but I can manage it for 15 minutes at a time, and that may be enough.