Do you have trouble getting started on writing projects? Do you ever feel stuck in the middle of a piece? You can bet that resistance is at the bottom of the places where you get stuck. Are you ready to blast through that? Read on! I’ve compiled some information and strategies to help you keep writing through your resistance.
What is resistance? It is easier to describe it than to define it. I love this quote from Do the Work by Steven Pressfield:
Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole. Resistance is protean. It will assume any form, if that’s what it takes to deceive you.
Resistance will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a nine-millimeter in your face like a stickup man.
Resistance has no conscience. It will pledge anything to get a deal, then double-cross you as soon as your back is turned. If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get.
Resistance is a force that gets right in the way of what you truly desire. Everyone experiences this at one time or another. Here are two ways that it shows up in my writing life.
First, when I receive the spark of inspiration, the gatekeeper shows up and says, That is too hard. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You’ll never finish that. No one will like it. In other areas of my life, I hear, You don’t have the money for that. You don’t have the time or energy for that. It will never happen. The underlying message is, Just give up, it’s not going to work out. The gatekeeper primarily uses fear and doubt, and shows up right after the first flash of inspiration. If I hear an idea that doesn’t speak to me, I have no big feelings attached to it. If something touches me deeply, then the Gatekeeper won’t be far behind.
When I get past the gatekeeper, the distractor is lying in wait. I am in a groove, things are going well, and then I hear a voice say, This is dumb. Don’t you want to go watch tv, or check social media? Did I lock the front door? I don’t feel ready; I need to research this some more. The distractor uses enticement: There is something much better (or easier) that I could be doing. Resistance shows up when I am approaching my Truth. When I close in on something meaningful to me, my resistance gets loud. I think that resistance is the inner work that needs to happen to bring my idea or inspiration to fruition. The outer work may seem more complex or more difficult to do, but in my experience, it is the inner obstacle that is hardest to shift.
The good news is that you can shift resistance consistently if you know how to do it. The simple, but not always easy, answer is to write. Well, duh. Let’s break that down a little.
1. Prepare yourself. Before it is time to write (not when it’s time to write) go to the bathroom, get yourself a snack and something to drink. Silence your phone, close your email and social media apps. Anticipate distractions, and eliminate them as much as possible.
2. Don’t let preparation run into your writing time. This is not the time to tackle the things on your to do list. It is not time to feed the chickens. Do the things that might come up while you write. Nothing more.
3. Recognize resistance when it happens. As soon as you catch it, see it for what it is and start writing right away. If I am cleaning the bathroom while I’m supposed to be writing, you can bet that resistance has found an entry. We must be vigilant. And don’t dwell on it. Notice it, and get back to work.
4. Talk back. Don’t listen to the thoughts spawned by resistance, and certainly don’t believe them. A thought or a feeling isn’t necessarily a fact. So, talk back to it. Find the approach that works for you. Some people need a kick in the pants; some people prefer a kind voice, a sort of fairy godmother, come on, you can do this. I use different approaches at different times.
5. Remember that resistance can’t do anything to you but hurl unhelpful and unwanted thoughts your way. Once you learn to deflect these thoughts, you clear the way for pursuing your writing. Resistance never goes away for good in my experience, but it gets easier with practice to see it and ignore it.
6. Understand that we have a comfort zone for success, love, and abundance (Check out The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks, PhD for an excellent exploration of this idea). The spark is followed by the doubt and fear. When we stretch out of our comfort zone, we feel it acutely. That is the signal to dive deeper into our work.
7. Don’t confuse resistance with something your heart is saying no to. There are projects I’ve taken on that don’t excite me, that aren’t part of my deep dreams. I’d like to be a gardener, and I keep trying, but there isn’t enough charge in it to sustain me. I don’t long for it; it’d just be nice. That is my heart saying no (at least for now). When I write through my resistance and find a deep vein, it lights me up like few things can. If you have the deep urge to write, if you’ve dreamed of being a writer since you were a child, your heart is saying yes, and the key is to get the rest of your body behind it.
8. Find a partner or community of writers who will remind you of these things when you forget.
The main thing is to find a way to keep writing under all circumstances. No matter the weather, the state of the world, or the state of the laundry room. If you consistently find yourself stuck and want more support in moving through resistance, please consider joining the maiden voyage of Writership. If the idea of committing to a year long writing program with tools, support, and community scares the shit out of you, it might just be the thing you need.