Hitting the wall

“The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.” ― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

Here goes. Another confession.

I’ve pulled the pin on so many projects, it’s a wonder I’ve not given up completely on realising my dream (now) to write and be published.

Karate (Shotokan) — As a junior, I won lots of competitions but stopped competing aged 17, and never took things any further; I was one grade away from my black belt. I regret the fact that I didn’t find a way to keep training.

Bodybuilding — I loved the gym, and at one point trained seven days a week, sometimes twice a day. But I didn’t grow to the size physique I was expecting (it would have meant putting on about five stone!) and I wasn’t prepared to take steroids. In the end, I moved from Devon (where the gym was located) to London and even though I occasionally went to the gym, I never trained as hard again. I’m sure that if I had had a goal beyond simply size and bulk, I could have and would have used my experience more usefully.

Entrepreneurship — I started Ambassador Recruitment Limited aged 19; and lost it three years later when my business partner, Bill McGowan, wrongly, pulled the pin. I should immediately have started again. I didn’t. I went back to work a broken man — at least for the next year.

Law — I gave everything to the job. The Managing Partner of Bond Peace — now Womble Bond Dickinson — called me a ‘headbanger’. I knew what he meant: all work and no effing play. I had a dream to make partner by the time I turned 40; I’d given myself nine years — I was late to law. I was interviewed for partnership, age 41; my application was rejected. I was offered the chance to have another crack the following year but, as no one could say why I hadn’t made it the first time around and I’d lost faith in the process, I resigned and went to another firm. It was the wrong call. I should have left law, and gone it alone, as I did two years later (August 2010).

Self-employment — I managed to survive for four years before accepting a paid CEO role. I should have been braver and expanded the reach of my nascent business.

Now — I’m in-house counsel for a medium-sized engineering business. It’s better than private practice, but I’m operating well below my capability and capacity. I’ve not hit a wall, yet, but it won’t be long before I get itchy feet.

This list isn’t exhaustive but there are two themes writ large:

  1. I’ve not asked anything deeper than “What’s next?”; the only question I needed to ask is “Who am I?“.
  2. I’ve given up too soon and too easily.

The thing is, when you’ve no choice but to do something, you do it. When (as in my case) I’ve given myself too many options, I’ve taken the easy way out and given up too soon. And of course, what’s kicked my sorry arse is Resistance (see “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield).

I’d like to say that, now, everything’s different. But it’s not. I’m still driven to write but, as yet, I’ve only self-published one book of poetry and a compilation of blog posts. That’s not even on the dilettante scale. It’s just me messing about and pandering to my tiny heart and Lizard Brain.

I know and have known for a very long time that if I want to be a writer, I need to write. And that’s not easy. Whether it’s work, social media or family life, together or individually they can easily wipe out the best part of my day.

I’m sure if I was 20 years old, and knowing my messianic approach to life, I’d ditch the lot (not the family 😁) and go all in and the kitchen sink but that’s not where at. Instead, I have to keep reminding myself each and every day for the rest of my life:

have I beaten Resistance today?

It sounds simple but it rarely is.

In writing this post, which I’ve found cathartic, I can see how much of my life I’ve wasted doing the wrong things– most of them never felt that way at the time — and not being focused on one thing above all else:

so you want to be a writer?

Charles Bukowski, 1920 – 1994

“if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.”

Even if I beat Resistance, that’s not going to be enough. I’ve got to ship. At the moment, I’m toying with the idea of sending some my pieces which I’d normally put out as blog posts to magazines and websites because at least that way, as well as the memoir which I’m desperate to finish, I can get some feedback on my writing — even if it’s a big fat “No”.

In the end, what’s driving me on I suppose, knowing that I will hit another wall — “Who am I kidding thinking I can be a writer” — is my past failures. My goal, despite whatever Resistance throws at me, is to go deeper than I’ve ever gone before. To raise the bar — which, frankly, can’t be hard, given how little I’ve got to show for my writing angst.

What about you?

What wall are you facing right now?

Blessings,

Julian

Photo by Verne Ho on Unsplash

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