Overview: In this episode, Adam Williams, creator and host of Humanitou, which typically features guests in “conversations of humanness and creativity,” is riding solo and launching something new. Starting with this episode, Adam is committing to a series of five solo episodes mixed in with the coming months’ conversations.
In these, he explores his own humanness and creativity through topics that are relevant to listeners’ own senses of humanity. He also draws upon other resources, like some of the amazing creators who join him for the Humanitou Podcast, and from others whose work and names you’ll likely recognize. Authors, artists, spiritual teachers, leading lights, voices and creators. Names spotlighted in this episode: Elizabeth Gilbert, Julia Cameron, Steven Pressfield, Inaiah Lujan — and you might catch Brené Brown’s name, too.
EP 94 SHOW NOTES, LINKS & TRANSCRIPT
Names + Links
Adam Williams | Humanitou
Humanitou on Instagram: @humanitou
Adam Williams on LinkedIn
Media Kit for Humanitou
“Tupac Lives” by John Bartmann | freemusicarchive.org
As followers of this series know, I usually describe Humanitou as empowering connection through conversations of humanness and creativity. I’ve interviewed or talked with nearly 100 guests in the past three years, since the inception of Humanitou.
The first 75 or so of those were published in a readable Q&A format prior to my entering the podcast realm, and they’re available on the website, at humanitou.com. Since March of this year (2020), I’ve turned my attention to delivering humanness and creativity through podcast.
What’s new today is that I’m going to start fulfilling another piece of Humanitou, like I said I would in the podcast trailer. In the trailer, I said that Humanitou is about cultivating a space for vulnerable sharing. And that along the way, I would share some pieces of myself, and of my own practices of humanness and creativity. I said that we’re all in this together.
But as long as I am only interviewing people, it also feels like I am asking them to do the heavy lifting of baring themselves vulnerably to you, the listener. It feels a little like I’m hiding, and like I’m not fully living up to the bit where I said that “we’re all in this together.”
So here I am. Riding solo. Launching something I’m calling an experiment — for now. Starting with this episode, I’m committing myself to a series of five solo episodes on Humanitou, mixed in with my conversational episodes with guests during the coming months.
In these solo episodes, I’m going to explore a topic that spins around in my own mind, and shows up in my own ups and downs of creative and otherwise human practices.
I’ll draw upon other resources, too, like some soundbites from some of the amazing humans who have sat with me for the Humanitou Podcast, and some helpful tidbits from others whose work I’ve taken to heart in my own growth over the years.
Authors, artists, spiritual teachers, leading lights and voices you have probably heard of.
And, truth be told … as if I’d tell it any other way … I’m hoping these five episodes bloom and rise and carry on into much more, and that these solo episodes find a place of their own within the ongoing future of Humanitou.
Let’s get it.
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Today, I’m talking about creative Resistance, with a capital R, and impostor syndrome. I’ve mentioned Steven Pressfield and his book, The War of Art, in a couple previous episodes.
Resistance is everything that gets in your way of creating. It might be an editor, client or friend rejecting your idea. It might be a lack of money. But far more significantly, it’s an internal issue, a force to be reckoned with.
Pressfield says it like this, “Resistance is not a peripheral opponent. Resistance arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated. Resistance is the enemy within.”
Here is an example of how Resistance shows up in my mind and actions, as limitations from within holding me back from doing my work, e.g. doing solo podcast episodes on Humanitou. The Resistance voice in my head, the voice of my nagging ego feeds me these doubts:
- What do I really know? What do I have of value to share?
- What if a listener thinks that my thinking, my conclusions or angles are wrong?
- Doesn’t everybody already know what I know? Is what I know actually special?
- What makes me qualified to speak on really anything out loud? Even my own perspectives of humanness and creativity, which, of course is what Humanitou is about?
Humanness and creativity. That’s the focus of the final question I ask every guest on the Humanitou Podcast. It’s been the broad focus of Humanitou since its inception in 2017. And like I said, I’ve talked with nearly 100 people for Humanitou, asking them to share their life stories, and how they are vulnerably, resiliently, triumphantly, fully human.
Yet my own fears have kept me from doing a podcast episode like this one, where I let you into my own ways of thinking, feeling and speaking, things I am pushing into the light for you to consider, relate to, and maybe even use in your life.
I think when we compare ourselves to others, we’re really missing an opportunity to get to know ourselves, because we’re not other people. And what really allows us the opportunity to do something in this world is to share our individuality, is to share our uniquenesses, to share our perspective. ~ Inaiah Lujan, Musician/Artist
Of all the forms of Resistance that rear their heads in my life, impostor syndrome probably is the most prominent.
Impostor syndrome is a big umbrella for a lot of issues, like fear and personal stories of smallness or not-enoughness.
And at the heart are those presumptuous ideas that every other creator in the world is better qualified, luckier, more talented, more deserving and while we’re at it, we’d might as well go ahead and throw in better looking, and a better parent, friend, lover, laundry doer, lunch maker, and, basically, all-around human being.
I mean, my god. If that’s the voice you have in your head, like I sometimes have in mine, then how do we even get out of bed in the morning.
I think we get up because in our heart of hearts, we know it’s not true. Or at least we know enough to hold onto hope that we can straighten it out and find our way through that jungle of emotional ….. blehk, whatever that is.
Humanitou is one of those lifelines for me. It’s probably the most significant creative endeavor I’ve ever committed to and hung onto the reins for the ride for so long, and that means it simultaneously is the creative venture that has me feeling like I am not enough and it serves as the pathway that connects me to my sense of being enough, and it connects me to others in the greatest and most amazing ways.
Here’s a fantastic example: the musician and prolific creator Inaiah Lujan.
Inaiah shared so many book-worthy gems in our podcast conversation — in Episode 11 — that I actually advised listeners in the intro to grab pen and paper to be ready for them. So, here’s another chance for one of those gems. This is Inaiah talking about impostor syndrome:
Imposter syndrome is real. And honestly, I don’t believe for a second that anybody is free of those feelings.
I think when we compare ourselves to others, we’re really missing an opportunity to get to know ourselves, because we’re not other people. And what really allows us the opportunity to do something in this world is to share our individuality, is to share our uniquenesses, to share our perspective.
That’s the only thing we’re really required to do as creators, is to be authentically ourselves. And the more we can do that and the less we compare, the more success we ultimately have because success is not about numbers. It’s not about likes. It’s not about money. It’s about how authentic we can be and how honest we could be with ourselves. That’s at least what I’ve discovered.”
I have spent — and continue to spend — what feels like much of my time pulling on the reins of my life, my creative interests, making excuses … putting the brakes on, because I am afraid. It’s when the pain of not doing something exceeds the feared pain of doing it that I finally take action.
I read Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. I worked the exercises she instructed during 12 weeks in the spring and summer of 2017. The biggest takeaway, other than writing morning pages daily, which I still do, was to take action. Cut through the clutter and take a step.
It can seem daunting, but in the words of the poet William Wordsworth, “To begin, begin … ”
I have spent a lifetime cutting off myself from creative work, creative possibilities because I would try to forecast the road ahead. Almost inevitably, I would conclude there was no path for me because I couldn’t see the whole length of it. So I would bail out before getting started.
The ego is a fragile, bitter, brittle child of an antagonist in this story we’re living. It’s always the sneering villain hovering at the fringes, looking for moments to insert drama and pain. It’s never the support mechanism, urging us to shine our lights more boldly into the dark. It’s never the part of us that urges us to love ourselves, to fulfill our callings. ~ Adam Williams
I’d tell myself: I’m not good enough, lucky enough, connected enough to the right people. Others have done it, done better than I ever could. I won’t make money at it. I don’t have all the skills I need yet. Now isn’t the time; later isn’t the time; you know, the time must have been when I was 23 … Missed that boat.
Elizabeth Gilbert — author of Eat, Pray, Love — has a great list of these self-defeating excuses in her book, Big Magic. Resistance makes us so afraid of the creative life, the list of excuses becomes endless.
A lot of the excuses that Gilbert writes in her list are painfully funny because of how on-the-nose they are. We feel them in our hearts. And ultimately Gilbert doesn’t even try to sum up the list with a pat on the back and a pretty bow on top that assures us “it’s going to be ok.”
Instead, she binds us all in the shared understanding that the list of self-defeating fears that our Resistance voices relentlessly pour on us … it’s just scary. Like she says in the last line of that chapter, “Everything is so goddamn scary.”
But I’m pulling out one fear, in particular, from Gilbert’s list. Because this one … this one has been at least as big an obstacle to me as anything. It’s the one I have attached so much preemptive, imagined doubt, smallness and shame to. Here it is:
You’re afraid that someday you’ll look back on your creative endeavors as having been a giant waste of time, effort and money.
So like I described moments ago, I so often have looked ahead and preemptively called off the venture. I have stopped myself before starting on countless creative ideas. Then, at least I would get to walk away with my head held high that I didn’t make a fool of myself … right?
That I brought no shame on my name for putting so much of my tender heart into those creative endeavors only to look back at them as having been a giant waste of time, effort and money. … But what do I look back at now? There’s nothing there, nothing to feel proud of, no milestones to measure my growth from.
How about you? What do you see when you look back at all the moments you skipped, the doorways you walked by, the adventures you pulled back from … what do you feel? Relief? Regret? Wonder?
Another insight from Gilbert: Fear … is … boring.
The amount and variations of excuses, of restraints, our egos put on us — a steady, choking stream — is boggling. To withstand it and create despite it is a feat in itself.
To create anyway requires listening with such focus, trust and determination to our hearts, to the good inner voice. We have to gently and courageously listen and feel for the vibrations that sing through the noise, that internal roar of voices that mean to dissuade us, to derail our courageous creative flows.
Here is what I’m recognizing: The ego is a fragile, bitter, brittle child of an antagonist in this story we’re living. It’s always the sneering villain hovering at the fringes, looking for moments to insert drama and pain.
It’s never the support mechanism, urging us to shine our lights more boldly into the dark. It’s never the part of us that urges us to love ourselves, to fulfill our callings.
Our duties as creators and contributors of good and worthy in the world, are at least as much about overcoming the relentless drama-stirring of our villainous egos as they are about the creative results we birth into the world.
The work, the colorful, lyrical, crafted gifts that arise from within us are the reward for the fights we survive in simply bringing them into the light. As conduits, we are the hands and physical beings that bring these creative pieces and projects of art into existence from whatever spiritual realm you identify with.
Here’s another line from Pressfield and The War of Art: “The more resistance you experience, the more important your unmanifested art/project/enterprise is to you — and the more gratification you will feel when you finally do it.”
When we fall short, when we allow a moment of fear to take hold and separate us from our creative duties, when we give in and do not shine out what arises in us, we are closing the door on what I have decided must occur. I’ve learned there will be an eruption. At some point, in some fashion. Fear is boring — and it makes me mad.
I have carried ideas and wants for years, until it gets so boring being afraid of going for it. And speaking of looking back at wasted time? What I see when I look back at all the creative work I did not do, but wanted to, is lost time. Not wasted time creating, lost time not creating.
We feed Resistance with power by our fear of it. Master that fear and we conquer Resistance. ~ Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
And this kind of is where I am now with these solo podcast episodes.
Because I’ve come to this understanding of the creative life: We are given what we are given by the gods. I have been tasked with this work, and accept it as my spiritual and creative duty to bring forward what I have to offer. That’s it. I feel it in me, and it keeps knocking to get out. So …
It must happen. I might have a choice to fight against it, but it’s not a good one, and I’ve already spent years walking that path. That would be like, “Damn it, have I learned nothing?” Well, yes, I have. I learned it’s time to let go and flow, see where it goes.
From the perspective that each of us as creators are conduits for essential work assigned by the gods, no less, and that that work must be fulfilled, no one outside of me — or you — needs to be pleased with what we create. Certainly not everyone.
Regardless who has come before me, who might do it more perfectly, who might not pay me for it … and any of the other countless excuses the Resistance voices try to drown me in … here is the practice I’m sharing with you: Do the work anyway. Detach ego and personality from it — it’s not easy; it’s perpetual work — and then listen only to your calling. It is sacredly yours, whether anyone else gets it or not.
To deny the gods, to shrink from what we feel — not think, but feel — is our truest, most authentic Self, is living by half-steps. To fear others’ opinions of us and our work, to fear putting our full selves into the world is to live by implied apology. It’s to put our bestest selves, our truest and most authentic, best feeling selves on a shelf and say, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for wanting to be me. Who would you like me to be?”
We all deserve better than that. We’re stronger and more capable than that.
So I’m going to leave you with this simple exercise:
What do you want to create in the world? Write it down on one sheet of paper.
What forms of resistance are you feeling against that? Write those down on another sheet, one you can get rid of when you’re done.
Read each sheet aloud, noticing how they make you feel … and then … go toward the light.
Go toward the light by writing down one action you can take today in favor of living in that light. Write it on the sheet where you wrote what you want to create in the world. Then put that up, hold onto, review it daily or as often as necessary.
This is a battle against the enemy of Resistance. One last thought from Steven Pressfield: “We feed Resistance with power by our fear of it. Master that fear and we conquer Resistance.”
It’s a practice. It’s on-going. Resistance always will be there. So it’s about practicing how to recognize it, and how to do the work anyway. Starting now.
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Thanks for being part of something new with me today. Let’s keep it going. If you have comments or topical suggestions for a future episode, you can reach me by email — firstname.lastname@example.org — or by Instagram DM @humanitou.
Names of books and authors, and other things from this episode, are in the show notes at humanitou.com, where you also can subscribe to Humanitou’s monthly email newsletter.
Until the next episode …
I’m Adam Williams, creator and host of the Humanitou podcast.