I stopped work on a planned series of books in the summertime because it no longer felt like fun. I felt pressured.
What a wimp! I hear you cry, and you’re kind of right. If everyone stopped everything because there was a bit of pressure then we wouldn’t get anywhere at all. But nevertheless, it stopped being fun as a project to work on, and so I stopped working on it.
Pressure is by no means a bad thing: it’s just a thing, and things are used for good or bad, for great things or poor ends. With a bit of reflection, I realised recently that the problem with the situation – and the books – was me. We’re not surprised by that Nathan, I hear you mutter, and neither am I, but I forget from time to time that I am my own worst enemy, and that that enemy is a saboteur by nature.
On this occasion, the enemy was supplying bad pressure:
- The last book wasn’t that good, this one will be even worse.
- You’re not like those other writers, you know, the good ones.
- You need this book to be good. You need it to be loved.
With pressure like that, the end could only come in one of two ways: a book which I was never happy with, or an abandoned project. I think, on this occasion, that I chose correctly.
With a little distance, I’m starting to think differently about pressure. By no means do I have a mechanism for doing away with bad pressure, but I’m thinking a lot more about “good pressure”. The pressure to create: the stuff that wells up inside you and makes you make something because if you don’t you’ll burst. That’s how I felt when I was starting a little side-business in the late-summer: if I don’t do this then I am going to feel awful, I have to make it happen.
I’m looking again at an older writing project, and some of the ideas from that are getting all connected and tied up. Of course, this is a writing project which I had thought to do earlier this year, after The Viva: Who? What? How? was done, but I convinced myself that the other, now abandoned project was the way forward. Now, it feels like there is a new energy about it and about me. I have a good source of pressure behind me.
Pressure can be harmful sometimes, toxic, turning useful things like deadlines into death sentences, and cheerleaders into fear-weavers… But as I take the first steps into something new I’m reminded that pressure is exactly what you need if you want to make diamonds.
Thanks for reading!