Resistance

I’m listening to the book, The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield and Shawn Coyne, and I find it very interesting. Mr. Pressfield talks about the resistance every artist has to manage in order to get his or her work done in the world. He equates resistance with fear, self-doubt, self-sabotage and every other thought, belief, feeling, or action that stops us from getting to work.

While listening, I started to think about Deborah’s recent post to this blog: Be Boring, and Julie’s response post, A Different Color Refrigerator.

It struck me that Deborah “combats” her resistance to her creativity by cultivating an orderly life that allows her plenty of time to write. Julie deals with her resistance by cultivating a multi-faceted but balanced life that includes writing.

How do I deal with resistance? Mostly by managing my mind. Starting with the old saying, “The mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.”

When I let my mind go wild, thinking fearful thoughts about my work in the world and my writing, I get nothing done.

Who can get anything done when they are thinking thoughts like these?

  • I don’t have time to get anything done.
  • I have nothing to say.
  • No one wants to hear what I have to say.
  • This is drivel.
  • Why bother when so many others can do it better than you?

I start by questioning each thought. When I do, I find that none of the above thoughts are really true. Some of them go away as soon as I really look at them, others take a little more work.

I believed the thought: I don’t have time to get anything done, for many years. But when I examined that thought, I noticed it was ridiculous. I’m getting something done all the time, even if it’s just typing this sentence, or making a sandwich, or reading a book.

I did a bunch of experiments to see how much I could actually get done in 5 minutes, 15 minutes, or half an hour. I was continually surprised by how much work I got done, no matter how small the window of time I gave myself.

So now I routinely think: I have time to get something done.

When I manage my thoughts about my writing, I decrease my resistance (my fear) and I’m better able to sit down in the chair and write, even if I only have 15 minutes or half an hour (which is almost every day). Some days I have many 15 minutes or half-hours to write and they add up to an hour or more, but only if I use each one, rather than resisting the urge to write and squandering that time on something less dear to my heart.

How do you manage your resistance?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, physician, mother and stepmother. I’m enjoying each 15 minute segment of time that I get to spend working on my craft. Even if I do it in 15-minute increments, it will eventually add up to 10,000 hours! Check out my life coaching blog to see what I’ve come up with during some of those hours.

 

33 thoughts on “Resistance

    • Hi Lisa,
      Thanks for your comments. My husband (who’s not a writer) read the book and thought I would like it. What he says about resistance applies to so many things in our lives!

      Happy writing!

      Warmly,
      Diane

    • Hi Harliqueen,
      I agree! I just have to make sure the new positive thought is one I can believe!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  1. Your 5 thoughts match mine exactly, I just haven’t learned how to overcome them everyday, especially 2 &3. Maybe I should check out the book, but I read so many books about writing, I think they too could be an avoidance? Thank you for the tips!

    • Hi praw27,
      I think reading books on writing can be a form of resistance (procrastination) so, like you, I’ve tried to limit how many I read. Fortunately, my husband gave me this book on CD so I’m listening to it in the car–when I wouldn’t otherwise be writing. Although I do get a lot of ideas while driving, so I would even say it can be a form of procrastination to listen in the car sometimes!

      I would really question thoughts 2 and 3. Do you know the work of Byron Katie? If you go to her website, http://www.thework.com, you can find a worksheet that you can use to question any stressful thought. Check out her videos to see her doing the work with people. I also write a lot about this kind of stuff on my blog at http://www.dianemackinnon.com/blog.

      Best wishes and happy writing!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  2. Trying to carve out the time. I will not say it is hard (old excuse). I have a crafty little nymph in my mind creating obstacles to writing that are not perceived as obstacles, but necessities! I will slay that nymph one day at a time!

    • Hi J.E.S,
      Yes! Everything seems like a necessity when you sit down to right. A friend recommended I keep Post-It notes next to me so I can write little notes to myself, like “buy toilet paper,” and “feed cats” so I get the necessities out of my head and someplace where I’ll see them later–when I finish writing!

      Keep carving! Happy writing!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  3. Reblogged this on Mother Imperfect and commented:
    There was a time when I didn’t think 15 minutes, or even two hours provided enough time to write. This past year, I’ve been very surprised to learn how much I can accomplish in 15 minutes. As long as I am not aiming for perfection, which is the #1 enemy of my own creative life.

    • Hi hmfhp,
      I agree, I used to think I needed hours to get anything done–therefore, I got nothing done! And trying for perfection also equals getting nothing done–or at least, nothing put out into the world.

      Thanks for reblogging and commenting!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  4. That’s so true, I always think I don’t have time to do stuff what I actually enjoy, like sketching and writing in my journal etc. But Iv made a point recently to just stop and smell the flowers as such and make time to do the stuff I want to get on with doing. Even like studying, I currently am studying for my theory and always made up lame excuses I’m too tired or got work or whatever. Buckling down these past week or so and I’m improving slowly but surely!
    Anyhow, this is a good post, so thanks!

    • Hi lissyno1,
      Keep doing all those good things that feed your soul! I think the more you do of that, the more you are able to “buckle down” and get other work done.

      Best wishes for your studies and your creative work!

      Warmly,
      Diane

    • Hey Julie,
      We are all struggling with it! Sounds like you are getting it done, little by little. Can’t wait to read your novel when it’s done!

      Happy writing!

      Warmly,
      Diane

    • Hi Kenza,
      Yes, I’m finding the book very helpful. Listening to it makes me want to get home and write! (I’ve been listening in the car.)

      Thanks for commenting!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  5. Thanks for putting the Boring v. Refrigerator debate in perspective. This post is very helpful. Best, Deborah.

  6. To be perfectly honest, I did not get more than a few chapters into this book and I seem to be one of the minority that did not care for it at all. I find the idea of connoting a war with being creative as counter productive. I am reminded of Eckhart Tolle’s admonishment that the minute you declare war on something you know that it is condemned to failure. “War is a mind-set, and all action that comes out of such a mind-set will either strengthen the enemy, the perceived evil, or, if the war is won, will create a new enemy, a new evil equal to and often worse than the one that was defeated.” I prefer to look for ways to create the best flow of creative energy to maximize my creativity. It feels so much better to me.

    • Hi melorajohnson,
      I totally get what you’re saying. I thought the book, (which I just finished yesterday,) had a lot of great information but, I, too, choose not to think of my creative journey as a war. I thought Pressfield did a great job of articulating all the different ways we can avoid our creativity, he just chose to do it through the metaphor of war. I choose to think of it more as self-knowledge. The more I know about myself and my creativity, the more able I am to be creative.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments and thanks for reading!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  7. I love how you talked about how much you can get done in 15 minutes. I suffer from thinking it’s not worth sitting down to write if I can’t sit down for a solid hour. As a result I waste a lot of 15 minute increments. Thanks for the reminder that 15 minutes at a time can be enough!

    • Hi mommytransformations,
      Yes, it’s always good to be reminded what we can accomplish in 15 minutes. Yesterday I worked on a blog post while I was waiting for my mom to get her hair done, then later when she was resting I rewrote it again. Neither block of time was very long (20 minutes, then 40 minutes) but I got a lot more done than if I’d just grabbed a magazine to read, which is what I would have done if I’d been thinking I don’t have time to get anything done!

      Happy writing (in 15 minute increments!)

      Warmly,
      Diane

  8. From my own experience, when anxiety and depression overcome someone’s life, you end up becoming a master procrastinator among other things. Everything’s harder than usual, so you postpone until you get “better”, which never happens. Everything makes you fearful, so you believe that you’d better just lie down and chill out to avoid provoking yet another panic attack. You want to write something or make a comment, but you wait till it’s the right moment to do it “properly”, and surely enough, that moment never comes. You never achieve anything, and every anything is better than nothing. Your inner enemy tells you that you’re not good enough, that you need so much time for this and that and it’s so hard to resist to that voice. But if you do and give it a try, sometimes you do wonders in 15 minutes. Thank you for this beautiful reminder!

    • Hi tamellu,
      Waiting for perfection is a guarantee that nothing will get done. Thanks so much for sharing your experience, which I think is one most of us can relate to!

      Sometimes when one of my sisters and I are both facing big kitchen messes, we take pictures on our phones of how bad the mess looks and then we set the timer for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, we take another picture and send it to each other. Then we do it again! It never takes longer than three times before the kitchen looks great, no matter how bad it looks when we start.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Warmly,
      Diane

      • Hello Diane!

        Thank you so much for this really nice and long reply! While I was contemplating on that “perfection block”, I stumbled upon an article in daily papers (I live in Serbia) about one of our painters, Dragan Stojkov. When he was asked about his painting routine, he said that he paints every day. He gets up early, drinks his morning coffee and starts painting. He never waits for the inspiration to come, because he believes that if you wait for it, it will never arrive. It just simply pops up in the middle of the creative process and sometimes gives birth not to just one but multiple paintings. He also said that the inspiration doesn’t necessarily have to be an experience of happiness, even sorrow can serve as a creative drive. So I suppose we just have to dive into life and get work done in one way or the other, making corrections along the way… easier said than done I know, but we have to keep trying. 🙂

        It is a great way to tidy the kitchen with taking photos, I bet you and your sister are wonderful motivators for each other. 🙂 Unfortunately I’m an only child and otherwise also quite lonely in my life, which makes it pretty hard to self-motivate myself all the time, but I’m doing what I can… usually if I make a realistic list of things to do the next day, I stick better to it than when I just “know” I should do something, but there is no written reminder to it.

        All the best with you blog and everything you do!
        Tanja

  9. Diane, wonderful. I cannot tell you how this and the premise of the Pressfield book excites me and resonates with my thinking in my. book Fighting to Win as well as the current book on artists that I’m working on.I’m happy I found your blog.

  10. I had intended to write a book to help people become better workers–better sales people, better accountants, better lathe operators and assembly line workers, better business managers, etc.–by using artists, throughout history, the best and most prodigious workers on this globe, as the exemplar to be learned from–novelists, painters, musicians, composers, dancers, etc. But I was informed by more worldly people than I like my wife and children that no one these days gives two hoots about being a better worker. I was told, “They just want to get rich, preferably without lifting a finger.” I thought, That’s a shame but my family probably have something that I in my sheltered little creative world am ignorant of. Then I took a nap and woke up thinking, Well, I still have something to say about artists and will not give up so easily. All I need is a body of readers who will take to it and will want to listen. Then I thought, Who better to tell it to than people who know what it takes these days to be an artist, or wish to know?
    So on March 4th last year I started out—slowly because I am meticulous and the subject requires considerable research, considerable thought. And today I thought, Enough already, let’s start writing the damned thing. So that’s what I’m doing.

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