Letter to a Writer in the Throes of Resistance

July 5, 2011

March 2005

Dear Ali,

Okay, I know you just read The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield and you think it’s the answer to your problems with writing.

For years you’ve been struggling, flogging yourself as a lazy undisciplined procrastinator who doesn’t have what it takes to be a writer.

And here comes Steven Pressfield with this demonic portrait of Resistance, which has all this time been hell-bent on stopping you from writing:

Resistance is like the Alien or the Terminator or the shark in Jaws. It cannot be reasoned with. It understands nothing but power. It is an engine of destruction, programmed from the factory with one object only: to prevent us from doing our work. Resistance is implacable, intractable, indefatigable. Reduce it to a single cell and that cell will continue to attack. This is Resistance’s nature. It’s all it knows.

You want to believe there’s a force outside of you, opposing your every creative impulse, because then you can stop fighting yourself and start fighting this universal enemy. Even if it means buying into a lifetime battle.

You find it reassuring to learn that even a bestselling author and screenwriter is constantly combating this “most toxic force on the planet,” because it means there’s nothing wrong with you.

You’re ready to “turn pro” and redouble your efforts in a life-and-death match against Resistance. Beat your chest and rattle your sabre! Never take your eye off the adversary!

Just don’t be surprised when you get tired. Or discouraged. When Resistance grows stronger the more you fight it.

War is not a happy place to live.

Now.

Remember the article you wrote for your alumni magazine just before you read The War of Art? Remember the fun you had, how easy and playful it felt? And how quickly and effortlessly you finished it?

Where was Resistance then? Smoke break? Taking a bath? Busy harassing Steven Pressfield?

Nope. Resistance had evaporated. You were in flow.

  • You had a clear goal: 500 words on writing and technology.
  • You knew where the article was good and not good.
  • There was a nice balance between the challenge of the piece and your abilities.
  • The task in front of you held your attention.
  • The pleasure of the work made distractions fade away.
  • You knew you could not fail.
  • You lost a sense of time passing, and even of your own self.
  • The writing was all the reward you needed (although getting published and paid didn’t hurt either!).

Didn’t that feel amazing?

Here’s what I believe.

Your creative work is Irresistible.

When you take care of yourself, and design your life to support your art, you couldn’t resist the flow if you tried. You get drenched in inspiration. Words pour out of your fingers like rainwater from a spout. You get up early, stay up late, whatever you need to do in any circumstance, because you love your work like crazy. And it loves you back. Your books WANT to be written.

You can live in flow.

Six years from now, you will be a creativity coach. You will work with wonderful writers and artists who are tempted to believe in the Resistance bogeyman.

And you will be inspired to create a coaching service called Enter the Labyrinth, so those creators don’t have to go to war. So they can be gathered up in the flow instead.

Doesn’t that sound divine?

Much love,
Ali

P.S. Just wait until you see how insanely productive you’ll be in six years! You won’t believe it. And it’ll feel sooooo good.

P.P.S. No Resistance was experienced in the writing of this letter.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Laureen July 6, 2011 at 2:16 am

Alison has made a huge difference in my artistic. Six months ago I had only memories of once being an artist and fears it was gone forever. Working with her over that time has given me renewed hope and productivity. If you are thinking about Irresistible Creativity – Go!

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Gwyn Michael July 8, 2011 at 2:39 pm

I too bought into the beast of “resistance” and still do some days, but you are right on about flow. If we care for ourselves in a way that allows us to keep in touch with our spirit, heart, true self, we can be in FLOW most of the time. Life shows up with obstacles that can fuel resistance, but as long as we know we are in charge it can be easy to be creative every day. There is too much war in the world. May we not engage in war with our own selves.

Beautiful work Alison!

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Miki DeVivo July 9, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Oh I love this! Thank you for naming the Resistance Boogyman. I found that it was a helpful concept to learn about but that just because I had the words to name that feeling didn’t mean I had to have that be the only way I could create. You are so right, it doesn’t have to be that hard. It can just flow. And isn’t that what we’re longing for, one of the primary reasons why we’re drawn to create? Thank you for sharing your flow-filled art and life with us.

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Eleanor O'Rourke March 17, 2012 at 8:46 pm

I clicked on this just in time, having the blues on a grey day in London. What a wonderful post! It makes you sigh and say ‘Thank God for that!’. It really is time to get over this masculine imagery and vocabulary which still prevails in business and in life. Now that business is being forced to become creative (the old ways are no longer working) we are using the same motivational hoopla to force people to become creative.
As anyone who has been to a Tony Robbins seminar will attest, motivational hoopla lasts for a few days (or hours!) after the workshop ends. It isn’t sustainable. It’s mainly adrenaline fuelled and adrenaline is designed to burn for a short burst of energy in a crisis.
Creativity comes from a well deep inside us. It’s there all the time – it doesn’t need whipping up, it just needs us to dismantle some of the rubble we’ve pilled on top of it.
Lovely writing!

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Alison March 17, 2012 at 9:39 pm

Happy accident! I’m always glad to meet another creativity pacifist. In fact, just today I read a post by Cathy at Rock Your Writing that meshes really nicely with what I’ve tried to say here.

“It only works as long as you have the energy and resources to devote to the battle. It’s not a natural system. So if you need a drill instructor to sit down and write, then as soon as the drill instructor goes away, so does the writing.

And as someone who has had terminally low self-esteem for years, I can vouch: an internalization of “you maggot, get out of bed! Sit down at the computer! Write, you lazy asshole!” really does nothing for your writing.”

http://rockyourwriting.com/2012/03/a-steaming-pile-of-should/

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