When you sit down to write do you simply begin or, like me, does the washing up turn urgent, the need to check Facebook a priority or the desire for just one more coffee become overwhelming? Then you’re suffering from resistance. The best antidote? To read and act upon The War of Art.
I first heard about the book at Robert McKee’s STORY Seminar in London back in 2014. McKee, himself a procrastinator, had written The War of Art’s foreword and the irony is, after picking up a signed copy on the last day, I didn’t get round to reading it until now.
What a mistake. I would have written so much more during the last two years had I only taken the time to absorb its wisdom and begun vaccinating myself against resistance immediately.
What is resistance?
Resistance (with a capital R) is the invisible yet lethal force determined to make us fail our dreams. The war, of which Steven Pressfield writes, is the daily one anyone who seeks to do something meaningful, such as writing, must fight against resistance for any chance of becoming a bestselling author, winning an award or simply seeing our words in print.
“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.” – Steven Pressfield
Resistance tries to trick us
Resistance takes many guises. Procrastination, distraction, and even life itself, to name but three. It will even use our intellect against us, encouraging us to rationalise ourselves out of writing. Throughout our busy lives, we tell ourselves we can always write tomorrow, next month, in a few years. We don’t say we’ll never get round to it but, if we keep this up, one day it could be too late.
“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.” – Steven Pressfield
How to beat Resistance and get writing
- Start right now: Stop putting off your writing. Don’t believe you will start tomorrow, next month or next year. Commit to starting today and renew your vows every day after that.
- Be vigilant: Look out for the many guises of Resistance. Most common is procrastination. Perfectionism, envy, doubt, and fear are other common manifestations. Watch out, in particular, for it tapping into your intellect. If you find yourself making excuses, or telling yourself, you’ll never be good enough, stop. There’s no excuse for putting off your writing dreams.
- Fight back: Get ahead of Resistance. Anticipate its strikes. Be ready to come back with the response that will get you writing. You are a writer. You are good enough. If you write regularly you will improve, you will finish that book. Beat fear by writing your first draft as if no one will ever read it. As you edit, think of your readers and the difference you could make to their lives when it’s done.
- Embrace fear: Too often we run from fear. But it’s such a positive sign. Fear tells you what you have to do. The more scared you are of writing, the more likely it is that it’s important to you, it’s what you were meant to do, what you must do.
- Do the work: It’s impossible to guarantee results with writing, however, if you want a shot at succeeding, you must turn up and do the work. Be patient. It takes sustained effort to improve your writing in order for you to turn out your best work. Learning is never done though. Always work at your craft. Keep growing.
- Don’t declare victory too soon: Resistance is most powerful the nearer you get to writing ‘the end’. It knows it’s almost beaten and will make one last assault. Be alert.
Some people find The War of Art controversial, probably because Steven Pressfield uses strong language and provokes readers with his views. If you find some of these things uncomfortable, I’d encourage you to keep going regardless. Focus instead on its gems of wisdom. I believe it’s an essential book for anyone who’s serious about writing.
Start winning your battle against Resistance today
Since reading The War of Art, I’ve managed to reduce Resistance not just in my writing but in my life. I’ve created an hour in most days to work on my novel by cutting down wasted time I’ve identified. Also, I’m able, in the main, to start writing as soon as the allotted time arrives. I’ve kept a copy of the book on my desk as a reminder to fight Resistance all the way.
If you’ve not read The War of Art, I highly recommend not just adding it to your reading list but starting it today so you can begin winning your battle against Resistance right now. Don’t leave it a few years like I did. One day, may we all sit down at our desks and find inspiration arrives because we’ve started writing right away. I’m sure we’ll all see more results!
“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.” – W. Somerset Maugham