Then, inevitably, he blows everything up. Not literally. I mean, just when he’s starting to gain momentum and really make something happen, he trips himself up. Sabotages himself. Sets what he’s doing and what he’s done on fire and walks away. And all of us watching it happen shake our heads and sigh.
It’s like he’s programmed to self destruct.
Artists (writers included) are known to be a temperamental lot. You know the stereotype: the tortured artist. We find community in our angst and court our pain in search of inspiration.
Which is fine, I suppose, if that’s all you want to do. But I have to wonder if at some point that kind of drama becomes our work instead the art we were creating.
In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield refers to this kind of behavior as a form of resistance. Julia Cameron refers to it as “the twitch, the flu, the deadly disease” in her book Supplies: A Troubleshooting Guide for Creative Difficulties. It’s that thing you allow to get in your way so you don’t have to accomplish the thing you’re really meant to accomplish.
I used to be this way. I used to unravel my work so I never had to get where I wanted to be. Why? I’ve asked myself that a lot. The best answer I’ve found is that success means change and change can be scary.
Reminds me of that Marianne Williamson poem:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
I wish my artist friend would read The War of Art or Supplies, or Marianne’s poem. But, like a kind of depression, when you’re in a pattern of self-destruction, you don’t really want to hear the answer. You just want to keep being roiled up in the confusion and drama and somedays.
But the answer is pretty easy. (Okay, it’s hard, but also…easy.)
You do the thing you’re scared of doing. You go that extra step. You finish the work. You put away the matches and let the thing live and breathe and shine instead of burning it to the ground.
I think James A. Owen might say it best in his book Drawing Out the Dragons:
“If you really want to do something, no one can stop you. But if you really don’t want to do something, no one can help you.”
Are you programmed to self destruct? Whether you’re able to hear this now, or whether it just sits in your subconscious for a while until you are ready, the truth is this: you don’t have to burn what you’re building.
Just put the matches down.