Steven Pressfield (the writing tsar) tells a story in his book ‘The War of Arts’ about how after finishing his very first manuscript, he went with it to visit his mentor. He was feeling good about himself – anyone would.
He had worked on the manuscript painstakingly for a long time, little wonder why he was so proud of himself. In my books, even if you work on a book for a year, you oughtta be proud. Writing a book is no mean feat. In fact, doing so earns you the right to walk with swagger, to push your chest out, to thump it and to wear a tee that announces to the world “Writing books is my thing” – or something to that effect.
Mustering the discipline, commitment and hard work to finish a book is something that should be celebrated and rewarded. Imagine how much respect I hold for someone who has worked on a book for not one, but several years on end without giving up! Mad.
When Steve (first name basis nayo!) walks in to see his mentor (his name should be Paul, if I remember correctly) you would expect this guy who has seen him through this journey and who knows just how much this achievement means to him to be the first person to pat his back, congratulate him, massage his ego a bit and tell him that he is the man.
He could even pat his back some more, pop the champagne, fetch two glasses and toast ‘to the new book!’. A celebratory reaction is what you would expect. But we don’t always get what we expect. What Paul does? Without looking up from his desk, he simply utters; “Good for you. Start the next one tomorrow”
Now imagine if Steve had flashed the book the way a man would parade a hot chick he has been pursuing endlessly, to his boys. Maybe his lips would slant to the side in a half-sneer. Maybe he would give his cigar a puff, give his nose a quick tip before both his hands ended at his waist as he waited for his mentor to admire his work. No. Better still, maybe he’d cross his arms on his chest, lean back on one of Paul’s furniture, tip his cowboy hat a tad and with a broad smile plastered on his face, ask with pride “Whadyathink mate?” as he waited for him to admire his work. Now imagine how Paul’s response would have wiped that proud narcissistic look off Steve’s face!
What Steve admits to have learned from Paul is that everybody feels the way he was feeling when they complete a project. What Paul was telling him is that he should not waste time on that emotion. Start on something else while you have the momentum for it. “Don’t mess with momentum.” He says. Use that energy to propel you forward into your next project.
We should always know what we are going to do next. The interval between completing one project and plunging into the next one is a power moment. The interval between failing miserably and picking yourself up is a power moment.
The interval between ending a relationship and getting back on your feet is a power moment (ahem!). In between these intervals, we can attract all kinds of bad stuff. Our self-esteem could plummet; we could suffer self-doubt, indecisiveness, or even complacency. Getting right into the next project eradicates the manifestation of these ‘negative’ emotions and the energy from the momentum propels us to greater achievements.
But we are who we are. When we feel that we have achieved something huge, we want to get recognition for it. Who doesn’t want the interviews, the reviews and the accolades? When we fail at something, we want the pity party, the wallowing, the regrets, the excuses.
Pressfield advises to enjoy the process, not the outcome. The process of writing a book, not the finished book.
We should enjoy the process of a relationship, not the outcome. The process of education, not the final marks you score at the end of a two hour test.
The process is what builds your soul. The process sharpens your skills. The process is what improves the quality of your life. It is what changes you.