Today in the AntiResistance Forum

Having a conversation with a forum member about why they can’t get their book written. Here’s what I thought about their challenge:

A theme I see in your comments is trying to swallow the elephant whole.

Step back and slow down. Chunk. Baby steps.

Don’t think about “blogging every day.” Think about “write a blog post in the morning.” It works out the same way, but you’re only carrying one day on your shoulders instead of the infinite future.

Regular blogging was a part of my recovery from being thrown from the writing horse. It’s helpful.

Why You Don’t Write and What You Can Do About It

To begin, tell me a little bit about yourself. How many of these have you experienced in your writing life during the past two years? I’ll include checkboxes so you can keep track.

Never finding the time to write
Making the time but not writing
Dreaming of writing but never getting started
Starting but never finishing
Starting but never finishing that one particular piece
Thinking you can do it without help
Thinking you’re beyond help
A love/hate relationship with your writing
Focusing on unhelpful criticism and ignoring positive feedback
Focusing on positive feedback and ignoring constructive criticism
Wanting to write deep but writing shallow
Writing for others instead of yourself
Writing for money but not treating it like a business
Reading about writing instead of writing
Seeking out feedback before you’re ready
Seeking out the wrong level of feedback
Ongoing health challenges like
    Unexplained fatigue (physical or mental)
    Mysterious illness (a neverending or recurring cold or flu)
    Injuries (constant little accidents)
    Addiction of any kind (substance, activities, self-destructive habits)

How many did you check? Type the number right here:

Is it more than zero?

If so, you’re facing Resistance.

I’ve written nearly 20 books and 200 songs in the past 11 years. I checked 17 boxes. SEVENTEEN.

I’m facing Resistance.

You’re facing Resistance.

Resistance? What’s That?

According to author Steven Pressfield in his seminal work The War of Art Resistance is the mental and emotional pushback we feel when we dare greatly by creating something. It is our unconscious mind protecting us from the “danger” of emotional vulnerability. It manifests in all the ways in that checklist above, and more.

Resistance is a bully. It will stand in your way and stop your progress. It will knock you down and hurt you, emotionally, even physically.

Resistance strikes nonfiction and fiction authors alike. (Memoirists, are you hearing me?) Writing a business book is still a creative endeavor and will expose you to the associated fears.

It will stop you from writing using the tools you checked off in that list above.

It’s Not Just You & I

“I was ashamed. I have spent a good many years since—too many, I think—being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction and poetry who as ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent.”

“. . . in my heart I stayed ashamed. I kept hearing Miss Hisler asking why I wanted to waste my talent, why I wanted to waste my time, why I wanted to write junk.”

Who was this loser?

Stephen King. Stephen 350 million books sold King.

This is a quote from his On Writing which, although not precisely instructional, is the most inspiring book I’ve read when it comes to staying the course as a writer.

This is the quote that gave me my writing life back. I’ll tell you that story someday.

Our innate desire to have our work respected can lead to problems if we put what others believe about our “God-given talent” ahead of what we want to write. It’s one of many ways Resistance twists natural feelings into quicksand.

What’s a Writer to Do?

You cannot defeat, once for all time, Resistance. It’s part of our mental and emotional makeup. We can, though, make it irrelevant. Note that I can’t say “ignore it” because you can’t ignore a bully. But if you defuse them, do things to take away their power, they are no longer a threat. Like the bully at school (or, frankly, in the office) they still show up every day. But we don’t have to keep giving them our lunch money.

Being a writer is hard. You don’t have to do this alone.

Too many writers are facing the emotional struggle to write without the support they need. After years of writing about it, I’ve created a forum to help writers and artists deal with writer’s Resistance.

It’s not going to be a collective moan-fest or even chat-fest. Instead, it’s a guided learning environment, a community of writers making a safe place for some “you’re not alone” emotional support. It will also cover practical and actionable tools and processes to get you writing and keep you writing.

Membership is $5 per month or only $25 for the whole year. Questions? Comments? Shout ’em out below and I’ll answer every one.

Regain the Joy of Writing by Refilling the Well

We all go through spells when writing is a dead weary slog and nothing is fun. You’re not blocked, you’re just not enjoying it, not the work, not the daydreaming, not the words that come out of it.

Writing, then hating it, is normal. In his book Innovation on Demand Allen Fahden talks about the PEP cycle of creativity: Panic | Elation | Panic. It hits us all, and all you can do is wait it out and trust your processes and skills.

But when you can’t create, the solution is to refill the well. Spend time reading great books, listening to great music, watching quality movies that inspire you.

In her book Around the Writer’s Block Rosanne Bane describes the brain science behind play, and how spending time playing with no attachment to any creative outcome restores the creative circuits in our brain. Shaping clay, coloring pictures, playing a musical instrument just for fun.

Letting creative joy flow through you by taking it in and letting it flow out unhindered is the best way I know to fall in love with writing again. (And take a break from the work; don’t force it, you’ll struggle even longer.)

Proactive Interactive AntiResistance Support

Any of this sound familiar? Tell you what: I’ll include checkboxes so you can keep track. How many of these have you experienced in your writing life during the past two years?

Never finding the time to write
Making the time but not writing
Dreaming of writing but never getting started
Starting but never finishing
Starting but never finishing that one particular piece; you know the one I mean
Thinking you can do it without help
Thinking you’re beyond help
A love/hate relationship with your writing
Focusing on unhelpful negative feedback and ignoring positive feedback
Focusing on positive feedback and ignoring helpful negative feedback
Wanting to write deep but writing shallow
Writing for others instead of yourself
Writing for money but not treating it like a business
Reading about writing instead of writing
Seeking out feedback before you’re ready
Seeking out the wrong level of feedback
Ongoing health challenges
    Unexplained fatigue (physical or mental)
    Mysterious illness (a neverending or recurring cold or flu)
    Injuries (constant little accidents)
    Addiction of any kind (substance, activities, self-destructive habits)

How many did you check? Type the number right here:

Is it more than zero?

If it is, you’re facing Resistance.

I checked 17 boxes. SEVENTEEN.

I’m facing Resistance.

You’re facing Resistance.

Don’t do it alone.

If you’d like to join me in not doing it alone, watch for tomorrow’s post.

And if you’d like to start right now, show your fellow writers they’re not alone: post your score as a comment below.

 

Write with Your Heart, Edit with Your Head

Writing has to flow, like water. Writers thirst.

Imagine, though, if you were dying of thirst (you are, you’re a writer) and the person holding the hose kept shutting it off so they could adjust something. Spurt of water. Shut it off. Adjust. Spurt of water. Shut it off. Adjust.

You’d strangle them. Just give me the water!

… more … “Write with Your Heart, Edit with Your Head”

Emotions, Motivation, and Your Unconscious Mind

Motivation. Literally, that which impels us to move. That’s how we use the word: the feeling that makes us act—in that order: feeling, then action.

Motivation is also created by action. Ask anyone who has grudgingly started a project only to discover that going through the motions ends in motivation.

You’ve felt it yourself when taking on some new business, relationship, spirituality, or personal development challenge. Eventually you hit what Seth Godin calls the dip. We all have days where it’s hard to get going, to stay focused. Often it just takes a little push to get through the dip. Sometimes though, that off day turns into an off week or an off month. Instead of the upward spiral of motivation and action, we’re stuck. We need motivation to create action but need action to create motivation and we get nowhere.

Getting Unstuck

… more … “Emotions, Motivation, and Your Unconscious Mind”

Lousy First Draft: You’re Missing the Point

Everyone loves to talk about the lousy first draft.

Nearly everyone gets it wrong.

Yes, ignore spelling, punctuation, grammar in your first draft.

But also ignore everything you know about writing except this: tell your story.

The primary purpose of writing without stopping, spewing an unrefined first draft, is to not give yourself time to edit, even to think.

Only time to feel.

… more … “Lousy First Draft: You’re Missing the Point”

Creativity Hallucination and Subsequent Punishment

Some raw unpolished thoughts on the article Secrets of the Creative Brain by Nancy C. Andreasen, subtitled A leading neuroscientist who has spent decades studying creativity shares her research on where genius comes from, whether it is dependent on high IQ—and why it is so often accompanied by mental illness.

Andreasen writes: I’ve been struck by how many of these people refer to their most creative ideas as “obvious.” Since these ideas are almost always the opposite of obvious to other people, creative luminaries can face doubt and resistance when advocating for them.

Powerful realization from that: much of my reality feels like hallucination because I’m the only one who sees it. When you go through life seeing things no one else does, and being mocked or pitied or shunned when you admit it, it’s no wonder we lose our emotional and mental balance.

… more … “Creativity Hallucination and Subsequent Punishment”

Lemon Juice: Not the Solution to Resistance

The Dunning-Kruger effect, in brief: those who know least about something have the most confidence, while those who are advanced in the same field feel the greatest doubt and indecision.

After decades of fighting Resistance, tricking myself (and, when I do it right, Resistance), finding tools, processes, and methods to make it irrelevant, I still face it. The past two years have been the single greatest bout of Resistance I’ve faced since I started writing.

… more … “Lemon Juice: Not the Solution to Resistance”

Feedback Fraught with Fear, False Findings, Fruitlessness

I know well the desire to have approval, the boost we get from a genuine compliment.

I also know that asking others for feedback when what we really want is a pat on the head is fraught with peril, asking for trouble, bending over and begging to be kicked.

Some general thoughts and specific comments on feedback:

… more … “Feedback Fraught with Fear, False Findings, Fruitlessness”