Get Your Hands Dirty

Resistance is always cropping up for me in new and unexpected ways.

Now, sometimes the ways it crops up actually are new. But that’s rare. More often, they are in fact age-old ways that I am only just now coming round to noticing. One such way is the enormous resistance I feel to just diving in and exploring anything I get curious about.

I don’t fully understand it, but I have a theory. Some part of me seems hell-bent on keeping things imaginary. Because when things are strictly imaginary, they can’t let you down. They can be as perfect as your imagination allows. But in the real world, there is always the risk that they will fall short of this perfection.

And so the vast majority of ideas I have are killed in the womb. My fear of “mucking it up” beyond repair is such that it’s safer never getting started. So afraid am I of starting the process off “wrong” – as if that were possible – and not knowing how I would correct course, that I often resort to dreaming instead of doing.

For example, I might get a vague idea in my head for a song. Now, it’s not a song yet – not until I spend some time turning it into one. To get from no song to song, something has to happen – I must explore my idea, try out some chords, try out some lyrics, and via trial and error, include and exclude the right elements until I have a song.

And of course, there is zero chance that a song will just shoot out of me fully formed and perfect, like some kind of auditory immaculate conception. There will be mistakes. There will be dead ends. I might work for weeks thinking it’s one thing and find out I’ve been barking up the wrong tree.

And that’s exactly what I’m afraid of.

It’s certainly more comfortable to keep something in your head as a beautiful potential, and never risk destroying your perfect illusion by diving in and getting your hands dirty. Unfortunately, that comfort, the very thing that you feel is keeping you safe, is keeping you stuck.

As Steven Pressfield says, “Resistance is always lying and it’s always of shit.” So what’s the big lie here?

The big lie is that it’s better to stay on the sidelines where you can’t get hurt, and it’s better to keep your beautiful illusions in their shrink-wrap rather than risk letting “reality” ruin them.

But the truth is that so long as you do this, they can never be more than illusions. At some point you have to dive in and risk fucking it all up. Life was meant to be lived, not imagined. But that’s okay, because it is impossible to “ruin” your work by trying to do your work. What a ludicrous idea that would be!

It is possible, however, when you try something that doesn’t work first time, that you feel you have taken a step backwards. But you haven’t. You’ve just become more aligned with reality – you can now see things more clearly than you could before.

Keep going. Every second spent working on something brings you closer to its attainment, even when it doesn’t look that way. It is impossible to move backwards.

So stop worrying and get your hands dirty. I will.

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