So, just over halfway through NaNoWritMo and I am a few days behind. I have been wrestling with Resistance and I am tired.
Resistance is the force that keeps you from doing what your better self wants to do – in this case write. It’s the part of us that scolds and criticizes, distracts and sidetracks. It’s not all bad, its job is to keep us safe by keeping us in check. It makes sure we pay the bills on time and get to work each morning and drive on the right side of the street and eat our vegetables. Think of it as our inner parent. Unfortunately, it is often a helicopter parent.
Resistance doesn’t like risk or chaos or the unexpected. And writing is always risky, chaotic and unexpected. And so Resistance tries to shut it down.
Resistance will tell you lies: You have nothing important to say. You shouldn’t be writing. You aren’t creative. This is a waste of time. It will offer you daydreams and fantasies that are far more interesting than the hard work of writing: Just think how everyone will love you when this is done. Let’s plan the cover art right now. Worse are the half-truths: This is horrible. You’ve got more important things to do. You need to research this more. You can write later.
Too often, we take Resistance as a sign we shouldn’t be writing – certainly not what we are working on at the time, maybe at all. We assume “real” writers don’t struggle Resistance. But every writer deals with Resistance. In fact, it is a natural part of the creative process. First we are inspired, then we are passionate about that inspiration, then we get the pushback from Resistance.
Once we push through Resistance, we usually find ourselves at a deeper level of understanding about our writing. We get a new, bigger inspiration, and cycle continues.
But Resistance can feel very strong in the moment, and its lies can seem so real. How can we resist Resistance?
We don’t. Fighting Resistance can become just another form of Resistance. Have you ever had an agreement with someone who spends so much time nitpicking tiny mistakes and that the conversation gets completely derailed? That’s what happens when we try to “fight” Resistance.
But it’s not hopeless! We can slip around Resistance, or push through it or move ahead despite it. Here are some things that might help:
- Learn to recognize Resistance. Everyone’s is slightly different. Get to know yours and its many shifting forms. But remain alert. As soon as you identify one form, a new one will appear.
- Notice what happens in your body when Resistance strikes. Does your heart race? Do you feel panicky? Do you have trouble staying in your chair? Do your shoulders draw in? Don’t worry about changing anything, just notice. It will help you recognize Resistance. Sometimes our bodies know more than we realize.
- Name it. Call it Resistance or give it another name. Either will help you separate its voice from “reality.”
- Welcome the Resistance. It’s the next step in the process. Something big is just around the corner. Aren’t you excited to find out what it is?
- Agree with it. Say to yourself “Yep, those dishes do need washing, but now I am going to write.” Or maybe “You’re right, the sentence is horrible. We’ll fix it later.”
- Remember your passion. Remind yourself why you want to write and why you want to write it.
- Ignore it. You may not be able to silence your Resistance, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay attention to it. Treat it like that cranky, crazy relative who spends every holiday meal complaining; let it natter on in the background and get on with what you want to do.
- Forgive yourself when you realize you’ve given in to Resistance. We all crumble occasionally. When you realize you’ve bought into the lies or gotten pulled away from your work, just start writing. You may be tempted to berate yourself for being weak or feel discouraged. Guess who’s behind that impulse: Resistance.
- Most importantly, sit down and write. The hardest part of moving through Resistance is deciding to move through. If you have to trick yourself, do it. Set a time and promise yourself you only have to write for five minutes. After that you can quit. If you want to. Chances are you won’t. You will already have won this round.
Resistance will always be with you. Like it or not, it is your creative partner. Learn its moves and you can dance with it and around it. And you’ll finish that novel.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some research to do 2000 words to write.
Beth Beaty grew up surrounded by books, computer nerds, actors and do-it-yourselfers. She created the books division and served as the managing editor at a small consulting company. She has taught classes in writing and self-publishing. She has worked as a freelance editor and writing coach. She is currently doing social media and online communications for churches and non-profits. She blogs about these topics and more at http://buildingebenezers.com/. This is her sixth round of NaNoWriMo. She has won five of those times and is determined to win this one too.