Monday, 28 January 2013

Slay Your Own Resistance

“On the field of the self stands a knight and a dragon. You are the knight. Resistance is the dragon. The battle must be fought anew everyday.” - Steven Pressfield

Image courtesy of mac_filko /

Some days you wake up full of ideas and can't wait to get to the keyboard. Other days, not so much.

Today I was definitely in the 'not so much' category. I already had the majority of this post worked out in a brainstorm, all I needed to do was write it up and give my thoughts a bit of cohesion. Despite that, I still spent most of the morning avoiding writing it and was even contemplating just posting a list of good quotes and promising to do better next week. Then I read the quote above once more and realised I was in the midst of this battle myself and I needed to win. I needed to stop thinking about the act of writing so much and just start.

Resistance can take on many forms, such as fear, time constraints, stress. But what we need to understand is that the resistance is actually a part of ourselves, we have created it. And if we have the power to create it, we also have the power to destroy it.

We need to question ourselves, find out why we are resisting so much and so hard. Are we bored? Stuck on a particular scene? Have we lost interest in the project?

Writer's can be a lot like children; they don't like having to do things they don't enjoy, they are easily distracted, their minds wander and invent great excuses for not doing things. When my son is in the throes of a tantrum and refusing to do something I have found that the best trick/method is a combination of distraction and making something interesting. Make the chore into a game. With that in mind, here are a few techniques I have found useful when I need to slay my own resistance:

  • Work on something else. If the project I am meant to be working on just is not holding my attention, for whatever reason, sometimes working on something else for a while will give me the space I need to then go back to it later, feeling refreshed and ready to get on with it.
  • Word wars. I first came across this idea whilst doing National Novel Writing Month a few years back. The basic idea is that a group of you all agree to start writing for a specified time, and then post how many words you managed at the end. This can be fun and help unblock you because you are racing against the clock and want to beat, or at least not be pitifully far behind, the others taking part. It is a way of holding yourself accountable. You can easily find people to participate by searching #wordwar or #1k1h on twitter. I think they still run on the NaNoWriMo forums as well, even if it isn't November.
  • Timed writing exercises. Acknowledge that you are not in the right frame of mind and go easy on yourself. Say you will write for just 10, 15, or 20 minutes and that will be all. It is a lot harder to resist doing just 10 minutes. Set a timer and just start. Once the time is finished you can walk away and leave it at that or you can keep going. Very often you will find that once the hard part (starting) is over you are more relaxed and ready to write more. This is the method I used today.
  • Interview your character. If you are stuck with a scene or are not sure how your main character should be reacting in the situation you have put her in, interview her and ask what she is feeling/thinking right now. Don't have a rigid list of questions, just let the conversation flow across the page/screen and have fun with it. You may find by the end of it that you have solved the problem and can finally progress. You may not use anything that you have just written but it will help you get inside the mind of your character and that is always a good thing.
  • Write a letter to a friend. This is similar to the point above. If you can't think of where to go next with the story, or something just feels off about it, write down all your thoughts and worries as though you were writing a letter to a friend and asking for their advice. You don't have to actually send it, this is purely for your eyes only. Sometimes just writing the problem out can lead to a solution. 
  • Journal. Clear all the clutter that is rolling around inside of your head and dump it all out on the page of your journal (if you keep one). Sometimes we have so much going on in our lives that we find it hard to concentrate. Getting everything out can make room for the creative part of your brain to kick back into gear and the ideas to flow.
Each of these will get you writing, even if not directly on the thing that you were avoiding. Once you start, the creative juices may start flowing and you will go on to what you had planned. Or these exercises may have been exactly what you needed to unblock a story and get it moving again. If it doesn't get you back on the project, at least you can be proud that you wrote anyway, you conquered that resistance and got work done.

What methods do you have for tricking yourself into writing?

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