One of the greatest bugaboos of writers (and creatives of all sorts) is resistance.
Resistance is that unseen force that repels us from writing (or eating our vegetables or doing other good things we know will move us forward in our lives). We’ve talked about resistance here before, including why we procrastinate, especially about the stuff that really matters.
In my Writer’s Circle group we often talk about the ways to face and battle resistance — it’s something that must be overcome pretty much every day, in order to sit down to write. (Or floss. Or exercise. Or take your vitamins. Or keep your resolutions.)
One of the very best antidotes to resistance is creating a solid writing habit. (Just like a habit of going to the gym makes is so much easier to keep going.) Once you’ve got the habit in place, you stop thinking about it, and you just do the work.
But resistance is tricky!
One of our Writer’s Circle writers mentioned the insidious nature of resistance, and how sneaky it is. I was instantly reminded of a story that illustrates resistance all too well and posted it on our forums for our participants. I thought you might like to see it too.
In one of my favorite fantasy books, Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card (part of his excellent series, The Tales of Alvin Maker), there’s a scene that I think describes how resistance operates very well. Keep in mind that it operates in a positive way in this story, at least from the protagonist’s point of view, but from the antagonist’s point of view, it thwarts him to no end.
Here’s the scene:
Alvin is a young boy with innate magic abilities, a force for good in the world, and a natural “Maker” — someone with a knack or talent for making things. Reverend Thrower, the local preacher deeply opposed to the folk magic Alvin practices in his community, has been instructed to kill Alvin by the “Unmaker.” When Alvin is injured, Thrower is asked to perform a surgery on Alvin’s leg, and Thrower sees his chance. He goes into the room where Alvin is resting to do the surgery with a knife and bone saw, with the intent to kill Alvin with the tools.
But when he gets into the room, he realizes that he’s left the tools outside the room. So he goes to get them. And then goes back into the room. And realizes that he’s left the knife and saw outside. Again. And then it happens again, even with other people trying to go and bring the tools into the room. Somehow this force of resistance simply will not allow Thrower, the knife, and the saw to be simultaneously in the room in Alvin’s presence. And it keeps happening, endlessly, until somehow Reverend Thrower finds himself a half-mile away from the house, walking away from it.
Now again, I realize, this is a positive kind of resistance, because it’s a benevolent force protecting Alvin’s life from Thrower.
But at the same time, I have always been mesmerized by the notion of this man who is so determined to do something, but an unseen force acts against him repeatedly, despite the strength of his intention and will.
This is how I see resistance to writing. An unseen force that will do whatever it can, trick us however it may, into “staying out of the room” or not sitting down to write, as if somehow butts in seats and fingers on keyboards are mutually repellant forces.
Vigilance is required.
The force of resistance must be met anew every single day.
This is why I keep writing every day, pretty much, and doing it early, because it’s SO MUCH EASIER than having to think about it and wrestle my way through the mountain of resistance and procrastination and guilt and shame that comes up when I wait to do it later in the day.
Everyone I talk to about how I get up to write early thinks I’m so disciplined and determined, and it’s true in some ways, I am.
But — think what you will — to me it feels like I am taking the easy way out. I know that sounds crazy. But I feel it inside me, that writing early, having that regular habit, actually makes it easier to keep doing it than it is to stop, and so much of the daily struggle over when I will write or will I write or how long am I waiting to write, etc., it’s just gone.
I’d love to hear from you. How does resistance show up for you? What are your best tricks to sneak past it?
Build the habit to overcome your own resistance
If you’re a writer struggling to overcome your writing resistance, join the next session of our Writer’s Circle. We’ll help you build a regular, consistent habit of writing so the battle to overcome resistance each day gets easier. Plus, you’ll have a great community of support, working alongside other writers committed to showing up and doing the work. Find out more and register here: http://JustDoTheWriting.com