“The artist must create a spark before he can make a fire and before art is born the artist must be ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation.” ~ Auguste Rodin
A few weeks ago, I switched gears from doing book rewrites and edits to writing my book proposal.
I developed my outline, formulated my plan of attack, and began doing some research. The first couple of days were relatively easy as I drafted ideas for marketing and sought data on recently-published books that were comparable to mine. Little by little, I began fleshing out sections of the proposal.
When it came time to write the Overview (the first 2-3 pages that, according to experts, must sing and provide compelling evidence for why my book is a must-read), I stalled out. I kept trying to find my way into the language, into the getting going. Searching for the connecting dots.
And then the second-guessing began, along with a train of mean blurts emanating from within my anxious mind:
“Uh, you can’t write the Overview because you cannot provide evidence of the worth of your book.”
“I thought you loved sales! Wow, if you can’t sell the world on why your book is essential reading, it must not be.”
“You wrote a whole book and cannot write the 2-3 pages of why it is life- and business-changing material?”
You get the idea. Self-inflicted misery.
I wondered if my frustrating paralysis was due to good ole fashioned limiting beliefs or if there was something else going on. I set the work aside for a day and turned the problem over to my subconscious mind to work on.
I hiked, read, napped, cooked, and stared off into space while soaking in the tub. I worked on other parts of the proposal and resisted the urge to actively solve the mental roadblock. I also tried not to panic.
On a mindless drive into town one morning, I began projecting myself into the future, talking about my book on podcasts and during book tour stops. Letting the fantasy roll right along, I imagined myself as a published author. Explaining why I had written the book and what it meant to me.
I have no idea how long I had been crying when I snapped back, wiped my cheeks with the top of my right hand, and looked for a place to pull over. Safely in a paved pull-out on the side of the road, I gave in and let all the emotion run. And run.
While knee-deep in getting the first draft of my book finished, I was pretty successful in outrunning the raw edges and residual ick from my years in the fire. I saddled up each day and took dictation from thoughts and memories that streamed in after one or two stirs of thinking back.
Without the buffer of the getting-it-all-down stage, though, I was exposed. New flames were now right at my heels as I turned to prove the worth of my Nuclear Winter lessons. Make the case for their value. My value. The blue tips of the flames sucked in oxygen, powered by my fear that what I had created was not good enough.
Whoosh! Full-on ignition.
I stood back like you do when you are burning brush or leaves raked into a pile. A hose was within reach, but I let it stay coiled and kept the faucet off. The mound of self-doubt burned, hissed, and sizzled, and I turned the questions of my value over and into embers and ash.
There are few indications now of where the blisters once were. If I go feeling around for them, I can find their old edges and push against the healed wounds. These are scars I am proud of and grateful for. They mapped my way out and through.
Stop Fighting Against the Flames
What is the thing you are avoiding working on because it feels too hard to do? Try understanding the avoidance with a compassionate eye. Look for where you might be darting away from the initial shock of feeling the fear, the pain of remembering, the squirming nature of not knowing for a while.
And then take a match and drop it straight into what you’ve collected that keeps you small. Its purpose has ended. You no longer need the safety. You no longer want to be separate, apart. You can find your way into the work when you stop minding the blisters and fighting against the flames.
This is the work your ideal clients need most from you. And you need it from you, too.