Last week, I didn’t post a blog. I could say this happened because I traveled to NYC for several meetings and needed to pour all my energy into preparation, but I’d be lying. In truth, the real culprit was not my travel schedule, but Resistance. I was just scared to post something and used the trip as my rationalization. The consequence: since I didn’t post a blog last week, writing a blog this week has been that much harder.
Luckily, I now have a weapon against Resistance: Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, a book recommended by my friend, Becky Ances. An easy-to-read paperback, the book is divided into three parts: 1) Resistance, Defining the Enemy; 2) Combating Resistance, Turning Pro; and 3) Beyond Resistance, Higher Realm. Pressfield begins by saying:
Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.
What We Resist
Pressfield list several activities that most commonly elicit Resistance, including:
- The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art, however marginal or unconventional.
- The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise, for profit or otherwise.
- Any diet or health regimen.
- Any program of spiritual advancement.
- Any activity whose aim is tighter abdominals.
- Any course or program designed to overcome an unwholesome habit or addiction.
There are several more, but Pressfield identifies them all as “any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity. Or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower.”
The Face of Resistance
He then describes the many characteristics of Resistance. To begin with:
Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard, or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential. It’s a repelling force. It’s negative. It’s aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.
He pairs Resistance with its many counterparts, including self-medication and procrastination.
Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize. We don’t tell ourselves, “I’m never going to write my symphony.” Instead we say, “I am going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.”
According to Pressfield, Resistance feeds on fear. This I know first hand (see opening paragraph). But fear of what? After naming numerous, serious fears, Pressfield insists that our biggest fear is the Fear That We Will Succeed, that “we can become the person we sense in our hearts we truly are” and in doing so, that this will “estrange us from all we know,” a terrifying prospect. Quite frankly, it’s all I can do to not retype the entire section word for word. It’s powerful stuff, and I highly recommend you buy the book, artist or not.
Kevin Spacey, Jack Lemmon, and Chewbaca
In my own life, Resistance takes all forms. Here’s one you may recognize. Before heading into the studio this morning, I wasted at least 30 minutes on the Internet. I began innocently enough on Facebook and clicked on a link to Jonathan and Charlotte’s duet on Britain’s Got Talent, convincing myself I needed inspiration before starting to write. At some point, I found myself watching the last scene from the movie Crimson Tide, a film I had not thought about in years, and then realized I’d hit rock bottom as I viewed Kevin Spacey doing a Jack Lemmon impression while auditioning for the role of Chewbaca. The battle against our resistance to do the work we are called to do is real and constant. We must be vigilant.
Help From On High
But as Pressfield states in his book, we are not alone in this battle, the angels are among us, or as he says, “Angels work for God. It’s their job to help us. Wake us up. Bump us along.”
I’m familiar with angels as well. As some of you may know, I’m working with a literary agent in the hopes of publishing a book based on my solo show, I Will Be Good, now named How to Draw a Nekkid Man, due to the success of The Moth podcast. Earlier this year, as I was poised to start the process and write the book proposal, I thought “This is a bad idea. No one will be interested in my story. I have nothing to say. Who would buy this book? I’ve already done the show and that’s all I’ll ever be able to write.” I was convincing myself my story was not worthwhile (read Resistance), even though I basically had an engraved invitation from a prominent literary agent to write a book proposal, which, in today’s publishing world, is a miracle along the lines of the Red Sea parting.
In despair, I wandered into my church for Sunday service, where our rector preached a stirring sermon on the importance of telling our individual stories. As if the sermon content wasn’t enough to get my attention, our final hymn featured the refrain “Publish glad tidings, tidings of peace.” Of all the hymns in the Episcopal hymnal, we sang the one with the command to “publish.” I had no choice but to say a prayer of thanks, steel myself, and head to the studio.
P.S. While I purposefully did not include the links to my Internet distractions lest you get sucked into the vortex, I am going to give you Jonathan and Charlotte’s duet, which is indeed inspiring — no Resistance present!
If you like this blog, please help me build my online audience and share it with your friends on email, Facebook or Twitter using the icons below. Next week: the opportunity to sign up and receive my blogs by email — I hope you’ll register!