2011 Challenge: fighting the Resistance

The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death. – Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

I read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art over the holidays. It was recommended, and loaned to me on her Kindle, by my sister.

Have you ever wondered why so many of us have secret dreams that we never even get started on? A friend of mine once confessed to me that she wanted to be an actor. She’d never taken a drama class and was nearing 30 at the time. She’d been chasing a ‘real job’ for a while but her heart wasn’t in it. I suggested she get into some acting classes or audition for student films to get started. She never followed up and kept pursuing the ‘real job’ market until she was hired into a desk job.

The War of Art is a short book but it delves deeply into the root of procrastination. Pressfield calls the forces that hold us back from creating and working on our true passion projects the Resistance.

I’m intrigued by motivation and its often illusive presence in my life. I’ve had years of working out ingrained into my DNA. There has rarely been a time in my life when I haven’t been in shape enough to run 10 kilometers. Getting to a Crossfit class or out for a run isn’t a big problem for me. Getting small boring life tasks done, or buckling down when I have a two hour baby free window to write, are problems for me.

Pressfield was an unsuccessful writer for a few decades before his novel The Legend of Bagger Vance took off and was eventually turned into a movie. It took him a long time to overcome the Resistance he describes.

I went to film school five years ago for screenwriting. In the year after finishing the program I received a writing fellowship, had a short film produced and had an article published in a magazine (and was paid for it!). Then I got a desk job, got married and had a baby. I left the creative writing shelved because life was busy. I zoned out in front of the television most evenings. When I found a speck of motivation to write and I found a larger speck of motivation to clean.

The quote at the top of this post really spoke to me. It’s normal to be scared when you are pursuing a passion. I once had a short script debut at a local reading series. A group of actors were cast and read my script in front of an audience of 100+ people. I have never in my life felt so nervous and sick about an event. Not even before an international rowing race. In sport you have control over your performance. In art you send your piece out into the world and then watch and wait.

In 2011 I want to conquer the Resistance. It’s already started. I’ve been writing query letters to magazines for a few weeks. I’ve even received some nice rejection emails. As my sister says, if you don’t ask the answer is always no.

In 2011 I want to ingrain writing into my DNA. Just like I check off five or six workouts a week, I now want to check off 15 to 20 hours of focused writing a week.

What do you want to fight the Resistance for in 2011?

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  • I’m supposed to be doing my tax return – but what the hell… wanted to comment.
    (easily distracted – not a good trait)… I am a procrastinator in certain areas of my life – we all are. Where this happens to me is when I feel overwhelmed in a good or bad sense. So example of ‘bad’ – I put off doing my tax return until the deadline Jan 11 instead of doing it when I could have Apr 10 onwards – because I know I have got to dig through all my stuff, receipts, look at time sheets (paper my arch enemy) etc.. overwhelming but necessary. Example of good – I have a brainwave, a business idea, a creative idea and I am very excited but then there is so much I want to do with it, it has so much potential, I want to do it so well and so perfectly, that I feel overwhelmed and put it off. For me it’s that overwhelmed feeling rather than fear if that makes any sense – or is just fear of failure, not doing it well enough? I’m going to check out this book…. looks like a good read

    • Is it done? Interesting tax laws over there that you have till January of the following year.
      My husband is of your ilk. Fantastic and motivated on the creative and projects but the taxes are always delayed. I actually like doing taxes but mine aren’t that complicated.
      If you read it let me know. Want to hear what other mnmlist mums think about it =)

      • I know it is strange, and for procrastinators it’s a nightmare as it gives you permission to put it off, then it’s hanging over your head over Christmas! Every year I say I am going to do it straight away and don’t. However this year I have started next years already in anticipation. It’s okay once you get going on it, it’s juts getting going. I am going to order the book today – it sounds a good read.

  • Brilliant. “In art you send your piece out into the world and then watch and wait.” And Katy’s brilliant bit about the answer to the unasked questions always being “no”.
    This post touched such a nerve. It needs to be Tweeted to the high heavens.
    Good luck with the writing, Rachel. It seems to me that it is as much in your DNA as working out.

  • I know we’re twins, but you do have the uncanny ability to write what I’m thinking.
    Love that you are outing your secret dream. We all need to do that more. I’ve always shied away from the public declaration (much easier to just whisper it to yourself and then if you don’t make it happen no one else will know). But maybe verbalizing/writing them is the first step in beating the resistance so that you can realize them.
    Glad you enjoyed the book. This post made me want to read it again.

    • Thank you – you keep leading me to awesome reads and new ways to look at life.
      As you know, I too have shied away from public declarations and preferred to quietly work my way towards success. Maybe the public declaration is the way to do it. We shall see…

  • Yes yes and yes. Oh yes. I’ve been struggling with this for more years than you’ve been alive and so count me as one of your biggest cheerleaders :)

    Scared shitless? Of course. Trust me, though, it is scarier to suddenly have thirty years less to achieve what you really, secretly, down deep inside want to do.

    Nonetheless, I’m doing it.

    And you will, too.

  • Wow! just made my first purchase on iBooks – seriously impressed – sorry if this sounds like an advert for Apple but boy they know how to keep things simple! Now have The War of Art sitting on my virtual bookshelf – love it…. Can’t wait to get started…going to get kids to bed early tonight and curl up with it.

  • I think I need to read this book! I have serious fear and avoidance around furthering my career specialization, despite the ability and resources to do it, despite my love of this work, despite the fact that it is lucrative. It just scares the bejeezus out of me to pursue this dream, so I’ve been dragging my feet and making very slow progress for years. Literally, years. Wow, typing that out really makes it hit home. I need help! Glad I found your blog and read about this book, thank you.

    • Read the book and let me know what you think. It was a game changer for me.
      Also check out singlemomrichmom.com if you have the chance. She has some great posts about how she spent years underemployed and how she overcame her fear/procrastination. And now she is semi-retired in her 40’s.
      Good luck!

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