Recently I went face-to-face with writer enemy #1. It’s the one thing that keeps us from being successful and fulfilling our greatest potential. It’s not time, distractions, or lack of ideas.
I first learned about resistance in Steven Pressfield’s incredible book, The War of Art. Pressfield writes about the different ways that writers succumb to resistance. If you need something to give you a swift kick in the rear end, read this book.
I’ve had a few hellish weeks, so it didn’t take much to cave in to resistance. I was searching for a new place to live; exhausted from my day job; terrified of failing at life; and it was a gazillion degrees in Portland.
My mind spun with major life changes, and I couldn’t compose a coherent thought. I overslept and didn’t do morning pages. My blog was a ghost town, and don’t bother asking about my novel.
It felt as if every major stressor reached a crescendo and trumpets and trombones blared in my head. When I thought about writing, all I heard was this raging cacophony.
Resistance sniffed out my weakness and zeroed in for the kill.
Dumping the Bad Friend
Have you ever had a truly bad friend? Someone who is a terrible influence on you. Someone who takes everything and gives nothing in return. A bad friend loves bad habits and wants to enable yours. Perhaps they pull you into energy-sucking drama or blame you for the smallest problem. They don’t value your self-worth or theirs.
My resistance was a companion that fed me awful thoughts: that I wasn’t inspired to write; that I should look for a new place to live instead of writing; and that there was nothing wrong with oversleeping and watching too much Netflix.
Resistance did not want to let me tap into my intuition. It didn’t want me to discover what was below the surface.
So what do you do when bad friend resistance careens happily into your life with its wrecking ball? Here are 5 techniques you can use when faced with it:
- Set Boundaries. Bad friend resistance is needy, and it just wants your attention. Set a finite amount of time, say five minutes, listening to those needs. But don’t get caught up in the story. If it says, “I don’t have any ideas” or “I’m not a good writer,” then gently acknowledge those worries, but don’t buy into them. When your five minutes with bad friend resistance is up, do not answer when it calls.
- Call it out on its bullshit. Bad friend resistance will try to sell you all kinds of bullshit. It will tell you that writing is not worth your time, that you’re not doing it right, and that you’re not good enough. It’s a judgmental critic that quickly finds fault in every new possibility. Call it out on its bullshit. Tell resistance that anything you love to do is worth your time, no matter how small the task. And mistakes and failure are welcome, because that’s how we learn and grow and become the best.
- Do something that boosts your confidence. Pick something non-writing related that makes you feel good about yourself. Cook an amazing meal or exercise. For myself, I enjoy free-writing exercises that tease out my ideas and break through those walls. Do something that gets the endorphins moving and reminds you of your strength and creativity.
- Dump the bad friend resistance. If you know what’s good for you, eventually you’ll dump the bad friend. Some people have a dramatic break up, and others drift apart. Either way, if you move in the direction of change, it’s unlikely that bad friend resistance will follow you there. Keep following your positive and ambitious pursuits. You will change, but bad friend resistance will not change with you.
Like all bad friends, resistance won’t stick around as long as you don’t let it. Identify it for what it is. You don’t need its story. Create your own.