Latest: Lotus

Are Some People Immune to Resistance?

Over the years I’ve met a particular personality type and of late they seem to be showing up in my feeds more often: the folks who for all appearances do not care at all what other people think of them.

These are the folks who say “When I called your idea stupid and it hurt your feelings, that’s on you. They’re your feelings.” When they get negative feedback, it has no appreciable impact.

I do not like these people, but they do seem to be immune to Resistance.

Brain befuddling thought: perhaps they are Resistance embodied. They have never and will never let anyone close enough to hurt them, which keeps Resistance at bay because, y’know, vampires don’t bite other vampires (do they? I do know know any vampires so I’m guessing here.)

Long ago a writer friend gave me some blunt feedback about my writing and said I was going to have to grow a thick skin to be an artist. I disagree, vehemently. To create requires transparent skin; we’re sharing what’s inside us for the world to see. What we have to grow is the strength not to listen to the haters or even the well-meaning-but-wrong friends.

Creating something requires caring enough to be vulnerable. I have some prejudices about the ability of the people I mentioned earlier to create work that would move me. I’m okay with being wrong about that, if that’s how it turns out.

This is #1 on the list Ways Not to Deal with Resistance.


Change Your Perspective by Reframing

When we’re stuck it can be helpful to find a different perspective, see ourselves or our challenge from a different angle. It’s called reframing, and in Dave Gray’s excellent book Liminal Thinking he points us to this tool at thnk.org. (Yes, it’s missing the vowel. Maybe some team-spirited person said “There’s no I in think!” and it stuck.)

You don’t have to think hard to use the tool. It’s mostly a mechanical process, which helps keep emotional Resistance out of the way.

Here’s how it works.

Overtly Challenge Your Assumptions

The tool asks you to write down the belief you’d like to change. Then you write a number of supporting statements for that belief.

Now the trick: you write the opposite of each statement.

I call it a trick because you’re not asked to understand, believe, trust, or otherwise engage with these opposites. Just write them.

Based on those opposites, you write a final statement reframing your original statement differently: as an opposite.

Nonsense. Piffle. Balderdash. Tomfoolery.

You’d think, eh? Not so.

I’ve said before that reality doesn’t exist out there, it exists in our minds. The physical mechanical act of writing those sentences changes your brain’s perspective.

Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you. I don’t believe me either.

Get Out of the Kitchen

I can’t stand the heat. For family reasons, we moved from northern Wisconsin’s glorious invigorating 6-month winters to southern Arizona’s perpetual blistering blazing boiling summers. Last summer, I was miserable in a way you’d have a hard time imagining if I wasn’t a skilled writer capable of composing that last sentence.

This summer, determined to Do Something About It, I used the Reframe tool.

Here are my initial statement and supporting beliefs:

Here, the opposites:

And a text summary:

Toward the end of the text summary is the secret.

We Choose What We Believe

Yes, another thing that doesn’t feel true, but it is. We think our beliefs are simply the factual conclusions we’ve drawn from the reality around us. If you’d like to challenge that misconception, read the aforementioned Liminal Thinking and Kathryn Schulz’s Being Wrong. Between them they upset my apple cart a skosh. Not that I’ve fundamentally changed what I believe, but they convinced me of the difference between what we know and what we believe and why both have value.

When I finished using the tool, I thought the resulting statements were ridiculous. I put it aside for later when I’d have more time to either studiously ignore it, or actively ridicule it.

Didn’t happen.

In the past month, with days reaching 118º yes one-hundred-eighteen degrees I have been far less unhappy about the heat. Sure, we live indoors, using air conditioning like it was cheap (because comparing Phoenix to Sacramento it is; we’re paying 40% of what it used to cost us in Sacramento 7 years ago.)

Still, my attitude about the heat changed. And with it, some behaviors.

What Really Changed

Up north, you do everything midafternoon when it’s warm and sunny. When we moved south, I never changed that habit.

Shopping at 3pm in Phoenix is stupid. Because I already knew I hated the heat, I did what I did and hated it even more.

Did you know you can go shopping at 6am? Or 9pm?

The tiniest openness to new beliefs about the heat opened a crack into my psyche which turned into new actions, greater awareness, and less angst and whining.

You’ve heard it; you’ve said it: focus on what you can control, not what you can’t.

This tool was the catalyst for new thinking that’s making my life measurably more comfortable, physically and emotionally.

You Thought This Was a Writing Blog

Your turn.

Use the Reframe tool about your greatest writing challenge.

Come back here and share the text summary in the comments. Not later, when you see whether or not it works. As soon as you’re done.

Then come back in a month [I’ll post a reminder] and tell us what happened.

I’ll be doing the same thing in the AntiResistance forum. If you’d like to see my angst on full display, join me there. (Forum members, here’s that post: http://somedaybox.com/forum/general/reframing-a-writing-challenge/.)


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, join the AntiResistance Resistance.

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!

Continue reading “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

Continue reading “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.

Continue reading “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.

Continue reading “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.

Continue reading “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:

Continue reading “Feedback Fraught with Fear, False Findings, Fruitlessness”


Writing: First It’s Muck

It’s a writer’s nature to assume that what pours from our fingertips will be the brilliant story in our heads. When we read a book, we see the polished outcome, not the deadly trudge it took to create it, and when it’s our turn we forget.

Instead of polished prose streaming from our minds, it’s more akin to the green soup steaming in the concrete waste canal in a springtime milking barn back home in Wisconsin. Not even usable as fertilizer.

At least, that’s what we think.

Truth is, it’s probably 80% excellent, and all we see is the 20% green soup.

The 20% is 80% easy to fix. That is, once we dig in (to the words, not the mucky green soup) we find that most of what’s less than stellar in that last fifth is easy to fix.

Before you start thinking about another kind of fifth, do the math: 80% + (80% of 20%) = 96% done.

Now you’re down to the 4% that’s excruciating.

That’s where writing happens: the choices you make, and the fervor and grit to slog through that 4%.

No, you never get to 100%. If you can cure another 80% you’ll be at 99.2% which is closer than any of us have a right to expect.


Defining Resistance for Yourself

I recommend The War of Art to every single writer I meet. I have yet to get any response except “life changing!”

I fall squarely between Pressfield’s thinking and process (Resistance is a dragon, slay it) and Seth Godin’s (Resistance is an ally, use it.) I say Resistance is a bully, 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.

This, perhaps, stems from being a very small kid, reading at college level in kindergarten, skipping a grade early on. I ran home a lot in junior high school to avoid getting beaten up. Also I have two brothers, both aggressive, both bigger than me even though one’s younger.

I have far more experience dealing with bullies than with dragons. Or, truth be told, with allies, particularly dangerous ones.

Your own wording of who Resistance is and how to overcome it every single day is more useful than blindly accepting anyone else’s version.

Including mine.


Entropy is Our Natural State

When you plant flowers, you get flowers.

When you plant weeds, you get weeds.

When you plant nothing, you get . . .

weeds.

In the absence of effort, weeds naturally grow.

Have you forgotten that everything is running down or growing weeds?

When you get frustrated that writing doesn’t come easy, that what’s in your mind doesn’t end up on the page, are you remembering that being less comes naturally, being more is very hard work?

Rudeness is easy. Manners take effort.

Fat and disease are easy. Health is hard work.

A friendless life will happen all on its own. Close long-lasting relationships can be the most difficult things we create.

Next time you feel the growing frustration at how your art is so much harder than you want it to be, you’re so much less than you wished, others aren’t doing their part, and everything is against you, remember entropy.

And remember that our purpose is to reverse it, to plant flowers and pull weeds, to create love and art and stamp out loneliness and pointless emotional pain.

As the good G. Matthew Sumner sang, when the world is running down you make the best of what’s still around.

That can be you, “the best.”

Fight entropy. Create art.