For Christmas my daughter and I received subscriptions to the National Ballet of Canada, which included a matinee performance of The Nutcracker. As much as I wanted to go, something also made me want to forget the whole thing. Resistance had shown up.
(Yes. With a capital R. You must respect the enemy).
In his book War of Art, Steven Pressfield says “Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard, or smelled. But it can be felt. It’s a repelling force. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.”
It kept me from my work for many years until the moment when it looked like I was out of time to follow my creative passions. Since that time I’ve made it a point to actively resist Resistance.
So when I felt Resistance to attending the ballet, I paid particular attention to what worked to get me past it. I want to repeat success, after all.
Here’s what I learned:
Learn to recognize Resistance
I knew that I wanted to go to that ballet, just like I want to work in my studio. I also know when I decide to write or paint or collage, Resistance comes along. So I’ve been paying closer attention to how it feels.
Accepting that it’s going to show up somewhere and being aware, can prevent it from blindsiding me. If I’m on the lookout for the warning signs then I can say “Oh. There you are. I know what you’re up to.”
What are the warning signs? Well, Resistance is subtle and it doesn’t play fair. Some days it’s just a heavy feeling that makes everything seem hard. Another day it’s too much social media (or other distraction) when I want to be working in my studio. When I’m feeling particularly vulnerable, it will use someone else’s judgment to stop me.
The common thread here is you wanted to honour your gifts and then something is thrown in your way.
I can allow Resistance to stop me or I can do something about it
When I recognize what’s going on, I don’t stop to fight with it head on. Instead, I find a way to do something, no matter how small.
I talked to my daughter about looking forward to our day at the ballet. We checked Google Maps to see where we were headed, talked about what we would wear and going early to enjoy lunch.
Those small actions shifted that heavy feeling. So when Resistance blocks the door to my creative space, I’ve decided to simply start smaller. I write in my journal or sketch in a small notebook I keep in my purse. Or I’ll go for a walk and look for inspiration in nature.
I’ll do whatever it takes to sidestep the sticky black tar Resistance puts in my path. Every small step towards what I want, allows me to outrun Resistance. The good news is that Resistance isn’t very fast. Just stubborn.
I need company on the journey
Having to show up because someone is expecting me also works wonders. When I can’t do it for myself, I can do it for someone else. (I know a lot of you deal with that particular monkey on your back, too.)
I once told an editor I didn’t need more time, I needed more deadlines. I’ve learned to make commitments outside of my own head. Resistance doesn’t stand a chance with me then.
And if Resistance is whispering that you’re being selfish, remember that being brave enough to do what’s important to you means giving someone else permission to do their work. If we all got busy doing what our hearts call us to do, this world would be a healthier, happier place. Nothing selfish in that!
So, call for backup. Find your Tribe.
The right time is NOW.
“First, I need to get this done. When I achieve this I can pay attention to what I really want. ”
Lies. All lies. Resistance uses them over and over. I know because I’ve fallen for them too many times.
A while back, I received a proverbial kick in the pants from the universe.
I noticed something odd going on with my eyes. A visit to the doctor revealed rapidly advancing cataracts. Not exactly conducive to painting, sewing or other activities that require being able to see clearly. In fact, they got so bad, I had to stop driving. I saw everything through a fog that wouldn’t lift.
At that moment, when my ability to see was at risk, I faced the fact I might have run out of time to do the things I’d been putting off. I won’t keep you in suspense. There was a happy ending because surgery took care of everything. I now have 20/20 vision again.)
I won’t keep you in suspense. There was a happy ending because surgery took care of everything. I now have 20/20 vision again. However, the experience was a vivid reminder that one day, there might not be a second chance. If I’m serious about following my dreams, I need to stop waiting and have at it.
When I realised my eyesight was at risk, I got busy painting and sewing and collaging and writing and…
The work wasn’t perfect. After all, I couldn’t really see the details but perfection wasn’t the goal. I built momentum and habits that have kept me going even today when I can see clearly again.
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’m going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.” — Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
Here’s what else I learned. Resistance isn’t just about acts of creativity. It’s part of life in general, like my experience with The Nutcracker.
If you’d like to join a creative tribe of people for company on the journey, check out our Facebook group. We’d love to have you join us! All you have to do is ask.