On Creative Resistance & Doing the Work
Creative resistance is really hard. Sometimes doing the work is really really hard. You might be a writer, you might be a painter, or a blogger, or you might sell handmade things on Etsy. Or you might have a dream of owning your own business, or be in college doing final exams to graduate in a subject you adore. But for some reason, even though you know exactly the steps you need to to do the work, you just can’t do them. Everything around you becomes SO much more appealing. Checking your email suddenly becomes the most urgent thing you need to do - wait, there’s a corner in the living room that needs tidying - oh and the dishes need to go away. And you might as well phone bank and sort out your debit card at the same time - and while you’re on the phone, it would be nice if you called your brother to see how he is.
You’re not alone.
Sitting there googling productivity hacks, or trying to work out how you can maximise you time isn’t going to work. It’s still a distraction. That’s not the issue.
Nor is over planning and completely getting stuck in your own head about what you need to do - this is me a million percent.
(But a lot of people want you to believe it is, because they have products, apps, everything to solve that. This is worth remembering.)
Chances are, you already know what works for you. You know how to get into your flow - you know what environment you like to work in, you know whether music does or doesn’t work for you, and you know what kind of work you need to do.
Your productivity skills, time management skills, and your organisational skills aren’t what this is about. They may play a role in it, but ultimately, that’s not what’s going on here.
So what's happening here?
I was talking this over with my fabulous friend last night, and today I woke up to this quote she sent me:
“The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
And it’s all there. That’s it.
Chances are, you’re doing work that really matters and you’re scared of fucking up.
You’re scared of failure, scared that it might not turn out the way you want it to, scared of what will happen if you do do it, scared of what will happen if you don’t do it.
And that fear? It becomes paralysing and completely all-encompassing. So of course you can’t create the work that you need to do from that place.
But you can’t fuck up if you started. We all learn so much from every creative endeavour we have. We’re putting faith into ourselves. We’re betting on ourselves. Even if it doesn’t get finished, we’re reinforcing that we believe in our own vision. And that right there, is really important shit.
The call to do the work isn’t going away anytime soon. And we’d be even more scared if it did.
Why am I talking about this today?
Because I’m finding it seriously hard to get work done. I’m finding it hard to sit and just do the work. Work that I LOVE, I should mention. Writing blog posts, creating online courses, writing e-books, editing show notes for future podcast episodes, writing newsletters, make art. All of it. I absolutely love it, but I’m seriously struggling.
And If you’re struggling too, chances are the work is really important to you. Or there is a chance you might be using that work as a distraction for not doing what you know if really important.
Right now, the only thing that’s stopping both me and you is the voice in our head that’s designed to make up whatever shit it can to stop us doing something outside our comfort zone.
And it always shows up when we take a risk, when we bet on ourselves, and when we sit down to make things reality and concrete.
So let’s both be a bit more gentle with ourselves.
Let’s try and accept this as part of the creative process. Let’s sit with the uncomfortableness and see what this is trying to teach us.
Instead of swearing at ourselves and getting trapped in a cyclone of blame and shame, thank that voice inside your head, but tell it you don’t need it right now.
Ask yourself what your best friend would tell you to do right now.That might be to walk away and take a break, to celebrate what you’ve already achieved or to sit with it a bit longer and trust in the process.
Find something that keeps you inspired. You could look to the people who inspire you, and acknowledge that they didn’t have some super secret. They did the work, pushed through and made it work.
Or read something that goes completely against what you’re trying to achieve, and use that to reinvigorate your enthusiasm for what you’re trying to achieve.
And if this doesn’t work, stop worrying. Know we’re both going to get bored of the inane tasks and organising, and the cleaning we do to get away from doing the work. And that’s when the work will actually happen!
Resistance is completely normal, especially when it comes to creative work, and work that really matters.
Not every day is going to be productive, and that’s okay too. Have compassion for your work, and compassion for yourself, and see where that takes you.
From one creative soul to another - you've got this!
** I have a feeling you’re going to love the interview I did with Amber Thomas for The Couragemakers Podcast where we talked all about creating from the margins, the creative process and creative resistance! She shares some really practical tips and advice that are helping me so much! The podcast launches on 29th February - you can keep updated here!
I’d love to know how you deal with creative resistance - let me know in the comments!