Back in December I made a commitment to myself: in the new year, I would sit down every day and write. And when January 1 rolled around, I started doing just that.
I initially set a daily goal of 2,000 words, but within a few days realized that wasn’t reasonable. Some days it was very doable, other days it wasn’t. So I reduced my goal to 1,500 words.
And rolled along merrily … until yesterday. It was kind of a lost day. I took my youngest to dance classes, which ate up the entire afternoon. I’d brought my iPad and keyboard but I found needed the comfort of my regular keyboard and laptop to write. When I got home, I wasn’t feeling well, I was tired – and I had a bunch of blog posts to write for one of my writing clients.
I sat down and I was only able to write about 600 words on my novel.
One of the word tracking spreadsheets I’m using makes the day’s word count light up only if I meet my daily goal. Yesterday’s word count definitely wasn’t even close to getting lit up.
But I still felt good, typing in those three digits into my spreadsheet. Why?
Because despite everything, I had sat down at the keyboard and I had done the work.
When Joy Weese Moll announced The War of Art readalong I knew it was a book I needed to reread. And it was a book I needed to reread now, in January, right when I’m determined to set up new habits and implement the systems I need to make real changes to my life.
For years now, I’ve done a lot of talking about how I want things to change. This is the year I’m committing to actually doing the things necessary for the changes I want to happen. It’s no secret: I spent too many years not doing much writing. I had my rationalizations: I had to work, make enough money to get us through day by day, month by month, year by year. I had kids. I had no time. My God, I didn’t even have time to read, much less time to write. And so on.
Rationalization is Resistance’s spin doctor. It’s Resistance’s way of hiding the Big Stick behind its back. Instead of showing us our fear (which might shame us and impel us to do our work), Resistance presents us with a series of plausible, rational justifications for why we shouldn’t do our work.
What’s particularly insidious about the rationalizations that Resistance presents to us is that a lot of them are true. They’re legitimate. …
What Resistance leaves out, of course, is that all this means diddly.
– Steven Pressfield
Reading through Book One of The War of Art, which is all about Resistance: Defining the Enemy, I was a little startled to see how well I know so many of the characteristics of Resistance. I know this is a reread for me, but I can’t remember, for example, nodding my head quite so vehemently when I first read the passages on “Resistance and Trouble” and “Resistance and Self-Dramatization”.
Because the way Resistance shows up in my life has always been two-fold. First is that initial Resistance to sitting down and starting. As Pressfield says:
It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.
What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.
Over and over, I’ve been able to defeat this first part of Resistance, even if it’s only for a short while. I’ve done it several times for NaNoWriMo, but I’ve also done it for months at a time outside of November. It’s never lasted (this year, that will change …) and one of the main reasons it’s never lasted has been because of those two other characteristics of Resistance: Trouble and Self-Dramatization
Last year, for example, right after I finished writing a novella in July, I came face to face with some personal issues. And then after that cleared up, I came down with chronic back pain and unexplained nausea. Once that cleared up (the nausea turned out to be a magnesium deficiency, of all things) I was neck deep in work deadlines as my busy season began.
I participated in NaNoWriMo for three weeks but the work pressure was too much for the final week. And for most of last year both my blog and my reading landscape were like deserted wastelands.
And now that I’m writing daily and am really committed to staying on course all this year? That chronic back pain has cropped back up. I haven’t been feeling well. I’m starting to think about some of those personal issues again. My sister just emailed to tell me she thinks my mom needs someone to help her with her apartment and she can’t do it because she’s too busy with work. Meanwhile, January is looking to be even heavier with deadlines than last November was.
In other words, Resistance is back at work, brewing up more Trouble and Self-Dramatization.
It’s good to see this so clearly. I plan to stay on track, and “knowing your enemy” makes this much easier.
By the way, if you’re interested in The War of Art and Steven Pressfield’s other books, make sure to pop over to Joy’s The War of Art #Giveaway. It’s a wonderful giveaway opportunity, as the winner will receive not just The War of Art, but also his other two books on defeating creative blocks, Do the Work and Turning Pro as well as The Authentic Swing, the story behind his writing of his first big novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance.
Have you read The War of Art? Is there an endeavour or activity in your life, creative or otherwise, that’s been calling to you and to which you’ve been feeling Resistance?