If we wait for inspiration, we’ll surely be waiting for a long time

I’m in the middle of a slump as I write this. I haven’t produced words in weeks. And — for those who slave away at your art, you know this is true — there are plenty of reasons to not get up and work:

  • I got some bad news.
  • I stayed up too late.
  • A phone call came in right as I was sitting down.
  • I can’t seem to “get inspired.”
  • There’s laundry to do.
  • I wrote quite a bit more than usual the last time, so I can spare a day off.
  • And on and on.

I walk around telling people, “Hey, I’m a writer! Yeah! I write things!” and I imagine people thinking of me how I think of my heroes — Vonnegut, Thoreau, Bob Darden, Don Miller — at their desks.

When I think of a writer, it’s a picturesque scene: in an isolated cabin with warm coffee, a view of the sun rising over a glass-topped lake and divine connection from heaven to the artist’s fingertips. In my mind, the writer is pecking keys as fast as inspiration can come. Writing, in my mind, is effortless.

Perhaps I enjoy the possibility of people imagining me doing this. But each one of the men I listed will tell you: that ain’t how it works, kids.

Writing — any form of creativity — is not about magical inspiration. It’s about sitting your ass down and writing.

And so when I call myself a writer, but I’m not writing, I’m a poser. I’m not speaking truth to those who trust me. I’m lying to the people I love. Ugh. How horrible.

I’ve got this poster hanging from some tape above my desk. It’s a simple reminder. “Ship.” it reads.

Ship, everyday. Ship, even without permission. Ship, especially without inspiration. Ship when there’s disappointment or a full schedule or dozens of people grabbing for attention. Just Ship.

Ship not because you should, but because there’s a deep connection to your art that says you must.

Shipping is a term I picked up from Seth Godin. He uses it to mean: make art and share it with the world. And opposite of The Ship is The Resistance.

The Resistance comes from Steven Pressfield’s book, “The War Of Art.” It’s his label for the force inside our head that keeps us from Shipping. It’s the voice that tells us we’re not good enough, not smart enough, too busy or uninspired. The Resistance will keep you from creating and then beat you down for not showing up.

“If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get.” -Steven Pressfield

So if Resistance says I shouldn’t Ship, showing up is the only way to counteract the lie.

To Ship consistently, an artist has to show up consistently. It’s as simple as that.

Pressfield’s got another quote I drum up when I hear the voice creeping in:

“Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.” -Steven Pressfield