Through The Swamp And Around The Forests: Keep Going

    August 8, 2003

Last Sunday night I had a moment of queasy disdain, and almost sent all three chapters of my current novel into oblivion. In my black mood, I hated the book’s central idea, hated the characters, hated the setting, and thought that euthanasing the project would be a kindness.

Then I had an attack of sanity, wrote a few more pages, and decided that since I’d started the novel — I was well past my weasel date, my nominated cut-off point of 10,000 words, I might as well complete it. Only 100,000 words to go. :-)

What inspired me to keep going? A sticky note I keep on my computer monitor: “DDT – Do, Don’t Think”.

If you’re stuck, wondering whether you’re doing the right thing, or wondering whether to start a new business or a new project, DDT can help. Here’s how to use the process:

One: Write your intention for the project

It’s vital to put your intention in writing. So write it down: “I intend to write a book about —“; “I intend to start my own business doing —“; “I intend to take a trip to—“.

You may be tempted to skip this step. Don’t. Writing your intention is the first and most important step to making your new project a reality. You don’t need to write the intention anywhere special, in fact you don’t even need to keep the piece of paper you write it on. Just write it.

Two: Nominate a completion date

By when? Nominate a date by which your book will be written, your business will be doing business, or the day you’ll leave on your trip.

You can change the date at any time, but you must nominate a date right now.

Three: Nominate a weasel date

A weasel date gives you an out. You can opt out of the project on the weasel date. However, if the weasel date passes, you must complete the project. For a book, your weasel date could be when you’ve written 10,000 words. If you’re starting a new business, the weasel date can be when you’ve had business cards printed, or a month from today. If you’re taking a trip, the weasel date could be the day you make the plane reservations.

Write down your weasel date.

Four: Image the project

Close your eyes, and imagine. Imagine your project a reality. You can image your book’s cover, or interacting with a client in your new business, or arriving at your trip’s destination.

Make the images as real as you can. Use all your senses. Page through the book. Listen to what your client is telling you. Look around you at your destination.

Now create a symbol. Just close your eyes, and allow a symbol of your completed project to come to you. This symbol may be related to your project in a way you can understand, or not. You may picture a glass jar, or a kite, or a flower. The symbol doesn’t matter, just accept whatever comes. Write down the symbol. Then draw it. Date and keep the note on which you wrote and drew your symbol.

When you’re working on your project and want to give up, remember your symbol. Recalling your symbol will inspire you.

I’ve no idea how or why this works. The symbol comes from your right brain, your unconscious mind. It’s powerful, so don’t try to choose an appropriate symbol, go with whatever symbol appears to you.

If symbols intrigue you, try this wonderful exercise from Jean Houston:

Susan Wenger’s page on Image Streaming is also useful when you get stuck on a project:

Five: One baby step at a time

Work on your new project each day.

If it’s a long project, like writing a book, or setting up a business, you WILL have bad days. Remember DDT — Do, Don’t Think. Simply work on the project, get through that swamp in any way you can.

My article: “Write Before You Look” may also help. Use your image. Your mood will pass. Just keep going. Some days are miserable, but your mood will change.

Here’s the link to the article:

You’ll be amazed that often a day which started out as problematic, ends up being one of your most productive and useful days ever.

Six: Listen to your resistance

Your resistance is always important. Listen to it.

Take a sheet of paper. Write “I don’t want to do XX because—“, and keep writing for five minutes. You will be amazed at what comes out.

Usually just seeing your doubts objectified on paper eliminates them. For example, one of my copywriting students was hesitant to go full-time. She had ten steady clients, was working weekends and 16-hour days, but was reluctant to freelance full-time.

When she wrote out her resistance, she found that unconsciously, she was thinking that there was no way back, once she quit her job. While writing, she remembered that she had already been offered full-time work by one of her freelance clients — of course there was a way back, she could get another full-time job anytime she wanted to.

Our unconscious blocks are blocks because we don’t explore them: we take our fear as meaningful, and don’t ask ourselves what’s behind the resistance. Ask. You may be surprised that there’s nothing meaningful in your resistance at all.

Whenever you’re stuck, remember DDT — Do, Don’t Think. You can navigate your way through the swamps, forests and “here be dragons” areas of life. Keep going.

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