Writing · Writing Guide

The Resistance

Sadly, I am not referring to the small military force led by General Leia Organa, today.  Instead, I’m talking about a concept outlined by Steven Pressfield in his book “The War of Art.”  

The Resistance is just about any activity, thought process or life event that pulls you away from your art or your “Calling”and stops you from creating it.  

It can be small things, like reading Facebook or deciding to clean our your fridge instead of sitting down and writing that short story.  It can be big things, like taking on a project that does not relate to what you actually want to do.  The Resistance distracts us from the things we want to achieve.  It gives us excuses not to do the things we love and pursue the dreams we want.

The Resistance can also look like a self-created drama.  I tend to know a lot of people who want to be writers, by they have dozens of excuses for why they have not started that blog/written that short story/outlined that novel.  They will hem and haw about how they have no time or how they have no money.  They will go into dramatics about how too many things are just terrible in life and they have no inspiration.

J.K. Rowling was a single mother living on state assistance when she started her famed Harry Potter series.  Stephen King was a High School teacher who wrote in the evenings and on weekends (and subsequently got so many rejections letters for his novel “Carrie” that he started to collect them) before people started to buy his work.

Many people have ideas for stories, but it’s only the people who do not give into the Resistance, who soldier on, that actually finish their work.  Writing and other creative endeavors are often solitary practices, but just like any other worthwhile endeavor, you must show up and do the work.

If you often find yourself avoiding your desk or avoiding chances you have to write, I would recommend Pressfield’s books on the matter.  His no-nonsense approach is a great way to get you to examine what your Resistance is and how you can stop giving in to it.

The War of Art is the best place to start, but my personal favorite is the next book in his series about creating, Turning Pro.

 

Writing

Going beyond Writer’s Block

8550914112_72b040a3ac_qI’ve been thinking a lot about Writer’s Block lately.  It used to be a concept that I wholeheartedly subscribed to.  My novel never got finished because I was “blocked” among other excuses.  That’s the lie of Writer’s block, it tells you can’t complete your project and gives you an easy excuse to wiggle your way out of getting that writing done.

Sure, there are still times I sit and stare at a blank screen, but usually I either don’t do for long, or switch projects.  Here are some ways to help you get past those moments when you are feeling blocked.  Some methods are those I learned from others and some are just tricks I’ve found along my way as a writer.

The muse is fickle.  You shouldn’t be.

If you want to be a professional writer or even if you just want to complete some of your writing projects to have that glorious feeling of finished, you have to stop waiting for the muse.  I’ve written short stories where she shows up and does her job, but I’ve also written them when she hasn’t.  Guess what?  Both were situations yielded decent stories that still needed a little bit of revision before they were polished and ready to go.

The other thing I’ve found, is if you show up and do your work regularly, the muse may do the same.  If you show up occasionally, and you are unreliable, the muse gets unreliable too.  It’s only within the last two years that I’ve treated writing like a job.  I show up.  I do my work.  If she shows up too?  Awesome.  If she doesn’t?  I’m still going to get that writing done so that I can be one step closer to my goals.

Also most writers who do this professionally?  They don’t wait for the muse.  They have deadlines and mortgages.  Even if writing is something you are doing on the side, remember that.  It does take away some of the romanticism that surrounds writing, but trust me, you’ll still find your magical moments.

If you are stuck, switch projects.  

I’ve heard a lot of the comic writers I follow talking about this.  That sometimes when it just isn’t working, they put what they were writing away and work on something else.  I do this a lot.  If you’ve read my post on time management you can see my post-it notes have my tasks for the day.  I keep them in front of me partially so that if I need to switch it up, I know what other things I need to work on for that day.

I also tend to have a list of my writing projects on my wall in front of me, that way if I need something else to work on, I know what I have in progress.

Go for walk.  Run to the grocery store.  Get out of the house/office.

For me, this tends to mean a grocery run.  I either turn music or listen to a podcast while I shop and I put my story in the back of my mind.  My brain is still kind of working on it, but I’m doing other things while it does.  Sometimes an idea strikes me as I shop, other times it doesn’t.  Sometimes I get back to my desk in a different state of mind, more refreshed, less frustrated.  That can be enough to give me the renewed energy I need to keep going.

The most important thing to remember, is this:  Look for ways to keep going, not excuses to stop.  

Some of these suggestions could be abused.  Maybe you just switching projects so you never actually complete any of them.  Maybe you constantly leave your office/house in search of inspiration and never really get that writing done.  It’s all a choice you make.  If you want to get past the lie of Writer’s block, you choose to keep writing, keep working, and keep finishing that work.  If writing is just a fun way to explore the world for you, maybe it’s okay if that work never gets finished.  Either way, keep your goals in mind and I hope that some of these suggestions help you the next time you need to push past a block.
photo credit: Dead End Yield Sign via photopin (license)