When I opened my computer this afternoon to start writing, I discovered that the last 500 words or so that I had completed the day before had now disappeared. It was lost and it had evaporated out into the cyber universe. I could imagine my orphaned paragraphs, lost and alone on a street corner or in the middle of a crowded intersection somewhere, holding up a sign that reads, "misplaced paragraphs, will provide inspiration in return for a new home."
Okay, maybe not. Still the fruit of a day's labor was lost, probably forever.
At this point my temptation to fall into despair was palpable. I could feel the tide of hopelessness rising, as one of my more obnoxious inner voices pronounced, "Well, that's it! If the work we finished yesterday is gone already, why should we sweat and struggle to create any more? You never know when stuff is going to get trashed around here, so why bother?" My calmer, more sane mind did its best to ignore the pessimistic complaining, and I tried to search the hard drive for every likely handle that might turn up a clue for the missing material. No luck, the stuff was just gone. Reluctantly I went back went back to the outline of the chapter I was writing, and by this point any inspiration that I had left had made a quick dash for the emergency exit. Nothing in my plans for the day's work sounded right. The pessimistic voice in my head returned with a vengeance, saying, "Who's idea was this anyway? This is stupid! It will never work, and by the way, this is a dumb idea for a book anyway."
The episode closed with a blank computer screen open before me, as I quietly started filling up the empty space with words. On this day I didn't allow the discouraging voice to keep me from doing at least some of the work that I had originally intended. Putting text on the page didn't silence the inner critic but I did demonstrate a resolve that I wasn't going to be deterred by a technical problem, a problem that was likely due to my own error. As I reflect back on this otherwise trivial event, it is clear that the things that keep me from making and doing the work I want are rarely big challenges. If I had listened to the voice that told me that my writing was pointless, I would have allowed a small, and routinely reccuring, mechanical failure to deter me from moving ahead on a project that matters to me. In this light, it is really amazing that human beings ever get anything done, let alone really great things.
The irony in all this is that the real threats to my productivity rarely come from what I most fear. In pursuing creative work my great fears tend to focus on my own perceived lack of talent, or that I don't have the proper training or experience to do what I am trying to do. These days if I miss a deadline or fail to reach some stated goal, it is far more likely that the failure was simply my unwillingness to fight through the petty inconveniences that show up each day as I make my way to the studio door.