We are nothing if not present tense: 4 steps from “I’m gonna” to “I am”

"Someday, I'm gonna..."

I just clicked the "submit" button on a creative non-fiction writing contest. I'm pretty sure the piece is fundamentally unpublishable – the voice changes frequently, the pacing is remarkably varied for such a short piece, and, let's face it, the only person who really cares about a personal travel diary is me.

But I clicked the "submit" button, and that's the part that takes me from talking about becoming a writer and actually working on becoming a writer.

Let's get something straight: I used to be a writer. I performed my own poetry and wrote both traditional journalism and opinion columns for a few years. My last writing day job, while definitely geared toward making money for somebody else, allowed a fair bit of creativity – at least until Google became my primary audience.

This here is my blog. I get to choose my topics, my words, and if you don't like it, you just plain old don't have to read it. I long ago crossed that line between trying to win you back if you stopped reading my blog or stopped following me on Twitter and just being me and if you like me and what I have to say, you'll read me.

For the past couple of years, since I stopped being driven by The Almighty Search Ranking, I've been either a former writer or an aspiring writer. I'm not sure which is more dangerous of an attitude to take. "I used to do this," or "someday I'll do this."

We are nothing if not present tense.

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield introduces Resistance. It's a force that keeps you away from projects at all levels. It stops you from starting. It stops you from finishing. It stops you from perfecting. And it stops you from telling anybody about your project. Resistance takes many forms, from "I'll do it after I read the paper" to "I'll do it after I play fetch with the dog" to "Aww, Sweetie, that's cute. Come have dinner with me and your father."

Pressfield's Do the Work extends the battle against Resistance. You have a sword, Resistance is a dragon, and at every turn, it's up to you slay the dragon at each turn.

A note about Pressfield, author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and some other stuff: Here's a guy who was an over-the-road trucker living in a shack with a closed-up typewriter who ate dinner outdoors with a cat who refused to take food or shelter from Pressfield, only stood there and watched him before skulking off to wherever he went. Pressfield lived this life until he finally made the decision to sit down and write. And then even after that, because he wrote, and couldn't bring himself to submit his work.

And that's where he brings us in Turning Pro, and it's where I'm bringing myself with the submission.

There's a line. On one side are the people who say "I'm gonna" and "I used to" and "I wanna" and "I wish I could," and on the other side are the people who say "I am."

There are varying levels of success on the "I am" side of the line. At all those levels, there are people in danger of crossing back to the other side of the line. It's a very real danger. I'm committing to pressing the "submit" button a minimum of once a month. That gives me enough time to hone new work, but still makes me work on a tight enough deadline to not allow Resistance to fill up the room.

Call it commitment. It's more important than effort. "I tried" may be more important than "I want to," but "I did" is more important than "I tried."

You should go get this free audiobook. The novel is hysterical. And it comes with a lesson. You have to stick with it a while to get the lesson, but it's amusing enough that you'll get there.

You should also go get this free book. You'll come out of it with a broken coffee mug, but you'll also come out so much stronger.

4 steps to reaching the other side of the line

How do you get to the other side of the line?

1. Start
2. Keep going
3. Finish
4. Show people

It sounds simple, but it's really, really not. I want to hear your stories – success, failure, it doesn't matter. If you can do steps 1-3, I can be step 4 for you. Hit me up in comments.


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