(Just outside of Moab, Utah. The sun was setting behind my burning bush.)
I kept second-guessing myself on this one. Self-Talk: “You’re setting a very serious tone, and it’s just the beginning. It could be too serious. You’re going to turn people off—”
Well, whatever. It’s who I am. I’m pretty serious. Not all of these blog entries will be like this. I promise. Some might even have video of cute puppies doing cute things, or me dancing, or some other thing.
Resistance! Specifically the resistance we as writers encounter within ourselves when we set out to create something real, something good.
And I should qualify this first. Not all writers will encounter it. Some writers produce, write, from a different place within. For some, I think, it’s a necessity—a kind of outlet, an internal valve—and if they don’t write the pressure builds up within until something bad happens. The curse of the artist’s soul and all that. This certainly isn’t a phenomena exclusive to literature and writing—all of us can easily think of other artists who’ve struggled with themselves and their inner demons—and this struggle fueled their work. And their work was either a brief ray of sunlight shining through parted clouds, or an expression itself of that inner conflict or turmoil, with roots in the darkness.
A lot of works of classic literature—books that we all know and that have been held up by the establishment as “visionary” or “masterpieces”—were written from this place. Others have been written from a different place, and I’d venture to say a purer place. But if you want to get to that purer place, and maybe even drag something out of it and into this world, you’re going to encounter resistance.
This certainly isn’t my original idea or observation. But I just spent a year in the thick of it, and the subject is fresh on my mind. I really, really like Steven Pressfield’s books on this. For those of you who don’t know him, he’s the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and Gates of Fire—a ridiculously good re-telling of the story of Leonidas and the 300 Spartan warriors of Ancient Greece. That one’s required reading at WestPoint.
So, Pressfield has written a few books that are really about this subject, resistance. The War of Art and Turning Pro are the two I’m thinking of. He says that anytime we try to do something great; anytime we try and really change our lives for the better, or make a move toward those “better angels of our nature,” we encounter resistance. It could be the beginning of a new exercise program, or some new years resolution, resolving to solve some negative habit or addiction, or to CREATE something. And this resistance is internal. The resistance of the ego. The dark shadow of that self-identity that we all have.
And I think that the reason for this is that our egos, our deeper selves, are really scared, no TERRIFIED, of improving. It’s terrified of going to that place inside where real creativity comes from. Our egos resist change because change, even if it’s GOOD, is an unknown. And the ego thinks somehow that it might lose itself, or lose control with that change. Even if you’re stuck, mired in some place in your life, at least it’s FAMILIAR to the ego, at least it thinks it’s in control.
So, let me talk about my particular brand of resistance…
It goes like this. I sit down in front of my computer. I intend to write. I intend to write something good, or as good as I can make it. Oh, wait. I have to pee. Ok, done. Sit down. Oh, shit, a cup of coffee sounds really good right now. Ok, got it (picture it steaming in front of me on the desk). It’s really good stuff. Italian blend. Organic even. Ok, focus. Message notification goes off on iPhone. Mikey just made a funny! Ok, back to it. “Garr-Eth looked up at the walls of the cave, the light from the fire casting shadows, casting movement on the images of the animals. Suddenly animated they—” Maybe I should check the news. There was a debate last night. Someone MIGHT have said something important or inspiring…
So, you get the idea. But this is just momentum of the thinking mind, the voice in the head. This is easy. This is light resistance. Be patient. Let the dust settle. Don’t give in to all of those superficial mental urges that the ego uses to project itself away from the present moment. Let ’em go. Watch them. They soon fade like morning mist in the sun.
The deeper stuff is more intense.
I once bought a boat, from resistance. Not just any boat, but an old, used, albeit FAST boat. The worst kind. If you know anything about boats, you know that they’re a PAIN IN THE ASS, and deep down I knew this one, in particular, was going to be a royal pain, but still I went through with it. I did it to project myself away from the reality that I felt and KNEW—that I should be writing with all of my energy, that I should be letting go of projection and resistance and creating.
Interestingly enough, the boat never left me technically stranded at sea—only temporarily floating (into restricted waters bordering a military base) in the middle of Tampa Bay as a pretty nasty storm was building to the east of us. No, the boat just cost me a whole lot of money. And was like a two month distraction. Here’s a picture:
(St. Petersburg, FL)
And then finally, the self-sabotage.
This is the worst. When you suddenly realize that a part of you WANTS to fail! And I’m not going to be specific about this, because it’s too personal. But deeper than the rest of this, is that sneaking little devil, buried underneath all of the other stuff. And he’s terrified of your success. He’s terrified of being supplanted, of being replaced. He’s negativity incarnate and he hates the light of real happiness.
(The smile is deceptive)
So what’s the key to all of this? Doing what I’ve just done. Getting it out there, on paper if you have to. Making it conscious. Looking it square in the eye and calling it out. When it becomes conscious and explicit, the deeper, better part of you suddenly separates from it. “There it is! The Devil! An addiction! And here I am. And we’re different. Left right, black white, hot cold. I am not THAT.”
And it is weakened. Lessened. The resistance is de-energized. It’s still there, of course, because things like that have momentum, but now you see IT and you see YOURSELF and something else arises. There. Right there. Create. Write. Do what you do. Do it from THIS place.
(It really was fast. And yes, I know. The trim gauge was broken)
Will Burcher is a former police officer and current author of “The GAIAD,” a story of ancient secrets not quite forgotten and the positive power of global perspective. He lives and works in Colorado, USA.
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