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Resistance: 0 Stephanie: 1


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

"Begin anywhere." - John Cage


On Thursday I finished a piece of writing and sent it off to my writing coach. Which is a really good feeling. But all week I felt like there was something coming after me. I knew the second I hit “send” on my email that I would officially be free-floating in the in-between space again—between a completed piece of writing and a not-yet-started new piece of writing.


This is the scary place for me. This is place where everything I’ve been working on is in danger of crumbling. I will either continue doing the work, or I will falter like I have so many times in the past.


It’s easier for me to get up and write every morning when I have a piece of writing already in progress. If I don’t know what precise thing I’m going to be working on when I sit down, then there’s a pretty good chance that the next hour or two will be frittered away.


Take Saturday morning, for instance. It was Battle Day—the day I had to start a new piece of writing. I really should have started something new on Friday, but I spent my usual writing time that morning tweaking a blog post I had written the night before. (Which is a genius way to avoid writing by the way—write something else so that you feel like you are still doing the work.)


This was Saturday morning:


Wake up.


Feed the cat.


Meditate.


Make tea.


Sit in writing chair.


Get up, find sweater.


Sit in writing chair.


Get up, open blinds.


Wander into kitchen for seemingly no reason.


Wander into living room. Drink tea.


Look out at the mountains. Marvel at the changing leaves.


Go back to writing chair. Sit.


Open laptop.


Check email.


Check Facebook.


Get up, put more water on stove.


Sit in writing chair.


Close Facebook.


Open blank document.


Wait for hot water.


Get up, refill tea.


Sit in writing chair.


Open notebook.


Flip through looking for ideas.


Stare at nothing.


Etc.


Etc.


Until eventually:


Begin.


In the The War of Art, Steven Pressfield calls this Resistance. He says, “There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.”


This is true.


Just starting might be the hardest part of anything—exercising, making that phone call, replacing chocolate with carrot sticks, starting a new piece of pottery, writing the Great American Novel.


And it seems like my ability to start something is directly proportional to how much is at stake.


So then writing, with all that is at stake—vulnerability, rejection, judgement, my worth as a person on this planet—is hard to get started.


But lately, I’ve been in a good streak. It’s not like other times when I’ve been dedicated and doing the work. In the past I've taken a class, or joined a workshop, and as soon as it ended, so did my writing. Or, something or someone came along and gave me the perfect excuse to stop.


Game over.


This streak is different. I have never consistently written this many days in row before. I’ve written faithfully, day after day, no matter what. I’ve long since passed the number of days all the personal development gurus say are needed to create a new habit. It doesn’t matter if I “feel like” writing. I just do. It doesn’t matter if I’m teeming with inspiration or unmotivated. I sit down anyway. And it doesn’t matter how many other commitments I have on a given day. I make it work somehow.


So it would be easy to think that I’ve got this thing nailed. I know how to show up and do the work.


Game over again.


But Resistance is tricky that way. Just when you think it’s gone, you learn it’s been there all along. It has been hiding, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. And it does so when it knows it has a chance of winning.


That’s what happened on Saturday. Resistance had been coming for me all week. I could feel it. There was a nagging on Tuesday, and on Wednesday. It knew I was vulnerable. It knew that I didn’t have a new piece started and that I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to write about.


So on Saturday, when I sat down, it sat down too. When I got up, it got up. Round and round we went, until finally I knew what was happening. I saw the pattern.


This is the third time in as many months that I’ve started a new piece of writing. And every time, “Day One” looks very similar to Saturday. In the past, this was the point when it was all over, when Resistance won. I could say I had writer's block, or that I just had too much going on right now to start something new.


But Saturday, I wasn't going to give up so easily. I finally got my butt to stay in the chair. And I just started typing. And when I did, Resistance got quiet again.


I know we will dance again.


But I began. So I win.

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