Resistance | How to Overcome Your Creative Blocks
This post is about resistance, the unseen force that causes creative blocks and gets in the way of all meaningful progress in our lives. All the ideas here are based on the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. All credit for good ideas can be directed at Steven Pressfield, while all criticism should be aimed at me and me alone for butchering any ideas which don’t come across well.
The War of Art is a powerful short read (maybe a couple of hours cover to cover - or two episodes of Game of Thrones), so if you’re struggling with resistance I strongly recommend you pick up a copy.
Let’s get started.
Resistance is the force that prevents us from working on what’s important for our fulfillment and happiness. Resistance is what makes us afraid to get started, or what makes us rationalise doing something trivial or even destructive instead of creating what we’re capable of.
When an entrepreneur has a business idea fully thought out and holds off getting started at the last minute because they can’t afford production costs or because they just need to get investment first, this is resistance. When a dieter decides to eat some chocolate or skip out on the run this morning because it’s only this once, this is resistance. When we have work to do but we meet the guys for a beer instead, because we’ve got to have a life, resistance is targeting us and winning.
Resistance only shows up when there’s something important to do
So how do we spot resistance? How do we know this force has taken an interest in us in this moment? For starters resistance only shows up when we have something important to do. This might be when we have an entrepreneurial venture in mind, when we’re trying to improve our health or reduce our waistline, or in any situation where our effort will benefit others on a large scale. And resistance loves anything artistic or creative, particularly when the result is to be shared with the world.
How to Spot Resistance and What To Do About It
Simply put, resistance looks like avoidance. Should be working but instead you’re watching TV? Resistance has won. Skipped a run because it’s cold and raining outside? Resistance. And once you’re aware, you’ll start to recognise the feeling - guilt, shame, angst. That feeling when on some level you know you aren’t doing what needs to be done.
Rationalisation is resistance’s biggest ally. Rationalisation is how resistance convinces us to go along with it, how we’re lead away from our true calling.
“But it’s the weekend, I really should relax today.”
“People who eat healthy all the time have no fun.”
“I should be working, but this person really needs my help right now.”
Often these rationalisations are true, and that’s where they get their power. Just because they’re true doesn’t mean we should avoid the work. As you become aware of resistance in your life you’ll start to notice these rationalisations. You’ll begin to see them as the red flags they really are. Resistance is here, and resistance can not win.
There’s only one thing we can do to overcome resistance - do the work.
Doing the work is what separates the amateur from the Pro. The amateur waits for inspiration or motivation before getting started, the Pro gets to work regardless. The amateur talks about ideas, the Pro executes. The amateur doesn’t set a schedule, the Pro works regular shifts. We need to treat our calling like we’d treat a job. Show up. Do the work even when you don’t want to. No excuses. Show up every day. Do the work every day. Get it done.
Does it matter if what you create isn’t good enough, if it doesn’t meet your own high standards? No. Just get started. You can edit a bad page, but you can’t edit a blank one.
The Pro knows the difference between what’s urgent and what’s important, and does the important things first. The amateur, if aware of the difference, gets caught up in the urgent, which is resistance winning the fight.
Doing the work is the only way to overcome resistance, even if that work isn’t perfect. Some failure is the price for entry. If you want to be in the ring you have to take a few blows in the process.
Win by routine
The best way to make sure you do the work is to create a routine. Have a set time of day on set days of the week where you sit down to do the work. Doesn’t matter what the work looks like at the end. All that matters is that you sit down and get it done. No rationalisations. No excuses. That’s how to beat resistance and how to operate like a Pro. And you better get used to it, because next time something important needs doing, resistance will be back.