I’ve just lost two days to battling Resistance.
I’m telling you this to 1- let you know that this still happens to writers who have been writing for years and have many novels under their belts and who consider themselves Highly Trained Resistance Fighters (TM pending), and 2 – to give you some insight into how I do battle.
WHAT IS RESISTANCE?
Resistance is that implacable, malevolent force in the universe that seeks to stop you from fulfilling that purpose, those creative, life-giving acts, that only you are capable of. It’s all the voices saying you have other things to do, more important things, ESSENTIAL THINGS. It’s the conviction that you’re a hack who can’t write, that you’ll never sell books, that everything you’re doing is pointless, so stop now, STOP NOW. Resistance’s entire goal is getting you to STOP.
KNOW YOUR ENEMY
Resistance is inside your head, but it is not YOU. Its power is entirely the power you give it, but here’s the kicker – You Are Freaking Powerful. When you give that power to Resistance, as it insists you must, you hand it the nuclear codes that can blow up your life. You think I’m kidding? I’m not.
“You think Resistance isn’t real? Resistance will bury you.” – Pressfield
RESISTANCE PLAYS FOR KEEPS*
Resistance’s goal is not to wound or disable… Resistance means business. When we fight it, we are in a war to the death.
*War of Art
RESISTANCE – DAY 1
The first day, I was frustrated and having a hard time concentrating. Other things were more fun, my body was tired, I had family obligations, and I simply couldn’t focus. By the end of the day, I was barely further in my edits (least favorite part of my writing BTW) than I was at the beginning of the day. I know this because I track my work every day. I made a note in my tracker that I “got nothing done – RESISTANCE”. So I correctly identified that Resistance was the problem. However, I thought I was battling some minor-league Resistance Fiend, like Distraction or Annoyance With The World or Family Comes First. Maybe it was just These Edits Are Hard and it would be better the next day.
Hahahahahaaaaa…. oh, I was so wrong.
RESISTANCE – DAY 2
The next day was WORSE. So much worse. I couldn’t concentrate at all. I would start and stop. I would be in the MIDDLE of editing and turn away from it to check facebook or email or the damn news. I walked outside, I took breaks, I did all the things I could think of, but I was losing the battle BIG TIME. Then a crippling bout of “I suck at writing and should change everything I’m doing” hit and I realized something was seriously wrong. Resistance was trotting out the Big Boss and I was screwed.
So I turned to a friend. Even then, I had a hard time naming it.
ME: I’m having the hardest time focusing. SO HARD.
Her: Me too.
ME: Not sure what my prob is. I’m having MASSIVE doubts about myself. This is weird.
Her: Oh wow. In what way?
ME: Like I’m writing all the wrong things and I can’t write them well and I’m just a hack.
Her: ?? Whaaaaaa?
ME: I think an alien has invaded my brain. It’s like a virus. A mental virus.
That was the key, it turned out – realizing that this thing that was stopping me wasn’t some minor failure of discipline or low-level distraction – this was Resistance with a Capital R and it had invaded my brain. It was taking over, and it was going for the kill shot. I needed to bring out the Big Guns and fight it with everything I had or it was going to take me down.
THE BIG GUNS
Resistance seriously hates it when I take care of myself. So I knew that a massive dose of self-care would help. I got a massage (really! It was fortuitously already on my calendar. Sometimes the Universe helps), talked through my Resistance challenge with my husband, spent some time with my kids, re-read half of DO THE WORK, went to bed on time, got up and exercised, and now I’m about ready to dive in. My body is rested, well-fed, relaxed, and ready for battle.
That part where I re-read DO THE WORK? There’s a reason I keep recommending books to ya’ll – a stream of positively-focused info into your brain is like an inoculation against the mental virus that is Resistance.
I have very specific things I do when I’ve got to battle Resistance.
**Ban myself from Facebook and email – on a normal day, I can handle them. On days like this… they’re Resistance’s most seductive weapons.
**Walk – around the house, around the yard, around the block. Just MOVE to get the blood flowing and the body jitters out.
**Talk to myself – I do a lot of self-talk, out-loud. “You’re having a hard time with this, so take a deep breath and walk and then you’ll do better.” It helps. Speaking out loud your intentions? It’s literally throwing your thoughts out into the universe and saying “Eff you, Resistance. I’ve said it out loud now!”
**5 minute meditations – this is the bazooka of Resistance-battling weapons. I trot this out when I can’t force myself into the chair and it works. Every. Damn. Time.
**Begin before I’m ready – usually this isn’t my problem. Usually I’m *very* ready, but just resisting. But if Resistance is deep inside my brain, it might convince me I’m not ready. So I definitely start then.
**Take breaks – I know myself. I can sustain high-level flow work for about 50-60 minutes, sometimes less, and then I need a break. Even if I’m in the middle of a chapter. Even if I’m actually IN the flow state. I have to stop, walk, get a drink, stay off FB. If I don’t – if I push through – then when I do stop after an hour-and-a-half, I’m in much greater danger of not starting again. I’ll be too tired. Too vulnerable to Resistance. So scheduled breaks are like scheduled maintenance… they keep me running.
THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS
Is the art.
Do the art. Don’t think about the art. Don’t judge the art. Don’t avoid the art. The one thing Resistance wants is to STOP YOU from doing the art. So arm yourself for battle and do the one thing Resistance hates most of all – the art itself.
“Fear doesn’t go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.” – Pressfield
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a demon to slay.