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Resistance: The Writer's Greatest Enemy

An interpretation of the book "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield

By Kelley SteadPublished about a year ago 7 min read
Resistance: The Writer's Greatest Enemy
Photo by svklimkin on Unsplash

You know it when you feel it. First you start to feel bored, restless, guilty for no reason. You crawl in your skin. You know there’s something you need to do. But you feel too small, too helpless, too unlovable to do it. Whether you want to write a book or open a business, you feel deep down that you are not worthy of success.

Then it starts to eat at you. Life becomes difficult. You turn to food, drink, drugs- anything to soothe the existential angst you cannot escape.

Eventually, it consumes you. It turns into disease of the mind or the body- or both. With your physical self in disarray, it’s won. There is no more energy to do your work, so you don’t need to worry about doing it.

In his book, “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles”, Steven Pressfield has a name for the enemy who stops you from doing your work.

It’s name is “Resistance”. He names it. Capitalizes it. And pronounces it the ultimate enemy to anyone trying to grow.

The writer feels it when she finds a hundred other tasks to do before her work. The painter encounters it when he causes drama in his life to keep himself from painting. The person who decides he needs to lose 40 pounds battles it every time he puts down the doughnut and heads to the gym.

How do we recognize Resistance when it pops up? What do we do to win the battle?

Resistance is invisible, infallible, and fueled by fear.

Sit down and write the things that would make you most happy if you achieved them.

Not “being a millionaire” or “being kinder.”

Dig deep. What were you put on this earth for? What is your true calling? If you had all the money you could ever spend- what would you want from life?

Resistance comes when you want to do something creative (write, paint, compose), when you want to overcome a bad habit, when you want to gain an education or spiritual advancement. The more work it will take and the more it terrifies you, the more worthwhile it is to do.

You cannot defeat your enemy until you identify it.

The main identifier of Resistance is fear. When you feel the fear (of rejection or failure), you know Resistance has come to battle. When you feel like someone is keeping you from your work, know that it is only Resistance. Name it. See it for what it is. And then overcome it.

Remember that as you push forward, Resistance does not back off. It is most powerful towards the finish line. Right when you are about to push through- that’s when it hits the hardest. The enemy always battles most ferociously when it knows it has almost been defeated.

When you feel you’re not good enough, smart enough, healed enough. When you’re scared of being rejected, being ridiculed, being criticized. When you feel like staying in bed instead of jumping into your work- that’s when you know it’s time to fight.

“Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it with power by our fear of it. Master that fear and we conquer Resistance.” -Steven Pressfield

Show up every day.

To be a professional of anything takes practice and time. If we are to devote ourselves to anything worthwhile, we must realize this fact.

Resistance loves procrastination. It whispers in our ears that today is not a good day to reach our goals. Today we are too tired, too hungry, too overwhelmed. But today is all we have.

Show up every day. No matter what. If it is your goal to get physically stronger, do not let Resistance tell you it’s not possible today. Even if you do 10 push-ups and 20 jumping jacks in your basement. Show up.

If your goal is to become a writer, do not let Resistance tell you the floor must be swept before you do your work. Write 100 words and watch how the floor stays put for you to clean after. Show up.

“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.” -Steven Pressfield

Shut up and do your work.

The true artist is not working for herself. If she is concerned about her ego, her audience, the number of “claps” she will receive- she is not an artist, she is a hack.

A hack creates something that he knows will play well in the eyes of others. He does not take risks, he is not true to himself, he is not honest.

The Professional knows that there are risks to anything worthwhile. He sits down every day, rain or shine, shuts his mouth and puts in work. He knows that by taking on his Soul’s calling he has chosen a life of criticism, loneliness, and overwhelming failure. He chooses these things every day over the danger of losing the battle with Resistance and never fulfilling his life’s goals.

No one needs to know the tireless hours you put in. The long nights in front of your keyboard, the long days sweating in the gym. When you see someone you admire, someone that has achieved something masterful, you see the results. Not the struggle.

Sit down. Do the work. Struggle. Fail. Show up and do it again. And realize that no one cares. And that’s ok.

“Grandiose fantasies are a symptom of Resistance. They’re a sign of an amateur. The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.” -Steven Pressfield

Invoke the Muses.

The Muses are the Greeks’ personification of inspiration. They believed that when a man sat down to create or think, the nine daughters of Zeus whispered to him and gave him the power to make things beyond his comprehension.

It seems silly in modern era. To consider the idea of a higher realm of beings that interfere with the work of humans. But is it so crazy?

When you sit down to work, when you consciously come to battle Resistance, something starts to happen. Ideas blossom for you.

You’ve had it happen. You’ve sat down to write, not knowing the words you’d use or the places you’d take the reader. Sometimes you struggle all afternoon with it, take a walk, and suddenly have ideas rush into your head. You find the worlds flow beautifully onto the paper. You enter that space we all seek to be where time is non-existent and there is nothing in the world more important that the work you’re engaging in.

Call it muse, angel, or just flow state- but if you have created something, you know that it flows through you. It does not come from you. You are a vessel, make no mistake about it.

The Muses don’t come if we do not invoke them. We invoke them by working. They see our sweaty foreheads and take note of our dedication. Only then can we break through and create fully.

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.” -Goethe

As much as we crave comfort zones and safe spaces, struggle is the only way to become fulfilled. You can’t get enormous biceps by sitting on the couch. It just won’t happen. It is the tearing and rebuilding of the muscle that makes it strong. It is constantly overcoming the resistance of gravity that builds it.

Now you know your enemy. You’ve felt it many times and mislabeled it. But now there is no excuse.

Figure out what you want. All of it. What do you have to do to be a fulfilled human being? What do you enjoy more than anything else?

Sit down and do it. Every day.

If today Resistance knocked you down, tomorrow it will come again. Be ready. Tell it "not today". If today you beat Resistance, shut your mouth and did your work- tomorrow it will come again. Be ready. Tell it "not today".

“Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.” -Steven Pressfield

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About the Creator

Kelley Stead

Grew up on a steady diet of Anne McCaffrey and Stephen King.

Spinning tales in the quiet moments between motherhood and building a business.

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Comments (3)

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  • Mariann Carroll12 months ago

    I will be honest, I write better when I am not tired. I write for fun, if I don’t it’s not worth doing.

  • Donna Reneeabout a year ago

    I came back to your page to see if you’ve written anything lately…. I’ve been struggling with motivation lately as well for anything longer than a haiku. Are you writing anything for the time travel challenge? I think you should!

  • WOAabout a year ago

    I felt ambivalent about this article. There was some great stuff but also stuff I disagreed with a lot. However I love concrete tasks and I loved that you put in this exercise, something that a reader can concretely do to start peeling their thumb under resistance. "Sit down and write the things that would make you most happy if you achieved them. Not “being a millionaire” or “being kinder.” Dig deep. What were you put on this earth for? What is your true calling? If you had all the money you could ever spend- what would you want from life?"

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