Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

No Matter How Difficult the Task, Trust the Process

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Paul Jun. Paul connects the dots on his blog, Motivated Mastery. He also created a compelling manifesto. Follow him on twitter @pauljun_.

I’m in a 105-degree room, twisting my spine and muscles in ways that I could have never imagined. Sweat is leaking off my body. It’s hard to breathe. But at the same time, I know it’s the most important thing I have to do. There is power in breathing.

“Trust the process,” says my yoga instructor, pacing around the room. “This too shall pass.”

I ponder that thought as I’m trying to stay mindful of my breath and posture with salty sweat droplets attacking my eyes. Trust the process? Why? How?

I’m so uncomfortable, my shorts are soaked, and I almost regret coming.

The thing about hot yoga — or any rigorous exercise — is that there isn’t a comfort zone. That’s kind of interesting if you think about it; it says a lot about us as humans and how we reach mastery.

As we pass a threshold, a new one awaits

As we shed a piece of our old selves, we embrace a more powerful mind and body. It may not be obvious until later when we self-reflect or when others notice it. But change does occur.

Three months ago, I couldn’t touch my toes. Now, I’m practicing headstands. What made the difference? I committed to the work and trusted the process.

The process never changed: show up five times a week, practice hard, receive feedback, press in to the discomfort. This continual discipline of showing up and giving it all I had changed me, helped me exceed my own expectations.

And in thinking about this, I realized writing is a lot like hot yoga.

Trust your process

Do you doubt yourself? I do. Every morning, while I exercise, during my writing time, and before bed. “Will I ever make it?” is a thought that haunts me. Plagues me. I can’t escape it. But it’s also what compels me to show up every day.

Writing is one of the most difficult creative endeavors.

It’s normal for writers to seek shortcuts and hacks, to find some new tip or trick, something to get our work accepted by others. But how difficult it is to write for months —  or even years — and get little to no response. How unrewarding.

But maybe that’s not why we do it all.

I’ve been writing longer than I’ve been doing yoga — four years, to be precise. But all four years weren’t the same:

My first year was child’s play. The second was more serious. The third year, there was an epiphany when I started landing big guest posts and self-publishing books. That’s the year I called myself a writer with confidence. Now, embracing my fourth year, I’ve changed my strategy.

But the process has never changed. I keep showing up, writing, reading, shipping, failing, and breathing. You must always keep breathing.

The pattern is too familiar

Do you compare yourself to other writers? I do. Do you look at them and say,

Wow, they have such a large audience, they’re self-employed, they do this and that — ugh, I wish I had their success.

Well, guess what? You do have their success. It’s yours for the taking. But here’s the catch: You have to trust the process. It’s about building momentum, making sure the flame of inspiration doesn’t quit.

When does fire stop burning? When there is nothing left to burn.

When you stop showing up and allow fear to sabotage your work, the outcome is ashes. You’re done.

We fail to start a new draft or finish the old one, because we’re uncertain of the process, insecure of our own ability. We doubt ourselves and forget that our heroes were rejected, too.

But those we remember were the ones who stuck with it:

  • Seth Godin‘s been writing on his blog, unfailingly, for over 10 years — spreading the same message since 2002.
  • Stephen King continues to ship book after book, but don’t forget it took 10+ years to sell his first novel, Carrie.
  • Hunter S. Thompson was fired from Time for insubordination, was beaten by the Hell’s Angels, flew down to Puerto Rico for a sporting magazine, El Sportivo, only to realize that the place went down upon his arrival; he used this failure and wrote The Rum Diary, which in turn, became a film played by Johnny Depp.
  • It took Chris Brogan 10 years to get his first 100 subscribers.

Have you been writing for 10 years? If not, you still have a ways to go.

No matter what, do this…

Keep writing and refining your craft. Have faith in the process and stop comparing yourself to others.

When you’re doing that, you’re doing all you can do. Slowly but surely building momentum. Honing your skill and earning an audience’s attention.

As you go through this process, you’ll learn new things about your skill. Maybe you’ll change a small tactic or completely redesign your website, as I did. You may even find a new approach to how you edit your work or practice. And all of that is okay.

What matters most is that the process — whatever it is — remains relentless. Showing up, doing the work, shipping, learning, and of course, always breathing.

If you do that, you will continue to feed your fire.

How do you trust your process? What keeps you going? Share in the comments.

About Paul Jun

Paul connects the dots on his blog, Motivated Mastery. He also created a compelling manifesto. Follow him on twitter @pauljun_.

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  • mhelbert

    Thank you! I needed to hear this today. It’s so easy to become discouraged. Ideas stop flowing. And, the bed feels soooo good this morning! “Trust the process.” Again, thanx!

    • Paul Jun

      It’s a great privilege and my pleasure 🙂

  • Thomas Joe Akins

    Hey Paul,

    I really enjoyed your writing style…descriptive and easy to read.

    I feel the same way about worrying if I get “likes” on posts and “new fan page likes.” I constantly check them to see if I got any new ones.

    I also sometimes doubt my writing and my ability to inspire others. I don’t let that get the best of me though!

    I have only been blogging for 2 months now and I know that I have a lot to learn.
    I will continue to be relentless and learn as much as I can each and everyday!

    Thanks again for the awesome content!

    One Life / One Legacy
    Thomas Joe

    • Paul Jun

      I always appreciate good feedback on the style/voice of my writing, so thanks Thomas. Keep going.

  • Abhinav

    Hello

    Many thanks Paul and Jeff for this post and the examples given by you. I have been almost to the edge of stopping writing but this post has given me a lot of conviction to get up and get writing.

    I am really really thankful to you.

    Abhinav

    • Paul Jun

      Great to hear Abhinav.

  • Paul,

    Great post, motivating. What keeps me going? Writing is breathing to me. I’ll stop when I no longer hit the keys. I liked the reminder to NOT compare. And yet, we do look to others for some sort of gauge, don’t we? Appreciate your info.

    • Paul Jun

      Love that. I recently have been thinking/telling myself, It’s not about the 10,000 hours; it’s about dropping dead while doing what you love.

  • Sheena

    Wow, thank you so much for this post I needed to hear that. This is one of the things that keeps me going people like you who have been there, doing it, who share their story to help those of us who are in the start or beginning process of writing. Thanks again for the life transforming advice.

    • Paul Jun

      Everyday feels like the beginning. I think that’s why it’s so much fun. But equally important, why it’s so fraught with risk, anxiety, and fear. But nevertheless—onward.

  • Very good thoughts. I agree with Anne…what keeps me going is that I know what life felt and looked like when I didn’t keep going and stopped writing. I felt dead. I love to run, yet some days my runs aren’t pretty. But that’s okay, because a bad run is better than no run at all. Same with writing!

    • Paul Jun

      That reminds me of a quote that I have saved in my phone, “‘I regret that workout,’ said no one ever.”

  • Tracy Stella

    Paul,
    What an excellent post. I was just sharing with someone last night to trust the process, unrelated to writing. We were talking about faith. I hadn’t thought about trusting the process on a writing journey.
    I also connected with the example you used. Discomfort grows us and moves us closer to our goal. As a runner, I remember my first mile. Brutal. I could barely breathe. Now, I can run 1/2 marathon distances. If you would have asked me that first day, the first mile, how I liked running, I might have thrown something at you. (kidding – kind of) But somehow, the process of putting one foot in front of the other each day helped me to fall in love with running. It was the process that got me to fall in love and across the finish line.
    Write one word at a time. Put one word in front of the other. Repeat.

    • Paul Jun

      Thanks Tracy.

      I talk about faith and trust in the writing process in another post that I think you would enjoy. I relate the idea of writing, craftsmanship, and acting all into one. You can read it here: https://boostblogtraffic.com/daniel-day-lewis/

  • I’m trusting in my process? By reflecting on the many times, it’s worked for me? Each of us is a unique creation compelled to create.

    • Paul Jun

      Keyword: Compelled.

  • noaefame

    Thank you so much for this inspirational work. I needed to hear it today. What keeps me going is my believe in books.I write because of people that was here before me.I write because I believe in the process of writing. I write because I also get my courage from people like you and all the other writers I look up to. I write because I am totally confident that my writing will exonerate me. I believe because I write everyday .

    • Paul Jun

      That was awesome. Cheers to all of that.

  • beth coulton

    Great, inspiring post! I keep reading it over and over because I can relate to every word. This is exactly where I am in life right now- and after walking away from writing/blogging for a bit, I’ve decided to come back to it and take it on with full passion. Even if that means only writing for me, which is completely fine. I like the idea of just showing up daily (my husband uses that phrase constantly because he’s been there; he knows showing up is key!) and just plowing forth and not comparing myself with anyone else. Just doing what I do best- which is what only I can do. Thanks for this – love it!

    • Paul Jun

      Beth, I like what you said about writing for yourself. To be honest, I’ve recently started doing that. It has helped me learn, connect seemingly unrelated dots, and to explore subjects that I once thought were impossible to unravel.

      Maria Popova from BrainPickings.org said in a interview that she writes for herself. Her blog, as she once said, “is a record of my own learning.” That was a huge inspiration/turning point for me.

      Ever since I changed that small tactic, a lot has changed.

  • I needed this today. So encouraging. I loved the movie/story Rum Diary played by Johnny Depp. I didn’t know it took Chris Brogan 10 years to get his first 100 subscribers. Wow. Thanks for writing this great and inspirational post.

    • Paul Jun

      Awesome to Hear Pilar. Hunter S. Thompson is one of my greatest inspirations to writing. I’ve read Rum Diary probably 10 times.

  • Katie Cross

    Beautiful! I love hot yoga, but I never tied it to the process of writing. Thanks for the insights and wonderful post. It started my morning motivation.

    • Paul Jun

      I thought of the idea as I was laying in savasana after a 75 minute session. No idea how the idea came, but glad it did. And glad I remembered to write it in my Evernote as I got in my car.

  • I spent most of yesterday afternoon curled up in despair on my futon because it had taken me three hours to write an article that should’ve taken two at most, one ideally. I went online to my writer’s forum to try and find some answers, and I found someone who was having the same problem as me. The other writers gave her feedback along the lines of, stop self editing so much. Just write and edit later. I realized that I self edit relentlessly. Before I’ve reached the second paragraph, I’ve chopped and rearranged and reworded all of my sentences.

    So this is actually quite timely for me. I worked so hard to get this client, and I’ve been jumping over mental barriers all along the way. This is just one more. I just need to trust the process. I know how to write, and I know getting the first draft down is most important, then I can edit later. I have to trust that.

    Thanks so much. 🙂

    • Paul Jun

      We’ve all been there. My best tip is to try different writing tactics just to change it up. For example: I’ll set myself a timer of, say, 30 minutes, and go all out free writing—saying whatever that comes to my mind and how I truly feel and think about what I’m writing about.

      Other times I’ll completely draft something out, say, using simple sketches, circles, stick figures, whatever. I’ll maybe create storyboard.

      For this post specifically, I thought about one theme which was faith—faith in what you’re doing. Then I reflected on what I was currently going through and realized that this was something that I had overcome—and not just once. It was something I felt like I was able to write, whereas 5 months ago, this wouldn’t have come out so

      • Yes having faith in what you’re doing is of utmost importance. Even more important is acting on that faith….that’s where the growth really happens. 🙂

  • Jeff Raymond

    As I venture out into my deep passion for writing, I know the road will be long with plenty of highs and lows. These are the types of words that encourage me the most to keep going. I’m 45, and have lived enough to know how discouragement can take me out. As I move away from 5 years of feeling defeated, I know this reclaimed ground must be fought for. I think some of my best is yet to come, and I will not make it if I don’t take words like these to heart.

    • Paul Jun

      Boom, exactly. I loved reading that.

  • Anabelle Jenkins

    Hi! This post is very inspiring. I may not have been writing for ten years (I think three years), but your post helped me see that that does not matter. My heart is in the game, and that’s all that counts. Knowing that it took these authors so long to become noticed shows me that if I keep writing and perfecting my work, one day I could be writing a blog helping future writers as you are. Thank you.

    • Paul Jun

      Exactly, Anabelle. I have it written above my laptop on my wall, “Journey, not destination.”

  • Diane Tatum

    Thanks for the encouragement. It’s easy to be discouraged when you feel alone at the keyboard. It begins to feel like maybe there’s really nothing I can say that anyone wants to read. It’s been 17 years, off and on; I’ve had some success with freelance articles (online and off) and published my first book, Gold Earrings, with Tate (eyes wide open!). Now back to the task!

  • So encouraging and calming. I definitely needed a post like this, writing is such a powerful tool but sometimes I so easily cast it aside. Especially since it’s hard for family or friends to really understand that this is a real pursuit and not just some time-wasting hobby. And, I absolutely love the yoga reference. Shared it with a friend of mine who has thought about doing yoga but feels too inflexible and stiff. Hopefully it encourages him as much as it has me. -Alexis

    • Paul Jun

      Thanks Alexis. And tell your friend to just start. I started in February, stood in the back of the room, always felt uncomfortable with my shirt off, and kept my head low.

      Now I sit in the front of the room and made tons of friends.

  • Ron Greenfield

    So spot on and just what I had to read this morning. Some mornings I’m raring to go and others there is this pit in my stomach, the doubts, the uncertainties and hesitation. But like you said, I show up each morning. And writing doesn’t come easy to me, I have to work at it but in the process when I get to something I like and feel good about there is a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and pride.

  • Yeah…just yeah. I’m often wracked with self doubt. Wondering if any of my words are any good. My trick is finding the reward in the grind. I can’t make other people like or share what I write, but I can love and take joy in the process.

    • Paul Jun

      That attitude is so important to practice because it focuses on the long haul.

  • Tom Bentley

    Paul, sometimes we do overcomplicate things, with fretting about the past and projecting foul things into the future which rarely happen. But the straightforward “Show up, trust your process, do the work” rings so true. It has that diamond shine of Zen clarity. Thanks for some nice writing.

  • Marlene Bierworth

    Thank you for your encouragement. You definately have the gift of exhortation. What keeps me going is that I love to write. What frustrates me to no end is technology. You all make it sound so easy but I get lost at the word -go. Someone needs to offer a course 101 for DUMMIES starting at the beginning. I have little experience on the computer and do not know my way around very well. But, thank you for your words .. and I will keep writing even if I don’t know how to make the world see it. My first book – Dreams with Feet – is available online but the marketing is slowing the writing down big time.

  • David

    Paul thanks for sharing. I am not writer but am an artist sitting in my studio right now looking at, working on and doubting my initial vision for the second of three sculptures on a deadline. I have left the excited shore of a new idea and am in the deep waters of trusting my own compass (no land in sight) and desperately looking for the reassurance of land. Thanks for sending out a beacon from the other side. David

  • Robn Patrick

    This post solidified what I keep hearing from “real” writers. It seems to be that one little moment where we fluctuate between continuing on and pursuing our skills or slacking off and giving up that makes all the difference. That stinkin’ fear that whispers in my ear that I’m just not good enough needs to be fought almost daily. Thanks for the post Paul. Sounds like there has to be a planned push to get past that no man’s land minute.

  • Absolutely needed to read this. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m learning how to trust the process by simply being patient with myself, breathing, and taking time to ground myself in nature. Namaste.

    • Paul Jun

      That sounds like a great process to me 🙂 Namaste.

  • Great post Paul, congrats on sticking it out. What keeps me going is the people that have been helped and the ways their lives have been changed. Adding value is the key for me 🙂

  • This is so important Paul. Most things worth while take time. Early on in the process it appears that we are not making progress. It may even seem that we are wasting our time. Our motivation has to come from some deep resolve and not what we see with our logical mind. All the steps are required to get to our destination. – For me I have to hold fast to my vision and let that be my focus.

  • kathunsworth

    Paul I love this piece thank you, it is the foundation of any goal to practice and practice, not look sideways and keep your eye on the prize. I keep myself going by telling myself I will never be perfect but I can keep honing my skills until they shine.

  • So true! Great post.

  • Melissa

    Paul, this is a great piece and a timely message for me. Monday I woke up with a fire in my belly to write write write. It was a good day. Tuesday I woke up and could barely write my name — that gripping fear and self-doubt just settled in and I could not shake it off. I’ve been pretty useless all week, I blamed it on a toothache, the stifling heat (AC here but still used it) the demanding kids, the barking dogs and, well, you get it. Your post helped to remind me to just put the butt in the chair and just do it. Can you send me a daily email with this message? Hah! JK and thanks again.

  • God always sends the right word at the right time. Tonight I feel myself writhing in the exhaustion of the heat and the pain of being pushed way past where I want to go, the encouragement to surrender and “trust the process” means a lot. God Bless.

  • venkyiyer58

    I enjoyed reading this post. So much I immediately went to Twitter and followed him, and added hisblog to my Feedly.

    • Paul Jun

      Wow, thank you.

  • Bryce

    “Writing is one of the most difficult creative endeavors.” Absolutely. You blow me away, Paul. This post is timely and timeless. Thank you for speaking to me.

  • Paul, my process for writing has been to sit down and write in the evening 5 times a week, whether or not I had an idea. It began to force me to clear my thoughts and discover what it was I was to write that night. Some nights it’s easy, other nights I’m sweating bullets wondering whether or not something will come to me.

  • mwa

    This is so true. PROCESS, PROCESS, PROCESS. This post and Jeff’s on 5 Drafts speak truth to writers.

  • It takes me a half hour to get into writing mode, then I can’t stop. Get into that mode and it won’t feel so daunting.

  • Paul, thank you for this great reminder that writing is about the journey, not the destination. I also enjoyed your comment below about Brain Pickings being a recording of Maria Popova’s learning. When we make blogging a journey, that’s exactly what our writing should be: a recording of our learning.

    I’m often terrified that my vision is inadequate or unclear, or if it’s both adequate and clear, that it still won’t resonate. Truth is, it will never resonate if I don’t explore it in the first place. Now, off to write about an idea I’ve been thinking about for a few days. Thanks for the inspiration!

    P.S. Your yoga story reminds me a lot of George Leonard’s initial experiences with Aikido.

    • Paul Jun

      Thanks Corey. I’d love to read that article/story about that experience, if possible.

  • Awesome reminder. I’ve spent the better part of my writing career as a ghostwriter, so I’m an experienced, but unknown writer. I’ve blogged regularly, but like most, struggled to gain any traction. Then about 2 weeks ago, things started happening. My email list has almost doubled since then. I could have given up, but I wrote when no one was listening. Now, however, I not only have readers, I have people who are allowing me the privilege to use my experience to coach them through the writing process. Next week, my online learning environment comes alive and people are already waiting in line. Persistence pays off!

  • Anisha

    Jeff, I’m a new writer. Can term me as amateur. You writing indelibly inspires and amazes me. Each time I read your posts, my ideas give birth to a better write-up. Never stop writing. You have started a movement.

  • Lucie

    Needed to hear and to be occasionally reminded of this. Thank you.

  • Sean Hodge

    Inspiring post. I like to get up early, write about 1,000 words while drinking too much coffee, before going on with the rest of the day, but certainly haven’t been diligent for years unfailingly. Good reminder on making it a daily habit and letting the process develop over time. Thanks.