It was like I was on a boat in the middle of the sea. The closer I got to shore, the stronger the waves became and the harder it was to paddle in. At first I fought, paddling harder and feeling angry at the Resistance. But the harder I fought against it, the weaker I became until I finally just sat down in the boat, letting it drift once again away from the shore. The sight of the shore, moving away from it once again, was so disheartening that I nearly threw my paddles into the water, giving up entirely. But then, as if by magic, a copy of The War of Art (that had been sitting on my shelf for almost a year) landed in my lap.
Steven Pressfield's work was introduced to me by a friend of a friend about a year ago. I'd been meaning to sink my teeth into it, but just hadn't found the time. For some reason, this weekend I pulled it off the shelf, and after only a few page, I was glad I'd finally made time for the slender paperback. It changed my perspective completely. It made me want to get up, grab my paddles immediately (which I did, when I reached for my laptop in the middle of reading, something I never do), and get back to shore.
In the book, Pressfield identifies and dissects the concept of Resistance. Resistance is something I've been battling almost every single day since I started writing full-time, but I had no name for it. Resistance, according to Pressfield, is a negative force that's aim is to prevent us from doing our work, from doing what we are really meant to do (for me it's writing, for you it could be anything!). Resistance is everything I've been experiencing but could not define...
- Resistance is procrastination -- the excuses, the rationalizations, the seemingly good reasons not to do what you're meant to do.
- Resistance is self-sabotage, every attempt you make to avoid your own happily-ever-after, the road blocks you place in your own path.
- Resistance is doubt, the constant question of whether or not you're doing what you should, whether or not you're good enough.
- Resistance is all the things that stand between you and doing what you are meant to do, everything distracting you from who you're meant to be.
For the past few weeks, I've been letting Resistance push me back out to sea. I've been letting Resistance win.
I've been finding excuses -- seemingly valid, but excuses none the less. I've been doubting myself, allowing my mind to fill with vague but pointed questions like, "What am I doing?" I've found myself searching for distraction, cuddling up to my fears, and pointing fingers at anyone but myself. And all this time I've been wondering what's wrong with me. Something seemed off, but I just couldn't pinpoint it. I'd once been so excited about my work, so passionate, and suddenly -- as I neared the finish line for my first book -- everything in the world other than writing seemed to interest me.
After reading Pressfield's book, I now know why. He writes, "The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight. At this point, Resistance knows we're about to beat it. It hits the panic button. It marshals one last assault and slams into us with everything it's got." Reading this, I had what Oprah would call an a-ha! moment : I realized that this all made so much sense. The closer I got to my dream realized, the stronger the Resistance became. And the stronger Resistance became, the weaker I got.
Reading this book has been like a gust of wind in the right direction -- a reminder that I can do this, that everyone faces Resistance, that even though I'm going to have to work my ass off to reach that shore, I cannot let Resistance win.
Luckily Pressfield has a ton of good tactics to help me take on Resistance (below are some of my favorites). It's time I push back Resistance, pick up my paddles, and start making some progress.
How to Beat Resistance + Get Back to Shore
Do the work. Now.
No matter what, do something. Don't wait for the perfect time, situation, or moment. There is no perfection when it comes to getting the job done. My mind has been filled with situational requirements for years : I write best alone. I write best in the morning. I write best when inspired. Bullshit. I write best when I sit down and actually write.
Act in the face of fear.
Instead of trying to overcome fear, I have to act in spite of it. As Pressfield says, "There is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist." We are all afraid -- afraid of failure, success, disappointment. While I've been waiting for the fear to be gone, I've been missing out on opportunities to get some real work done. The fear will never go away. It's time to accept it and get to work.
Do not allow excuses.
For weeks, I've been collecting excuses like treasure, hoarding them, showing them off to anyone who asked how my work is going. No more of that. The excuses -- no matter how valid they seem -- have no place in the life of someone trying to battle Resistance. I must let them go (all of them) and let work replace the time wasted.
Endure the adversity.
If I'm honest, I've never been one to stick around for tough times. I'll hightail it out of there before I'll deal with a disaster. But Pressfield reminds me, "it's better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot." I might be getting my ass kicked, but at least I'm doing something. At least I'm trying.
I'm incredibly grateful that The War of Art found it's way into my hands when it did. It was just the kick-in-the-ass I needed, the motivation reminding me that this struggle is not endless, that I can (and will!) learn how to conquer the Resistance. Even if you're not in an artistic field, this book is a must-read for anyone who is struggling with Resistance. Resistance might be a rocky sea, but never forget that old English proverb when you find yourself flailing around in your boat : a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.