Definition of Resistance
The “Resistance” is constant but not futile (a tiny joke and a nod to my fellow Star Trek fans out there). Resistance is the inner voice that every creator, writer, inventor or artist out there hears deep inside. That annoying, grating, self-indulgent nay-sayer who keeps you from pursuing your dreams, goals or from even putting one foot forward to start on your journies. The voice trapping you behind false masks!
Resistance is born from our insecurities, busy outside lives and the lack of faith in our skills. The questions it seeds our minds with grow into trees of self-fulfilling prophecies. In other words, its true purpose is to give you excuse after excuse why you cannot or will not write today. We all have hundreds of unique excuses and seemingly valid reasons for not putting pen to paper. Everyone has lives and everyone has their own agendas. Yet if you give in to Resistance, you set up a habit of self-destruction and a pattern of sabotage.
Symptoms of Resistance
- Procrastination — This is a big one for me. I give myself an out by saying, “I just don’t have the energy” or “I’m too tired tonight. One more day and I’ll get to it.” Lies I tell myself. Resistance provides a nice pillow for me or it provides a comfy couch for me to binge-watch my shows on instead of battling to find the right words for my chapter.
- Confusion — You are “stuck” or have a minor case of “writer’s block” because you may have written yourself into a tough scenario and don’t know how to write yourself an escape. Or your outline is vague in this spot or too general and now you find you have to fill in the nasty missing link.
- Loss of creativity — “How can you be expected to write your masterpiece tonight?” Or another accusation from Resistance, “I’m not feeling it. The scene isn’t going anywhere.” We stare at the screen or the blank paper for a few seconds then let Resistance “save us” and we jump ship.
- No motivation/muse — Similar to loss of creativity is lack of motivation or the infamous “muse”. You actually know what you want to write, have the story events in your mind but at the same time doubt nags you or a lack of confidence keeps you from even trying.
Causes of Resistance
- Low energy — One of the common and easiest ways to let Resistance get over your walls and breach your defenses against it. You have to discover the right time for you and when you are at your peak energy output is key to writing quality work. When are you focused?
- Illness — Poor health or unexpected events are going to happen. Yet if you plan with “life” in mind, you will give yourself some back up or make-up time. Myself, I have been using Bi-monthly Goals and Writing Sprints to understand better on what to plan for and if they are possible in my given time table. I have also been working on my health and trying to approach those goals like my writing goals. In essence, good health and energy IS a writing goal.
- Poor planning — By knowing your projects, your actual production limits, and keeping in sight holidays and/or special events in your life, you can keep Reistance at bay often. Also using efficient and beneficial planning for your writing will make it easier to progress. I struggle a lot if I don’t work out my outlines well enough or if I have left a spot too general or vague. I stall without direction. I know this about my writing so I need to adjust accordingly in order to fend off Resistance.
- Internet distractions — The internet is a double-edged sword for all writers. We use it constantly in our wordcraft, research and even inspiration. However, it is super addictive, highly distracting and often a vicious time-killer. There are actual websites online that prevent you from accessing other websites or email during a programmed time. It protects you from YOU!
- Lack of character knowledge — The next two are related to poor design or poor development of story elements. If you have a limited idea of what your character is going to do in a scene, no idea of how they might react under pressure or if you have someone with barely any personality, this will leave you with limited material and limited ways to progress your story. Resistance feeds on lost productivity like this.
- Off course of plot/storyline — Writer’s Block at its finest can be broken down to another version of “don’t know what to write”. The blank page spans for eons in front of you like a white desert, barren and desolate of life. Yes, of course, when a character goes offscript and drags you and the story into a whole other direction, it could be magical and inspiring, but if you find your story has ground to a halt and Resistance is boiling up, you need to re-examine your original story or outline to find your way back. Resistance could be using your detour and “magical moment” as a way to derail your progress!
Answers to Resistance
- Maintain a better life & work balance — Nothing is easy and finding the perfect blend of writing and having a family life is a difficult but necessary tool to stop Resistance and your writing production. A great way to see where your actual time goes each day is to track your activities and how much each action takes. You can also learn when you are the most productive by listing the times you write, for how long, and what your word count was for the session.
- Create a Time Table for your week/writing commitments — A great way to beat Resistance is to make writing routine and habitual. Craft a chart for listing 3 Goal Items: Writing Commitments, Process/Project Tasks, Personal Ojectives. What will be your Writing Commitment this week (example: a 25-minute session for 5 days of the week as a success)? What is a Process or Project Task you are going to spend time on (like marketing, editing, etc)? And other Personal Objective you want to accomplish during the week?
- Set up a writing routine/writing space — Finding routine is essential for habit-making. What works for you as a writer? Does going to local public places like libraries or coffee shops help you get into your writing zone? Do you need a designated place in your house, a specific hour or quiet atmosphere? Would mood music help you produce more or shut out the noise from Resistance? All of these questions are key to learning the writer you are and what will boost your spirit into writing.
- Freewriting sprints — Sprints are timed freewriting sessions in which you silence your inner editor (Resistance’s bastard cousin) and produce as many words as possible. Leting go of any obstacles or any normal objections you have. Many writers also use these sprints to get past the initial “blah” to writing. Once you have made it past five or ten minutes, you’ll most likely push through to your daily objective.
- Delve into your backstories — I touched on this above, but not having any true direction or finding your character is too flat to come to life on paper begs Resistance to block you. My advice is to work on their prior lives. What happened to them before your story? Was there an event which guided their behaviors or personalities? Do they hide from stressors, have character flaws, have unknown strengths or are there secrets in their past you could work out which can add depth and color to your character portrait?
- Research your subject or develope more of your world — This tip is a balancing act. Resistance can hide here and disguise your efforts at world-building or learning historical or scientific facts as a lengthy distraction and keep you away from your true goals of writing. If you are stuck on a specific area or if you need motivation, use this with precision to get through the part. Limit the time donated on this aspect and you should find it a great way to fight back against Resistance.
- Reward yourself — If you find Resistance is still putting a wedge between you and your work, add a reward for accomplishing your writing goal. It doesn’t have to be big (special food, coffee, or maybe video game time) will be enough spark to push through. If you want bigger, use the reward to honor completed sets of sessions. An example could be taking the family out for a dinner at the end of the week of completed writing sessions. This gives you and the family quality time together and rewarding those who are in your life supporting your writing.
- Set your Goals and writing plans realistically — Becoming overwhelmed or finding yourself missing out too much on family events or nights out with friends will invite Resistance into your life guaranteed. It’s a part of that Work/Life balancing act I talked about. If you have too many projects hanging over your head, you’ll lose the thrill to writing. When everything about writing becomes a chore, you will know you have to revisit your goals and what you can accomplish. I recently did some timed sprints myself and learned that I can at the moment produce 400 words of quality writing in 25 minutes. I’m tracking this and hope to continually build this word count up. If I set goals now for myself to write 2000 words a day, I know it will take me almost three hours. I have a full-time day job and a family of five to support and I want to spend time with as well. Three hours a day would be unrealistic and unfair to those who support me — I would quickly become overworked, stressed out and extremely grumpy. I don’t want to live this way nor do I want to put my family through it. I would love to only have writing but it isn’t financially feasible as well. Plotting out the year with this knowledge however and understanding how illness and holidays will interfere, I can better set up realistic goals.
Remember, being an accomplished, seasoned writer or a brand new novelist doesn’t change the fact Resistance will always be there. Resistance has infinite lives and many devious forms. These tips will help and you will probably find even more ways to keep motivated and strong, but give yourself a break. You will not always be able to ward off the demons of Resistance all of your writing career, but once they rear their ugly heads, cut them off cleanly and quickly! Use drive, planning and organization to keep yourself ahead of the game!
Good luck and great writing!