An interesting fact about Hitler: he was actually a pretty decent painter.
In fact, some people believe Hitler’s art is directly linked to his evil. Whether it was due to lack of perseverance, laziness or poor self-esteem, Hitler failed to realise his potential as an artist. This agony caused him to become a tyrant dictator.
That’s one theory, at least.
Either way, Hitler hadn’t the courage to face his creative demons. To close the studio door and walk that sad, lonely path as an artist.
You may have experienced a lighter version of this challenge yourself. I know I have.
For me, Sunday is always the hardest day of the week.
If I get up and wrestle a big creative task, then I’m relaxed for the rest of the day.
However, if I dilly-dally…If I start reading the paper…walking the dog…or generally wasting time…then I am consumed with misery and guilt. Getting started from there is impossible. Creative anxiety eats at me. I’m short-tempered. I snap at my wife. She snaps back, and the whole day ends up ruined.
Creative anxiety is the most insidious feeling you can have.
It’s a pain which you can actually feel in your stomach.
There’s only one way to free yourself from this torment: you must be willing to close the door.
Shut out the world, no matter how bad you feel. Sit down – at your writing pad, blank canvas, musical instrument, coding software, whatever it is – and DO THE WORK.
This is more difficult than just about anything on Earth.
It’s so challenging, many artists would sooner fight a global war.
You have to ask yourself: “What are my ground-rules?”
What does it mean to be a professional in this creative or entrepreneurial endeavour?
Imagine somebody who’s already achieved what you’re striving for. How would they answer?
Once you’ve answered this question honestly, you must follow the path laid out as if it were a religion. You must believe that failure to act guarantees you’ll be going to hell.
Because that may just be the case.
In his book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield calls this invisible enemy “resistance.”
Any time you…
- Question if you’re any good
- Question whether your idea is any good
- Cry about how you’re crap and everyone will hate you
- Wonder if you’re wasting your time
…you are facing resistance.
The only way to beat resistance is to act.
As I’ve said, getting started is more difficult than just about anything in the world.
I’m still, after more than a decade, terrified to sit down and write.
I pine for my wife and dog on the other side of the closed door.
However, when I start, I immediately feel a lot better. It is impossible to feel sad, alone or insecure when you’re taking action. Those feelings only arise when you’re idle.
Not everything you do will always be good. Sometimes your insecurities may contain some truth. But it doesn’t matter. The absolute only thing that matters is you pick up your sword and charge towards resistance with everything you’ve got.
What I love most about Pressfield’s book is that his story is completely relatable.
He’s not a 22-year-old tech billionaire “democratizing” things.
Until his mid-forties, he was a deadbeat.
In and out of jobs, trying to become a writer. Blowing up marriages. Sometimes living in his car.
His writing sucked.
And people told him so.
For years, he let resistance get the best of him.
Yet when he made a point of squaring up to resistance daily, he became a bestselling novelist, non-fiction author, and Hollywood screenwriter.
Resistance is your enemy.
Every day you wake, you should want to get revenge.
You do this by starting your day with your biggest, nastiest problem. Then again tomorrow. And the next day.
Make a pact with yourself to fight resistance every day for at least 1 hour. Even your birthday. Even Christmas day. Take no days off from the struggle.
You don’t have to be a workaholic. You just have to be willing to fight your demons for 1 hour per day. You can do that can’t you? I can tell you from experience, rewards start coming within a few weeks. When you do this, you develop habits and momentum. The process gets easier and easier.
Your work starts to pile up. You don’t even notice it happening.
And the quality improves, also.
You’re building new skills almost without effort.
When you notice this happen, it’s impossible not to feel joy.