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The “Resistance” Is What Keeps You From Writing

by Jennifer on February 3, 2010

By Jennifer Blanchard

Last week, on the blog, Zen Habits, business-genius, Seth Godin, wrote a guest post on “The Reason You’re Stuck (and the one best way to avoid the six ways that will keep you stuck).”

In the post, Godin defined two terms that are extremely relevant to all writers:

  • Ship—“Ship as in get it out the door,” Godin says in the post. “Ship as in make a difference at work. Ship as in contribute your art and vision and expertise and passion to the project you’re working on.”
  • The Resistance—“The resistance is that little voice in the back of your head, the one that tells you that it will never work, the one that insists you check your email one last time, the one that worries that people will laugh at you,” he says.

    “The resistance loves committees and it hates a mission,” Godin says. “The resistance creates fear and uncertainty, and it will do almost anything to keep you from being noticed. There’s a biological underpinning to the resistance–your amygdala. The amygdala is the pre-historic portion of your brain, located near the brain stem. It’s responsible for fear and anger and revenge and sex and survival. When the amygdala is aroused, when it feels threatened, when there’s a sense that people might actually laugh at you, it takes over. It rises up in rage and fear and shuts you down.

    “And so the resistance kicks in,” he says. “The resistance goes to meetings and plays devil’s advocate (I didn’t know the devil needed an advocate.).

    “The resistance finds excuses, it makes tasks needlessly complex (or oversimplifies so much that you fail),” he says. “The resistance uses phrases like, ‘see, I told you it would never work.’ The resistance demands that you study the issue more, or grab a Diet Coke, or go visit those friends who are in from out of town and you won’t be able to see them unless you go right now. The resistance invented yak shaving. The resistance is also responsible for giving you an even better idea just before you finish this one… in fact, the resistance will do anything it can to prevent you from shipping.”

The resistance is an extremely powerful force at work in your life. It’s the thing that keeps you living a mediocre life in a mediocre place with mediocre people. It’s the fear that holds you back from starting that novel or making a habit of writing daily or submitting a query to an agent.

The resistance is your comfort zone. It’s that place that keeps you playing a small game in life. It’s the thing that keeps you from taking any risks.

But allowing the resistance to take over your life can be a death sentence. At least where creativity and reaching your dreams are concerned.

Godin says the only way to overcome the resistance is to have something–a dream, a goal, a project–you’re so excited about that you literally cannot sleep until you finish it.

“You must find something SO IMPORTANT that it is worth enraging your prehistoric fears, SO IMPORTANT that you can’t sleep until it ships,” Godin says.

That’s the only way.

What does your resistance keep you from finishing? What is your SO IMPORTANT something?

About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is founder of Procrastinating Writers. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Archan Mehta February 4, 2010 at 7:12 am

Jennifer:

Thanks for this post. I appreciate your point of view.

However, writer’s block is a reality. Maybe it is a genuine condition. And the artist is not trying to make up excuses or giving you a sob story. What’s the solution?

For example, there are writers out there who may not want to write every single day. Maybe they have other things lined up and tasks that need to be tackled. Their agenda is different; their priorities are unusual.

A person, for example, with a full-time job may not have the time to write every day. Maybe this person pursues writing as a hobby and can’t afford to leave his/her day job. Maybe this person also writes when and if inspiration strikes. There are disciplined writers and then there are writers who are “stream of consciousness” blokes too. It takes all kinds to move the world and one is not necessarily better or worse than the other. That’s what I feel anyway. It is really a complex issue.

What works well for one person may not work at all for another person. Some writers prefer the step by step, methodological approach, others write better when they let their imagination run wild. There are others who write by inspiration, when the light bulb goes off. For writers, there is a whole continuum of possibilities.

2 Rebecca February 4, 2010 at 11:23 am

Hmmmmm. He makes a few good points but I don’t like the idea that we have to find something so huge and all consuming that we literally can’t wait to work on it everyday. That kind of thinking actually paralyzes me – and a lot of other people I know. I actually wrote a post exactly about this week. You might find it interesting. http://virginnovelist.blogspot.com/2010/01/finding-your-passion-or-am-i-even-on.html

3 jblan February 4, 2010 at 2:37 pm

@Archan Mehta I totally agree with you. Writers DO need to do whatever works for them. As far as writer’s block goes…I don’t believe in it. But that’s me. And a whole other debate. 🙂

@Rebecca You have to do what works for you. So if Godin’s “big-picture” thinking is too much for you, don’t think that way. It’s all about what works for you.

4 Andrew Toynbee April 7, 2010 at 9:06 am

I’ve always been told that if you are passionate enough about something, you will move heaven and Earth to achieve it. I’ve been writing since I was at school (back in the Black and White days) and aside from the odd ‘Black Dog’ days (even Churchill had them!) have wanted nothing more than to be properly published.
In the past six months, I have fallen out with my co-author, been forced to change jobs, and had a serious house fire and yet remained determined to produce, before the end of 2010, my first real novel.
Despite everything, the passion remains. My Muse will not let me rest (and rightly so!), bombarding me night and day and night again until I make notes at the very least.
So;
Get passionate (about your writing!).
Get about your writing.
Get out your writing
GET WRITING!

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