Bang Your Drum

You slide into your chair alert and nauseous, with bile in your throat.

All week you’ve waited for this moment… the beginning of your witching hour.

Whether if be the book you’ll write, the album you’ll record, the startup you’ll found… this is the time for creation you woke at dawn for, traded favors for, said no to House of Cards for…

The hard-won space in which you’re determined to establish a beachhead of freedom and impact and legacy… the hour in which you’ll finally crack your life open to the possibilities inherent within.

So here you sit at the threshold: your legal pad open, or txt file ready, cursor blinking, waiting for the moment of creation.

But where to begin?

Five minutes pass as you deliberate.

Then ten.

Your mind spins and whirls, feints and jabs… a network of tunnels, with thoughts scampering through like inane rabbits…

Your fevered imagination taking you in a thousand possible directions, straining to anticipate those inevitable false starts and dead ends and head them off at the pass.

It feels like progress, vaguely…

Maybe you need some outside input.

You open your browser. Just a little quick research to how other authors musicians entrepreneurs started THEIR thing.

And so you enter a fog of open browser tabs and detailed how-to articles and videos watched at 1.5X speed–

And then, impossibly, your iPhone timer goes off, or your wife calls your name to remind you, and you look up in disbelief: your holy hour is over, your notebook still blank, your txt file still bare but for the lonely blink of the cursor.

To be expected, you console yourself. I’ll get further next time, once I’ve set the stage, done the footwork, attended to the preliminaries…

But then next week, when your next crack at freedom comes, it all plays out the same: the time you earmarked for creation lost to research, preparations, and what-if-ing.

In time, the rut grow so deep you become psychically glued to the groove… the “holy hour” you established with such hope and determination now nothing more than the time you spend playing at creation… a sort of adult make-believe in which you role play creating without actually ever doing it.

it’s easy to mock… easy to roll eyes and point out that to be a creator, you must actually CREATE something.

But the stupor is real.

There are indeed a million things you could create, and a million ways you could promote them.

And just because the act of creation is essential does not make the fundamental uncertainty surrounding that act any easier to overcome.

Consider my friend A.

After decades of Tai Chi training, A is now ready to go from apprentice to master and teach Tai Chi to others.

This is his ONE THING… his path to income and impact and legacy in the world.

But where to begin?

Should he teach at an existing dojo? Start his own? Create a Tai Chi course and sell it online? Teach lessons in the park? Work out of a yoga studio?

On and on the mind spins, hoping for cloud-parting clarity… for the right action to somehow reveal itself.

I said to him what I say now to you:

Pick the action that flints the greatest spark, and do that one thing repeatedly.

If that is teaching Tai Chi in the park… then teach Tai Chi in the park, every week, like clockwork. Doesn’t matter if you have fifty students or five of ZERO: that’s what you do. That is your drumbeat.

MY drumbeat is this weekly article.

I’ve written an essay and emailed it to my readers every Sunday for the last three years.

157 emails and counting.

There are weeks when the well is dry… when I feel I have nothing of value to say… when every sentence I write feels limp and stillborn.

But I bang it out and hit “send” anyways.

I have to: it’s my drumbeat.

It’s the foundational creative act.

So next time you claw your way to holy hour… next time you stand at the brink of creation undirected and afraid…

Pick a drum, and bang it.

Pick one form of creation, and commit it to schedule.

Your drum could be to add 100 of your photos to Flickr a week, or release 1 single a month to your music fan list, or push 100 lines of code to Github, or publish one podcast a week… whatever makes sense for your project.

It must be something that

a. terrifies you (terror is a proxy for impact), and

b. is audience-facing (unshared work does not serve)

There will be other things you must do… other tasks and commitments, especially as the project grows in scale.

But this one drumbeat…

THAT is the foundation the rest of your project will be built on… the heartbeat that keeps the body alive.

Though all else about your project is murky and inchoate… at least this one pillar holds fast.

So no more dithering.

No more bloodless battles.

No more sparing your creations from the cruel light of day.

Though it terrifies you…

Though it sticks in your throat…

Though the pain of choosing feels like it will tear you in half…

Pick your drum and bang it.

Your artless silence is deafening.

Related article: How Your Soul Dies

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