I find myself in a bit of a conflict when I consider resistance. I’m not talking about writer’s block* where you feel drawn to write but you just can’t. I’m talking about that sort of situation where you do almost anything to avoid writing and you keep putting it so far down your to do list that you never get to it (or you do a bunch of other things ‘to get them out of the way’ and then (surprise!) you never get to the writing.
One of the first things I ever read about resistance was Steven Pressfield’s War of Art – about how to get beyond resistance and just do your writing (He has several other books on the same topic). I found it very helpful in letting go of that idea that being a writer was so precious and special that you needed specific conditions in which to write. I felt energized by his words and his approach but the feeling in that book is that you need to fight resistance, you have a battle on your hands, you have to ignore those feelings and forge ahead.
Another perspective, from a lot of life coaches and personal development books, is that the resistance you are feeling is telling you something, that there is valuable information for you in that feeling. This school of thought is more about identifying what is really going on for you and being kind to yourself about the problem while you work around it/work past it/sometimes give in to it.
Pressfield’s approach has a kind of a violent undertone to it – the language is about toughening up and fighting – which has the motivational impact of a battlecry but doesn’t match my usual experience with creativity. The other has a touchy-feely kind of undertone which I like for its softness and kindness but it puts me at risk of wallowing around in the feelings instead of trying more practical approaches. And while there is a certain amount of ‘different things work for different people’ that needs to be considered here, there is also the fact that I need both of these approaches because I can’t fully buy into either.
Sometimes, I need to just get my butt in the chair and start typing and see what comes out. Other times, I need to explore what’s behind the feeling that I’m having. The challenge is in figuring out which one I need at the moment.
This is where I drag information from another area of my life to apply to this one. As usual, when the problem is figuring out a brain habit, I need to look at the duration and the frequency of the issue. If I’m just annoyed with my writing today, then maybe I need to sit down and see if typing any old crap will help. If I keep having a problem, then maybe I need to have a look at whatever keeps coming up for me.
But, whichever solution I choose, I try not to be mean to myself about it. I try to avoid ‘stories’ about what it means that I’m struggling at the moment, I try to just accept that I am struggling and do what I can to get past it. I have varying success with this of course.**
How do you deal with resistance? Do you power through or do you get all touchy-feely?
*This is not exactly the same as writer’s block. I’m not sure if I have mentioned this before but I don’t really believe in writer’s block, or more so, I don’t exactly believe in calling the problem in question writer’s block. Giving it a big, writerly name gives it a greater weight and it makes it into a THING all its own. I think that takes us further from a solution instead of closer to one.
To be clear, I’m not denying the pain or the challenge that people face when they can’t write at that moment but I hate labeling it writer’s block because of all the connotations. If you say to yourself ‘I have writer’s block’ then it feels like an almost insurmountable problem. If you say ‘I am worried about how people will take this thing I want to write and it is keeping me from starting’ or ‘I am not sure I have done enough research to get this right’ or ‘This is so important to me that I am having trouble getting the words out’ – then those are things that can be worked on, they aren’t a mysterious force that is between you and your creativity.
**‘Just accepting’ doesn’t come natural to me, at all but when I can do it, it’s really helpful.