In Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art, he describes resistance as, “the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease, and erectile dysfunction.”
That is a bold declaration. As a man, I can think of few things worse than not being able to get a boner.
I’ve let resistance bully me into taking the backseat in more than one area of my life. For this exercise, I will touch on the ways resistance and avoidance keep me from writing.
In no particular order, here are seven ways resistance stops me from starting, and avoidance keeps me from finishing.
One: I’m afraid I might actually be good at it.
Wait, what? Yeah, I am afraid to write because I’ve dipped my toe into the writer’s pond, and I liked the way it felt. Cool and refreshing, the water nymphs gently suggest I relax and stay awhile. As a Scorpio and a middle child raised Roman Catholic, if something feels too right, it has to be wrong. You don’t have to be touched by a priest to have your childhood destroyed by the church.
Two: I’m afraid I’ll waste it.
Honestly, I am not afraid that I’m not any good at writing. What I am afraid of is actually being a good writer and wasting it. Whether that’s because I sit and overthink it to the point of self-induced paralysis, or I procrastinate by continuously telling myself, “I don’t have the time,” or the classic, “I’ll do it tomorrow.”
I know that will only lead to regret because it’s happened time and again throughout my life. When I finally do what I spent days, hours, months, or years, wishing I had the courage to start, the relief is incredible, but the regret for not doing it sooner is almost as big.
And after all the stewing and ruminating, the thing that remains true is that the only way I’ll waste it is if I don’t use it.
Three: No one will care what I write about.
If resistance were the evil king who reigned over the Land of Squashed Ambition, lack of confidence and inhibition would be his henchmen. Self-confidence, or the lack of it, is what’s behind the fear that no one will care to read what I write.
Manifested in my head, this snowball of inhibition then rolls downhill, coming to rest as a boulder the size of a small Volkswagen. Before I can say farfegnugen, my notebook is closed and I’m rifling through the kitchen cupboards in search of food to quell my feelings of inadequacy and defeat.
Four: There’s nothing left to say.
Just kidding. I wanted to make sure you were still paying attention.
Five: The dog ate my homework.
There are times when writing takes the same amount of discipline as exercising, reading, paying bills, doing the dishes, etcetera. I know I’ll get personal satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment if I do any of these things, but the “R” word sneaks in and stops the synapse from firing. Thus, no sense of satisfaction or accomplishment connection is made, and binging Netflix ensues.
Six: Adrift in a sea of doubt.
With all of this talk about resistance, and how it prevents me from writing, I’ve failed to acknowledge the devious ways it stops the flow of ideas. Before writing can commence, I have to figure out what I want to write about, and that can be as creative as writing itself. Do you know what resistance loves more than anything? Stoking the flames of doubt within a creative mind. Whether it’s like a speeding locomotive barreling down toward a stalled station wagon, or slow and steady like sugar rotting a molar, resistance is working to take the wind out of our sail.
Seven: The dog needs to be walked.
I am serious about this one, but it’s not just about the dog. It’s about making sure everyone who relies on me is taken care of first, that there isn’t anything else I should do because it would make life easier for someone I care about. It’s Avoidance 101. How can I sit and enjoy writing knowing that Tralfaz hasn’t sniffed and peed on every fence post on the block?
I put other people first to avoid writing. I call it being “selfless,” but it’s a form of avoidance. It is avoidance. I avoid taking care of myself.
If I sat with it for another day or two, I am certain I would uncover a few more ways in which resistance and avoidance stop me from writing. While I thought about how to end this, I realized that the end is only slightly less challenging than the beginning. Marianne Williamson said, “Every ending is a new beginning.” Thus, the cycle repeats. I fight with myself to start and struggle to finish. It sucks. Seriously, the end of this piece is not very good.
Maybe it’s not such a bad thing, though. If the way to get started is to just write, then the end can be just as simple.