No matter what we are doing, there is a little part of us that stands in judgment. We often judge ourselves most harshly. How we respond to an interview question, how we lead a business pitch or even how we dance will somehow trigger internal feelings about a perceived external opinion. Even though it is a perfectly normal part of the human condition, it can be quite limiting if we let it overtake us.
A few years ago, I challenged myself to write every day without expectation for 15 minutes and publish one shareable insight once a week on a new blog called 52Musings. The idea was to write every day and publish once a week for a year. At the end of the experiment, I knew myself more intimately than ever. Writing harnessed my curiosity and helped me direct my energy to productive endeavors, it helped me work through my fears, it sparked more interesting questions and tapped my latent potential.
One of the biggest obstacles that I had to navigate was the negative self-talk about whether or not I was a writer. Up until that point, I hadn’t really written anything other than a to-do list or email for work. What credentials did I have to start writing about the ideas in my head? The second roadblock was my fear to share my writing. Why would anyone want to read anything that I wrote? Would it be meaningful? Would people like it? Both forces that I was fighting were firmly rooted in ego, which proved to be a formidable opponent in my year-long experiment.
Author Stephen Pressfield refers to this force as resistance, which shows up every time you write. It could take the form of easier work like checking email or going to the store. Pressfield says, “It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write”. Sure enough, every time I sat down on my red couch looking out the front window of my house, resistance was there to meet me. I sensed the pattern, but I kept showing up with a blank page in my notebook and a pencil. I began reminding myself that I didn’t have to be prolific. I didn’t even have to be good. I just had to show up, and I did just that. Most of the time, my pages were filled with nonsense, but occasionally I uncovered some jewels. It was almost like I had to get out the nonsense to make room for the jewels. These were the pieces that kept me coming back for more. As for the resistance, I expected it and even welcomed it with open arms.
From my fourth entry, One Dot At A Time, I started thinking about language as technology and how writing was intimidating. After four weeks into my experiment, I hadn’t been able to completely shake the doubt. What if I didn’t have to shake it? What if I just had to acknowledge it? My takeaway that week was that big things start from small actions, like the act of writing one letter or even a dot to start that letter. A dot is way less intimidating than a five page story.
Think about the beauty of a single letter in the alphabet. Any letter. They are fascinating instruments that don’t usually get a second thought, especially the handwritten ones. In the circus-like frenzy of our fast-paced days, we don’t think about the power that exists in each letter of the scribbled message in our notebook or the last line of our grocery list.
I love the simplicity of basic forward progress. One step at a time. All letters start one dot at a time. Dots lead to letters, letters produce words, words fill sentences, sentences build stories, books, articles, screenplays, research studies, and so on. Creating something can be daunting. Blank pages are intimidating, but there is zero anxiety in making a single dot. No expectations, just forward progress. Worry about what it is later.
Sometimes writing can trigger new adventures to explore and understand the world. From my seventh entry, Trippy Honey, my inspiration came from a PBS special about a Himalayan tribe that climbs the sides of mountains for special honey with hallucinatory effects. It sparked my curiosity and I charged into trying to understand the mathematical through-line behind the design of bee hives. After researching a bit, I created an alternative history of a bee named Mortimer who created the hexagonal design. I never would have thought about exploring these connections and writing a story like this seven weeks earlier.
The hive is bustling with energy and action as the bees focus on the detailed process of honey making. This place looks like the busiest airport in the world multiplied by twenty-five. Like any other factory, there are detailed processes and procedures to make sure every bit of space and every second of time is optimized to the fullest extent possible. The brave squadrons of bees returning from gathering nectar begin to organize back at home base. There are signals and small discussions driving the collective energy force within the hive. All factories need a warehouse. In this case, the factory is also the warehouse. At this point, storage has not been standardized, however, the most popular solution is a framework of circular storage devices within the structure of the hive. The bees had to be able to fit into these storage devices to fill them up with nectar. The devices also doubled as a safe place for the queen bee to lay her eggs. This architecture was developed by one of the most influential bees in the hive named Llewellyn. He was known and loved by the entire hive for his confidence and intellectual prominence.
Writing can help you unpack, organize and act on new ideas. During my forty-fourth week, I chased down a path that paired physics with a seed of an idea. By pulling it out of my head and onto paper, I was able to understand my idea and how it could come to life. The result is something that I am developing to bring to market.
According to the theories, everything we see is actually not really there. Existence is merely the probability of the actualization of various potential states. The world of protons, electrons, and other mystical entities requires the belief in less tangible theories and explanations. Our physical world is built upon a three-dimensional experience within the confines of length, width, and depth. It is our main reference point, and anything fighting that observable and known reality is subject to repercussion. From a philosophical perspective, one could argue that our reality is a mere construct of what we observe combined with our historical experiences. The famed physicist Werner Heisenberg’s Physics and Philosophy presents a different view that is a “strange kind of physical reality just in the middle between possibility and reality”. Isn’t that where every new idea lives? In the space between the possible and the real?
Each of these writing sessions gave me an opportunity to spend time with myself. Writing was helping me unpack and process the thoughts in my head while serving as a light to explore the world through my own curiosity. It was game-changing. Writing is an internal dialogue that manifests on paper. When else can you have a conversation with yourself without people looking at you like you are crazy?
The next time that voice in your head questions what you feel in your heart, acknowledge its presence and move with it. Dance with the imposter rather than letting it assume your entire identity. If you just show up and do the work without judgement, it will open doors that you never thought existed.