22nd May 2015
Here you are, on the brink of success.You have all your literary ducks in a row: you have honed your craft, you have walked the inner sanctum of the publishing world and found the agent and at last you have a publisher. All you have to do now is get that ball into the back of the net. Everyone is watching you: sisters, brothers, that teacher back in middle school who said you'd never amount to anything. But don't succumb to the vagaries of pressure, just shoot. It's easy - the net is wide open. The only thing in your way is that person hopping around in the goal trying to stop the ball.
Let's tease this metaphor out a little more: that person in your way is actually yourself. It's the parrot on your shoulder and the snickering voice in the night that says you're not going to make it. It is self-doubt, and it will actually make a lunge to stop that ball ever making its mark. It's your worst enemy and ultimately you have created it, this evil hobgoblin who wants to see you fail.
Recently I was watching a panel discussion on creativity featuring no less than the Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra, Ken Robinson and a few other people in the field. One of the panel cited a study showing that when the player in a penalty shootout (let's say in a world cup match and the deciding goal is going to be this one!), pauses before he shoots, he is statistically more likely to score than if he goes for the ball the second the referee blows the whistle.
This relates to creative writing, because what the player who pauses is doing in those critical few heartbeats is finding within himself a still place. He or she is opening up a space to clear out the hobgoblins and let loose.
So, block out the crowd and don't get caught up in the voices, either your own or others. Give yourself time to retreat into the still centre, this creative space that stills the voice of self-doubt. And then get your eye on the goal, and go for it.