Resistance: the force within all of us that stops us from working on the very things we want to/know deep down that we should. Steven Pressfield wrote an entire book on it. I devoured that book. Have read it once more since.
Yet I still let Resistance talk to me every day. It tells me I’m not good enough. That my writing will never amount to anything. That I’ll never improve. It says my writing is terrible. And insists that my writing has to be perfect because I want to make a living off of it. Resistance gets me to get up in the middle of my writing to go buy office supplies. Or, tells me to turn on another episode of Doctor Who because I just love this one. And convinces me to do so many other things that aren’t helpful to actually get me to write.
So how do I fight it?
Very carefully. And, oftentimes, not very well. But that doesn’t mean I don’t try. In fact, I try different ways all the time because as my Resistance gets smarter, so do I.
What I’ve found that works the best: books. Going back to reading in a way that ignites my curiosity. Reading books like the ones I want to write. Reading books so completely different than the ones I want to write. And also, reading books by other writers about what it means to write and why they put up with all the shit they do to actually get it done.
“If a relationship with a person, someone we know for just a short time, can forever alter our lives, then why not a book?”
– Junot Díaz in Light the Dark: writers on creativity, inspiration, and the artistic process
Personally, I read multiple books at once. Occasionally, I’ll be so consumed by one that I can’t put it down, but oftentimes, the books I read are so completely different that I can pick up as many as 9 at a time. Of the ones I’m currently reading, 4 are meant to encourage me to write, 2 are books on craft, 2 are about how I can think myself into whatever I desire, and 1 is a book I’m analyzing to write a Story Grid guide on how to read. I might add one more to the pile as a fun book for book club. I might also wait until I have a little more time on my hands first.
What I love about all the different types of books is that they remind me that writing doesn’t have to be one thing. It is a relationship between the writer and their mind, but also between the reader and the pages. Stories connect us across years, continents, and cultures. Books remind me of my purpose in life. They teach me how to spin my stories and encourage me never to give up.
You might struggle to get words on the page. I certainly do. And though it might seem like silly advice, I recommend fighting it by first picking up a book that inspires you. One that reminds you why you love stories so much. One that can move you to tears or make you laugh out loud. I think you’ll be surprised by how much it helps, even temporarily.
“The more you fail, the more you succeed. It is only when everything is lost and—instead of giving up—you go on, that you experience the momentary prospect of some slight progress. Suddenly you have the feeling—be it an illusion or not—that something new has opened up.”
– Cary Tennis in Finishing School. The happy ending to that writing project you can’t seem to get done.
What can I say about Resistance? It’s an uphill battle that I fight every single day. There isn’t a single book has helped me break it completely. I’ve seen glimmers of the muse by reading everything from Bird by Bird to Tiny Beautiful Things.
It’s not worth it to give in to your Resistance no matter what it can convince you to focus on or how important that thing might seem. And, it’s never too late to come back to the page, stare at a blinking cursor, and begin to work once more. The page will forgive you for the time you took off. Now, you just have to forgive yourself.