Tuesday, February 14, 2006


“Whatcha waiting, whatcha waiting, whatcha waiting for?”
Gwen Stefani

In my previous post, Habits, I mused about the necessity of getting into a habit of writing if one wanted to get anything accomplished. In that post, I wrote about ruthlessly claiming the best (writing) time of day as your own.

There is another reason a writer needs to cultivate the habit of writing: to overcome Resistance.

Resistance, coined by Steven Pressfield in his book The War of Art (given to me by the goddess of the Regency novel, Elena Greene), is the excuses we make to ourselves in order to avoid writing. Resistance, Pressfield hypothesizes, is fear. Because of Resistance, the artist will do anything to avoid the work at hand.

“What does Resistance feel like?” he writes.

“First, unhappiness. We feel like hell. A low-grade misery pervades everything. We’re bored, we’re restless. We can’t get no satisfaction. There’s guilt but we can’t put our finger on the source. We want to go back to bed; we want to get up and party. We feel unloved and unlovable. We’re disgusted. We hate our lives. We hate ourselves.” The War of Art, p. 31.

Yep, that’s about right. I should also add that I find myself having inexplicable urges to clean out the closet, scrub out the grunge in the garbage disposal, or whip up a complicated dish for my unappreciative family. In my novel, I start fixating on sentence structure or minute word changes (should I use ‘said’ or ‘replied’? Hmmm). I’m not moving forward.

When I get a couple of days like that stringing along, I realize that I’m afraid of something in the upcoming scene. I have to tell myself to chip away or I won’t be able to fix it in the rewrite. That’s when the habit of writing comes in handy. I’m sitting in front of the screen anyway. I could either get to work or blow it off, and if it’s the latter, I’ll know I’m going to have a crappy day so I might as well peck at a few sentences if only to save myself from defrosting the freezer.

A few sentences become a paragraph, then two. Soon I'm chugging into the work.

Some days Resistance has me beat. I used to be really hard on myself when I didn't get any work done, but no more. Guilt only works for mothers and dieters, so I don't play that game anymore. When I allow myself to have a bad day, I find that I'm recharging into the work with even more gusto. The trick is not to give up on the work. Through the work, salvation will come.

P.S. Happy Valentine's Day. If you would like to make your own virutual conversation heart, go here. Saves on cavities.


Blogger thea mcginnis said...

thanks, kathleen. you have no idea how much today's essay means to someone like me - saddled with so many fears - using resistance to hide away. it's kind of sad, though, that a lot of the time, i live my life with the words 'what's the worst that could happen' chanting in my brain in order to push through and write.

9:14 AM  
Blogger Kathleen Bolton said...

Heh, Thea, every morning I have that dialogue with myself. I wish I could say it gets easier, but it doesn't. I just don't want to be lying on my deathbed with the what-if's following me to the grave.

9:44 AM  

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