On Writing: Defeating Resistance

I’ve got a confession. I have more unfinished stories than I do finished. I am also guilty of Book Writing Blues. What’s that you ask?

“I don’t believe anyone ever suspects how completely unsure I am of my work and myself and what tortures of self-doubting the doubt of others has always given me.” ― Tennessee Williams

It’s that voice that creeps into your head like an unwelcome guest while you’re writing that says, “You suck.” That sinking feeling that you just spent the last 5 hours writing rubbish. The untamed nuisance that is your self-esteem feasting on a 4 course meal of “word vomit” unworthy of anything, let alone your precious story.

You know exactly what I’m talking about. Even the best authors get it…

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ― Sylvia Plath

“I seek strength, not to be greater than other, but to fight my greatest enemy, the doubts within myself” ― P.C. Cast

“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” ― William Shakespeare

It really doesn’t even matter when or how it happens. It always does. I have noticed a disturbing trend, though. In my circle of writers, it seems to occur most the closer they edge to the finish line of their creation, especially if they’ve spent years working on it. The attachment to the characters is strong, the bond to the story unbreakable. Failure clouds your mind, offering Resistance a chance to sprout and bloom.

What is Resistance?

According to Steven Pressfield (The War of Art): Here’s the mistake we make when we listen to the voice of self-loathing:

We misperceive a force that is universal and impersonal and instead see it as individual and personal.
That voice in our heads is not us. It is Resistance.
Those thoughts are not our thoughts. They are Resistance.

Resistance is an impartial force of nature, like gravity and the laws of thermodynamics. Resistance is clever. It knows if it personalizes its manifestations, it can deceive us and slip past our defenses. It’s like the software that enables direct-mail marketers to send us letter and e-mails addressed, “Dear Susie.” It’s bullsh*t. Resistance doesn’t know who we are and it doesn’t care.

Resistance—the dream killer. And like the Force in Star Wars, it runs strong through us creative types. It’s not easy to shrug off. It’s powerful. It motivates negativity. It’s like biting into a watermelon that’s not quite ripe yet.

Despite how difficult it can be to power through a self-doubt session, you should—no, you must.

“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” ― Suzy Kassem

If you give in to those voices, the resistance, how will the world ever discover your characters? Your writing deserves to be read. Your worlds need to be brought to life through readers. One of my favorite quotes supports this notion:

“The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.” Ursula K. LeGuin

This is truth. This is why it is so important to give Resistance a run for its money. You have to power through it. You have to write that last page, the last paragraph, the last sentence. You have to get to end.

But How?

I spent the better part of this past week focusing on exactly this: how do you defeat resistance? I asked on all my favorite groups on Facebook, and the responses came in. Most of the responses were surprisingly similar:

  • ignore it
  • re-read stories you wrote you know are good
  • shrug it off and keep writing
  • brainstorm with a friend or group to move on to the next part
  • remind yourself that everyone feels that way and shut it down
  • explore other creative outlets
  • binge on appropriate shows or movies
  • turn on the music and let it put you back in the mood or clear your thoughts
  • brain dump (open a doc and just dump everything in your mind on it)
  • relocate… take it outside or to the coffee shop. New scenes can be inspiring

Personally? I go back through my stories and read old posts. I turn to Netflix and search for visual stimulus in the theme of which I’m writing (Example: The Dragon Prince was an excellent tool in getting me unstuck during the writing of Catching Dragons). I usually come away feeling amazed that I wrote that. I always doubt my writing skills. It’s normal for a good writer to be her own worst critic.

Normal is overrated anyway.

What do you do to beat writer’s block? Do you pursue other creative outlets or do you just walk away and busy yourself in real life events?

Note: I have read The War of Art. I highly recommend it. It totally offers a fresh perspective on any creative person’s doubts.

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