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What if Your Enemy is Your Greatest Teacher?

25 March 2015

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 March 25, 2015
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As writers, our enemies are legion. Families that need our attention, “day” jobs, burn-out, lack of compensation, and of course, the black hole that is Netflix… But for most of us, the biggest enemy to our writing productivity is resistance.

 

Resistance is fear. Resistance is avoidance. Resistance is rationalization. Resistance is like a giant octopus with many tentacles, each using a different technique to stop us from doing our work.

 

In his book, The War of Art (which is fabulous by the way, and all of you should read it!), Stephen Pressfield says that resistance is powerful, tricky, and comes from within.

 

He writes, “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. It 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 always lying.”

 

My personal resistance is a chameleon. She has taken the form of upright citizen, protector, shrew, nag, guilt-tripper and loving grandma. She is always in disguise, and yet her message is always the same. “Don’t write.”

 

Here are her many voices….

 

She tells me that paying work always comes first. “You have to earn money, support your family, THEN, if there’s any time left, you can do your ‘creative’ writing.”

 

She says she’s protecting me. “Do you really want to put yourself out there and be judged? Laughed at?”

 

She lulls me into my comfort zone. “You need to do some more research. Watch those ten movies so you know what other people have done in that genre. Read those fifteen books before you dive in.”

 

She comforts me like a mother. “I love you sweetheart… you know I only have your best interests at heart.”

 

She rationalizes. “You’re just too exhausted. Next week will be better. Start then.”

 

She blames. “Everyone keeps asking you to do stuff! No one is supporting you. How can you possibly write this whole massive insane tome if no one gives you any support?”

 

She judges. “Ummm…. Do you really think that’s a good scene?”

 

She lies. “What a waste of time.”

 

Recognize any of these voices? Resistance speaks in many tongues. It’s been individualized for your own personal enjoyment. By you.

 

There are two ways to fight Resistance. One is to simply ignore, tune it out, and sit down each day to write. The other is to stare resistance in the face, and understand what it’s trying to teach you. Why have you created these voices to block you from your purpose? What are you afraid of?  Can you explore these things in your pages?

 

Our resistance can be a gift because it forces us to acknowledge the stories we have created that are holding us back. What if, as the Dalai Lama says, “Our enemy is our greatest teacher?”

 

Take Action! What are your voices of Resistance saying? Write down the actual words in your head. Keep this list handy so you can recognize them for what they are when they start to jabber. What can you learn from them? Can you turn your fears into gold on the page?

 

The greatest act in the face of Resistance is to actually write. Embrace the daily rituals around this sitting down. Drink your coffee. Wear your lucky sweatpants. Be ready for the whispers and the tuggings that tell you to stand up and walk away. Even as I finish this blog, I’m thinking about all the reasons why I can’t go back to my pages.

 

Resistance never goes away. Make friends with it. Learn from it.

 

But don’t believe a single word it says.

 

Happy writing!

 

xo Pat

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