We’ve all been there. What was once an exciting new project has turned into a grind. What was once a head stuffed full of ideas, is now a whole lot of empty space. You’re out of steam and overworked, almost ready to give up the whole thing and seek greener pastures, doing something else.
The Wall hits everyone at some point. It can be a most dangerous enemy, destroying everything from enthusiasm to relationships. It can smash your dreams and send you hurtling towards a dark place if you let it. The Wall is the Dark Side. The trick to surviving this destructive force is to recognize it for what it is and deny it the influence it seeks.
The Wall is a State of Mind
There is no physical wall blocking you from achieving your goals and taking enjoyment in your work. It’s all in your own head. This means, that to break down the wall, you have to first make up your mind to do so. Decide once and for all, that you mean to emerge on the other side or die trying.
Realize that The Wall is essentially bound to your own mood and approach to problem solving. The Wall exists because you feel exhausted and uninspired, not the other way around. If you can change your outlook, it will be much easier to overcome the Wall.
The Wall is Stress
I hit the Wall when I have been too busy for too long, or when something worries me deeply. Invariably in these situations, I begin losing traction and focus, until I suddenly can’t stand the idea of working on something seemingly unrelated to what is bothering me in the first place. It took me a while to recognize that there is an emotional spill-over.
For instance, worrying about a sick family member can severely affect my interest in writing. Even though I love both. Recognizing this has helped me keep my everyday worries separate from work – most of the time, anyway.
As someone who works from home, it’s very easy to “take my work home with me” or simply be at work a little bit all the time. I am certainly guilty of that, even though I know it’s bad. Taking time off to go do something fun and totally unrelated or get a solid three days of rest helps short term, but the true trick is to avoid getting to the point where stress breaks you. Good friends, meditation, coaching, therapy, exercise and good sleep patterns all help.
The Wall is Expectations
Expectations are dangerously close to Assumptions, and we all know what they are the mother of. When you expect too much of yourself or others, you will end up disappointed and discouraged. I’m not saying don’t have any expectations ever, just to keep them under control and again, recognize them for what they are. By recognizing them, it becomes easier to let go of them and adapt to reality.
I hit the Wall hard a couple of years ago, when my old publisher turned down the second novel I sent them. I had had zero expectations when I sent them my first one back in 2000 — and to my amazement they picked it up and published it. Second time around, I pretty much expected the same deal. When they said no, it left me not wanting to write anything at all for a couple of months. In retrospect it was silly at best, punishing myself for not living up to my own expectations.
The Wall is Fear of Failure
This ties in with the example above, but is just a little different in my mind. Fear of Failure sets in after you’ve had the first little taste of success. It’s triggered by doubts in your own ability, fearing that this (whatever this is) is going to be as good as it gets. That you got lucky this time. So you get stuck and lose enthusiasm; you hit the Wall.
When my first novel came out in 2001, the reviews were all over the place. One reviewer speculated that a more established author was writing under an assumed name. He loved it. Another reviewer hated the thin characters, the cookie-cutter plot and the general tone of the book. From that, I learned not to care about reviews. No matter what you’re creating, there will be those who’ll love it and those who will hate it. You can’t change that, so just do your thing regardless.
I don’t think there is any way of avoiding the Wall altogether, but I have seen talented people give up on good ideas because of it and that is unnecessary. Just like the only way for the marathon runner is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how much pain she is in, so must we all power through and overcome the Wall. The alternative is to admit defeat.
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