Why we don’t do the work

Last week I wrote a post called, “Stop buying stuff and do the work.” It resonated for more than a few people — and I had promised to write more about WHY we don’t do the work.

So why don’t we do the work?

First, an example.

For years (literally) I said I wanted to write, but I managed instead to fill my plate with training after training after training, and volunteer job after volunteer job. I studied with Coach For Life and Sonia Choquette, pursuing certifications with them. I started and ran organizations like the Sensitive Professionals Network, Six Sensory San Francisco, and a Coach For Life graduates forum, not to mention working as a youth leader with a youth group.

I read (and bought) countless books on coaching, intuitive development, angels, high sensitivity and so much more. Some of them I hardly even opened.

Then I spent more time, energy, and money on learning business skills and developing my message with several high business coaches, and completing hand analysis training.

And while I don’t regret what I was doing — after all, I have tremendously deepened my self-knowledge, grown as a person, learned a ton, and met wonderful people along the way, I was keeping myself so busy that I wasn’t pursuing my true dream of writing.

Throughout that time (and for years before it), I had a nagging feeling that I was “waiting for my life to start” and yet I wasn’t taking action to change anything. Instead I was filling my time doing all those other wonderful things.

And they were wonderful — but in hindsight, it was still resistance.

What’s that about?

It’s all too easy to think we are too busy, that we don’t have enough time. Or that we just need to get better organized. Or just get this one more thing done first.

And the thing is, we feel good that we are contributing great things to the world and our community and that we are learning so much.

And we are. We do.

ALL of these things are true.

We are not bad people after all, we have good intentions and we are interested in so many things.

But why does the one true dream always fall to the bottom of the pile? Why do we make choices that keep us from our dreams?

This is not a new answer

In my case — and I suspect it is true for many people if not most — it’s fear.

This is why we buy stuff we don’t need, keep ourselves too busy to think or connect inward to our deeper selves, procrastinate, spin in circles, get apathetic, and all those other things that add up to resistance.

Because it is scary.

Pursuing your truest, deepest dream is the most frightening thing imaginable — you might not even consciously recognize that you are afraid.

It’s your own hero’s journey

Pursuing your true dream — your art, writing, business, or passion — requires massive amounts of courage. It’s your own personal hero’s journey. Every single day you have to be willing to face down your personal demons, fight the resistance, and forge ahead.

It’s no wonder we want to avoid it, right? And we are so clever that we don’t even know that’s what we’re doing.

Time to clear the decks and answer the call to adventure. It’s waiting for you.

Your turn

I love to hear what you think. Post your note on my blog. Can’t wait to hear from you.

And if your dream is writing — registration closes tomorrow for the next session of my Writer’s Circle. Join us.




Coming Attractions

~> August 2nd. Register by August 2 for the next 4-week session of my “Just Do The Writing” Accountability Circle (starts August 6th). For serious writers and for writers who want to get serious about their writing. http://JustDoTheWriting.com

~> September 6th. Last day to register for the next Life Purpose Breakthrough Group happening on October 4th. These groups always sell out (only 4 spots) so if you want to discover your life purpose through the remarkably accurate tool of hand analysis, sign up here now: http://LifePurposeBreakthrough.com


What I'm Up To

~> Ongoing. Mentoring with screenwriter Chris Soth and participating in ScreenwritingU’s Pro Rewrite class after finishing the ProSeries.* (They’re offering their free rewrite* class this month on August 4, which is great — though make sure you have plenty of water — it’s a looooong class.)

~> September 18 to 22nd. Heading to Hollywood for a ScreenwritingU* event to meet with producers and agents then staying on for the InkTip Pitch Summit. (This is getting way too close!)

~> Sacred writing time. Early mornings and Fridays.

~> Finished Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix! We’ve started reading the next one: Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince. I loved (500) Days of Summer, and finally saw The Day the Earth Stood Still (liked it) and Crazy, Stupid, Love (fabulous).


* Affiliate link


  1. Dear Jenna
    I so relate to your story about all the things you did to educate & develop yourself and yet it was Resistance.
    Of course all that has definitely developed us in ways we can only speculate upon. Who knows what path we would have been on without it. Perhaps we would have been in another variation of inertia called frustration and denial. Fact is, we have benefited from all that actively doing something to move ourselves forward. It’s curious because if in our heart of hearts we are a writer, and we are doing these other things you outlined – yes it is Resistance – it seems to be answering someone elses call about what we think we should do. I say should do. I wonder what kind of writer we would be without all those things we did? Perhaps I am trying to justify. Maybe. All those other things give us rich life experience to draw upon. Writers need to experience life in order to have a deep well to drink from. And maybe the voice I’m expressing right now is justifying why I am not fully out there yet. Yet.

    • I’m on board with your “rich life experience” comment. In fact, as I was writing this, I was thinking about exactly that. I wouldn’t go back and I wouldn’t do it over again, and I’m not sorry about what I’ve done — so I’m not complaining — and yet at the end of the day isn’t it interesting that I was doing so many things other than what I ultimately wanted to do?

      Thanks for your note, Pamela!

  2. Actually, placing my twitter name on the post is a next step to being out there.

  3. Hi Jenna, I can relate too as well. Actually, we have similar experiences, almost exactly the same scenarios – different genres of knowledge. hehe :P Keep it up!

    I’m about to give up but because of your words that spice me up, I’m going to back to writing.

    Thanks so much! :)

    • Yay, Joy! I’m thrilled to hear you’re not going to give up. Interesting how so many of us have similar journeys, isn’t it?

  4. Know what you mean, Jenna. I have bought a lot of books on writing, thinking that would help. All I needed was one more book on writing, on self improvement. Even bought more than one copy of some (unintentionally). Most remain unopened on my shelves, and I’ve hardly more than “dabbled” in writing. Got interested in running; accumulated a closet full of running shoes (read that’s “normal” for runners). Felt good when I could run a few miles. Then as I got older, arthritis set in in one of my hips and a chiropractor suggested that running on a treadmill would be better than outside. Eventually gave it up. Now I’m working with horses 5 days a week and feeling frustrated that I’m still not-writing. Need what money I can get from this, and like being around the animals, but I’m not-writing, and coming home too tired to do anything but eat and go to bed. I thought I’d “have time” to write when I got older, but I’m doing “anything else” instead. I once thought of writing about horses; like observing them and having some of them liking me–as though they think I’m part of the herd. Ought to cut back here, but don’t see how I can right now.

    • Gary, that’s funny about buying more than one copy — I’ve done that too! Sounds like the work with horses is great but playing the role of looking like the obstacle to writing the way I thought my coaching was doing (turns out that’s not exactly true, at least for me). I’d encourage you to start writing even for just 15 minutes a day, the way we recommend in my Writer’s Circle. I find that if I put my writing first in the day, I’m much more likely to do it and also that I’m not getting too tired before I get around to it. Give it a shot and let us know how it goes. And it’s okay to start with even just 5 minutes — whatever seems the most doable is the ticket.

  5. Hi Jenna,

    Part of the problem is that we’re not following our own heroine’s journey, we’re following some thinly disguised path to make “a million dollars.” Does every American really want to make a million dollars? I just wonder what the reward for that would be? How different our lives would be? I was listening to some talk show and a caller just went on and on about how it important it was to achieve wealth – the financial kind. But what about real wealth? happiness, love, kindness, community, creativity?

    We devalue writing for the most part because it doesn’t make us money. It could if we had an economy that had any heart to it instead of the ridiculous, cold-blooded one we have.

    There is enough time in every day to write for 15 minutes to a half hour, sometimes more. If you ask a lot of folks what they do instead of write, I bet you’ll hear things like shopping, texting, computering and watching TV.

    Write on the toilet! Write while you’re waiting to see the doctor. Write while you’re waiting for your child to finish gymnastics. Write while the veggies are steaming. Buy a notebook and a pen and scribble at will.


    • I wouldn’t MIND making a million dollars, G, but it isn’t my first focus. I saw/read something nifty the other day — in Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield, but I’ve certainly come across the concept elsewhere — about psychic income (Pressfield calls it the “psychological reward”). As much as I would not mind having more cash flow to do things with, at the end of the day, the psychic income is what matters to me most.

      And at another meta level — you make a great point about real wealth.

      You’re so right — we can right anywhere!

  6. Jenna, as I read your post, and related to it over and over, the word that kept coming to me was, “compromise.”

    I too value the dips and dives I’ve taken in directions other than my soul’s calling. When I reflect I would now call them “compromises.”

    If I was truly conscious when I was making those “compromises,” a running commentary in my head might have sounded like, “Maybe this will turn into something. This seems like it could be a short-cut to what I actually want to do. After all I don’t know exactly what I want to do because I don’t know if it’s been invented yet, so I’ll do what someone else has already defined.”

    Oh, aren’t we lovely, messy, and human?


    • Mary, you hit the nail on the head on all counts. We are so lovely, messy, and human. Compromise is exactly right too. And I wouldn’t give them up, even, but they are compromises nonetheless. Thanks for commenting. You rock!

  7. Hi Jenna,
    Your article invited me to reflect on some simple changes in my creative journey. I have read your Sensitive Souls and feel it is part of my current awareness–I am a sensitive soul.
    1. I gave up having “One Big Dream”!
    Author Barbara Sher helped me put together the fact that I will always have many interests. I can’t help it. There are many dreams inside of me. I was falling into a trap of perfectionism by ignoring all my interests for the sake of one. I liken it to having 6 daughters with long, beautiful, hair and only tending to one child’s hair. Now I awaken, gather myself and ask what project I am to be with today and go with it until I sense it’s time to move on.

    2. I gave up “Time”.
    I stopped giving power to the time clock. I will create what I am to create in this lifetime. I’m finding it all comes together before I know it. I’m creating more now than at any other period in my life.

    There is only one Me, only I know what I know, only my energy is my energy. The same is true for everyone. I still love to get a pulse for what other people are creating and writing but now I stop at the pulse–I no longer put it under the microscope and compare it with anything I am doing. So much is pushed at us to be part of the cookie cutter mold. My genius lies within me and isInfinite. Just as it is for everyone.

    So what happened? I learned a technique that teaches me how to stop going into conclusion about everything and live with possibility. This has helped immensely. I started a blog, I am lecturing, teaching, and creating more than ever. I let go and now it arrives.

    • Rhinda, thanks so much for commenting. I’m on the fence about Barbara Sher’s take on being a scanner. I definitely identify with what she talks about and have even called myself a scanner due to my many, many interests and propensity to want to move from one project to another, at least on a career level (like a 10 year cycle). At the same time I’ve learned not to trust boredom as being a sign to move to the next project. My personal experience is that often when I do so I’m right on the verge of a big breakthrough with something and have fear coming up that’s masquerading as apathy. And writing — at least for me — is always the big dream I come home to but was consistently avoiding up until now. So I guess I’ll what I think about all this in another 10 years. :)

      I love your take on time and possibility. Thanks for sharing it.

  8. Wow, Jenna… first I just want to say thank you so much for stepping in to your soul’s calling and writing. Reading these last 2 posts feels like reading a personal message just for me. They are coming at a perfect time when I need them most. It’s amazing the fear and resistance that can come up and that keeps me from doing what I want to do – or for that matter, that keeps me from helping myself in many ways.
    It seems like total insanity, but again glad to know it’s a very common issue. I love how you say that we need to face down our personal demons daily – that’s exactly what I needed to hear. Thanks again!!

    • Janelle, I love that everything connected for you so well and that they came at the perfect time. I love it when people say that to me! Yep, those demons require regular taming. Mine do anyway!

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