Thursday, June 14, 2018

It has a name: Resistance

A friend brought to my attention a book called "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield. In reality, it was more like: a friend reminded me that a book called "The War of Art" existed.

On my bookshelf.

"I own it," I said.

I've read it.

I am it.

He is, too.

And so are you.

The mentioning of the book made ripples in my consciousness. It placed a bookmark in my head, for every time I am to see this friend, the cover of the book materializes in front of my face. When we hang out, it's no longer his face I see, but the cover of said book.

I reach forward to open the cover and flip through the pages, but I realize instantly, I'm pulling at his cheeks and sticking my finger in his mouth.

It would be uncomfortable, but he's got five kids...so he's probably used to it, right?

Here's the thing: I haven't written anything meaningful since March. My friend's mentioning of "The War of Art" isn't a coincidence. It needed to be said. Maybe he felt moved to talk about it, or the stars lined up just right to shelve that book into our conversation. With the Cosmic Dewy Decimal system at work, I picked up the book to reread it.

And tears started flowing from my eyes.

Creative tears.

The blockage of a thousand blank pages instantly passed.

OK, so there were no tears, and I'm still pretty blocked.

The blockage? Pressfield writes about resistance. That is what gets in the way. It doesn't want you to succeed, it doesn't want you to put in the work, it doesn't want you to make strides. It wants you to stay put.

It needs you to stay put. It has a hellish desire for us to do nothing so we don't move forward.

He writes how resistance takes many forms, like a shape-shifting-monster-villain the good guys just cannot seem to best.

This resistance beats at me like the Colorado River, carving out a grand canyon. If you have that same feeling, you need this book. The rut can be anything: the desire to learn something new, the desire to get back in shape, the innate need to create something. Resistance tries to find a way into your being to not only slow you down but to immobilize you completely.

Pressfield describes resistance as invisible and inside of us. It wants power, it's fueled by fear, it is procrastination.

I've been living with resistance for a while now. First it was, "I'll start all the things when the yearbook is finished."

Then, once the yearbook was finished, "I'll start the things tomorrow."

Then tomorrow came and went, and resistance changed from procrastination into anxiety. The thought of sitting down and writing began to make me panic. So instead of doing the one thing I needed to do, I went and did these other things to distract myself.

Last summer, I was notorious for going outside and doing yard work instead of writing. What's wrong with me? Logically, I would so much rather sit down and spew forth tasty or nasty words, but for some bizarre reason, resistance became this uncanny green thumb and this Martha Stewart persistence to yard took over.

"Here, taste my radishes. I have the tastiest radishes."

Here's the thing: I know exactly what beats the feelings of anxiety about writing -- actually sitting down and writing. Doing the thing you need to do takes the power away from resistance. Looking straight into the thing you fear dissipates the feeling of that fear entirely.

It loses its power. And we know this. It's been said. It's been written. Pretty much every life coach you'll ever meet with or any self-help book you pick up will say something to that extent. Way back when, even Homer was putting it into writing about our friend Odysseus.

Just so you know, he finally makes it home at the end. If it wasn't for one of his stupid shipmates and that giant bag wind, it wouldn't have taken him 10 years to get home. Then Homer wouldn't have a story, and I wouldn't have this literary allusion.

Resistance is that stupid shipmate in your life.

It's totally that bag of wind..except for me. I want to write like I'm a bag of wind.

These last few months, I've given the resistance and the anxiety all the power it needs.

I'm working on taking back some of that power right now.

"Oh great Muses, please instill me with the wisdom to impart upon thee the power to expel words upon the page with the gusto of Odysseus's bag of wind."