It’s what we push ourselves to do when we really don’t want to do it that refines our sense of self-esteem and makes the real difference in our journey.
Take going to the gym: I’ve always disliked it. My father always said, “Son, why don’t you go outside and mow the lawn or play a school sport instead of going to the gym?” I agreed with him. Only later in life did I discover the solid science behind resistance exercise. Combined with a good diet and regular sleep, it’s the fountain of youth! Most people know it, but many won’t do it.
God knows I tried. I started and quit so often I felt like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day: always starting the same routine and never getting past a certain point.
Until I found The Secret. Do you want to know what it is? Of course you do. We all want in on The Secret.... And I wish I could give you a Golden Secret that would easily solve our challenges, but I can't. Because the Secret is, there really isn't one.
I know you feel ripped off after such a big build-up. I shared my realization with you in this way because it provides a glimpse of the total frustration I felt when this inevitable conclusion hit me like a ton of bricks.
Once I quit searching high and low for a secret, (when I was finally honest enough with myself to call my search for The Secret what it really was—a shortcut—I looked around and found myself right back at the beginning of my journey.
Only now, I was many years older and laden down with feelings of guilt mixed with heaping amounts of personal inadequacy. I didn’t admit these feelings to others. Hell, I hardly ever admitted it to myself, but the feeling was there every morning when I looked at myself in the mirror, and every night when I reviewed the day.
It’s a shitty place to live. Can anyone else relate to these feelings?
And here’s the really nasty trick I played on myself. Every time I quit and started my exercise regimen over again, I would go through a period of pain while my body adjusted. I felt stiff and sore every morning, and every evening when I was supposed to be working out, the temptations would rise up around me like songs of the Sirens encouraging me to throw in the towel. And I did. Again.
So there I was, bereft of willpower, unarmed with secrets, naked in the cold of reality. And I realized a bitter truth: nothing was going to happen unless I could make it happen. There was no help anywhere to be found. Period.
I got mad at myself. Not in a destructive way this time; more like my inner parent grabbing hold of my inner spoiled child and laying down the law in no uncertain terms. I knew if I really wanted to be in shape, it wasn’t going to be any fun. I just had to make working out a routine I did every single day, no matter what.
I adjusted my environment. I set out my work clothes. I expressed my purpose with my family. I set myself up with the gym attendants… All the things I had done before, but this time I wasn’t really excited about it. I just got through it. And when the first day came when I didn’t want to go to the gym one night and temptations raged around me as strong as ever, I just excused myself and got to the gym. When I had a bad cold, I went to the gym. When I had a difficult argument with my wife, I worked out my frustrations at the gym.
I’ve been doing it for a while now, and I’m seeing some pleasing results to my health and physique. Is it getting any easier? Not really. The only thing that is different between now and then—really, the ONLY thing that is different as far as I can tell—is now I know I CAN resist the temptations, I CAN work through my physical or mental pain, I CAN follow a routine. And I can tell you this: every single time I go to the gym despite the hurdles, I feel 10 times better and 20 times more powerful in my own life.
Now, I can hear you asking, “What the hell am I reading about going to the gym for? I thought this article was about writing!”
In a roundabout way, it is. The experience with the gym is my experiential guide for me to develop my ability to write as a regular practice. Because when you master something in one area of your life, it has the ability to spill over into all the other areas of your life, if you let it.
If you, like me, have struggled to become a real writer—defined as a person who actually writes each and every day—then I encourage you to explore the habit you practice diligently. If that’s difficult—we are all experiencing a deleterious erosion of discipline and mastery in our modern age of distraction—then I instead encourage you to think of a project, event, or time period which made you proud to be you. A time when you reached beyond yourself and tapped into reserves of boundless energy you never knew you had. Meditate on that time in your life or that habit you foster and imagine yourself applying this same mastery to your writing.
Bear down. Gut it out. Get writing.
William Hutchison Murray said it brilliantly, and I’m going to end by paraphrasing his quote:
“Until one is committed to write, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of writing, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid stories: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no writer could have dreamt would have come their way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:
Whatever you can write, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!”
Enjoy Your Day and Write Your Way!