This evening I accepted the Trust Yourself Writing Challenge that was sent out by Seth Godin’s Domino Project. It is a pledge to write or create something (and share it with people) every day for 30 days, based on a prompt sent out by a famous (or semi-famous) author. The challenge is in honor of the 208th birthday of Ralph Waldo Emerson and his book Self Reliance. Each day for the next month, I plan to create something and post it on this blog. Some days it will be short and others it will be long, but I will post something every day by midnight relating to the challenge. In addition, I will continue to write about coffee and art and other topics.
Today’s prompt was this: “You just discovered you have 15 minutes to live. Set a timer for 15 minutes and write the story that needs to be written.”
As soon as I clicked the I accept button for the challenge, I immediately had some doubts about my ability to complete the challenge. Why would I want to do something like this? Would I really be able to do it? What was I thinking? Then I told myself to shut up and get to work. There’s no time for doubt, only creating.
I recently read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, an excellent book that I wish I would have read fifteen years earlier. Had I learned and applied the principles in the book, I am sure that I would have been able to be more successful in reaching my goals in life. The most memorable section for me was the part where Pressfield talks about becoming a professional. One of the things that Pressfield says about professionals is that they do not overidentify with their jobs, meaning that although what they do may be important to them, at the end of the day what they do is not who they are.
When you identify too much with what you do (the amateur mentality), you become so invested in it that the fear of failing paralyzes you. Professionals look at what they do with a cool rationality and as a result, can focus on improving their craft, not worrying about how many failures they have along the way..
I can see how the amateur’s attitude affected me when I used to play basketball. Basketball was so important to me that each missed shot during practice was a sign of a personal failure. Putting this type of pressure on myself to be perfect was counterproductive and led to a lot of self-doubt and negative thoughts. Had I taken more of a professional’s mentality, I would have looked at each practice session as an opportunity to improve my skills, instead of a judgment about how I was.
Trying to be perfect and then getting upset when you are not is not going to make you successful. Working like hell to learn your craft, while continually learning from your mistakes is. This is a lesson I learned way later than I should have, so as I look forward to this 30-day challenge, the goal is not to be perfect, but instead to create something that I feel is worth creating and to improve my writing every day. There may be some hits and misses along the way, but come what may, I’m going to put it out there, because writing is something that I do, it is not who I am.
This is the story that needed to be written today (though I admit it did take a little longer than 15 minutes to write).