Every word I’ve written has taken the slaying of a dragon to get to the page. The dragon is my resistance to writing that rears its ugly head each and every time I try to fool myself that I can write, or that I should write instead of the multitude of other tasks that lie undone. I don’t know what it’s like for other writers, how many face this resistance, but I know there’s a few of us.
I’m always left asking myself, Why do I want to do this if my inner self is always shouting, No? What makes me wake up at an ungodly hour, or shun social events, phone calls; so I can write, push against this resistance? If only I was at the gym, I’d be looking great by now.
So why do I write? I love to read and I love to think. Writing allows me to think deeper and learn how to express myself to the best of my ability. I learn to appreciate the novels I read on a different level and can better articulate my thoughts on the books, what I like and what I don’t like.
Time is one element of resistance. There is never enough time to do all the things I need to do or want to do, choices must be made. But the insidious part of resistance is an inner belief that I can’t possibly do this. Who am I to think that I could be a writer, a word magician? Look at my writing: No good!
Of course, it takes a lot of hard work to be good, at least for some of us. How many years just learning craft and then applying it to your clunky story and still finding out novice mistakes you’re making in character and conflict. Some days this whole process feels like an elongated self-torture exercise in how not to feel good about yourself.
I fight all that every time I sit down to the page. Add in the computer, and I have a new level of resistance. I work on a computer all day so I like to be away from them in my own time, as much as possible. I spend a lot of time writing in my notebook with my favourite fountain pen, but who can deny the efficiency of the typewritten word. How much faster my fingers can fly. And everything so ready for editing.
How do I fight this resistance, slay this dragon? Mental mind games are best. As I tell my kids, anything you want to do well takes practice. Best way to practice and fight the dragon: Write every day! Easier said than done for many of us. For me, this means getting up early in the morning when I won’t feel like there’s anything else I “should” be doing. And no one is expecting to hear from me. Of course, I must battle an immense amount of inertia to get out of the bed but after a while, our bodies adjust and expect to get up at that time.
Our bodies become habituated to routine, going there even before our consciousness knows what we’re choosing. I walk my dogs at the same times every day. Some days, the weather is not so good, but once I start putting on my boots or shoes, there’s no stopping me; my body knows what’s coming next. I’ve been learning piano and can see the direct effects of body training. Sometimes when my mind is lost in the music, my hands just continue on—they know where they’re going.
I fought every moment of writing this blog. I can’t do this? What am I going to write about? Maybe I should just give up blogging? Ya, it’s not for me. And in no time I had an idea for a blog. I spent more time thinking about my resistance and what it means to me, helping me in my battle against this mighty dragon.
A recent trick I just learned in a course I was taking was to tell myself, I’ll just work on this for twenty minutes. Twenty minutes? That can’t be so bad. And then you find, once you’re in, twenty minutes flies by.
My next level of resistance comes when I read my writing out loud. I can hear every misstep, every clunker. Out comes the inner critic again, See, I told you you weren’t any good. But the magic of writing is that you can fix it, you can edit out anything that doesn’t sound right to your ear. I really do feel like I’m battling a reptilian brain who does not know what writing is all about. (Editing!)
I just entered a short story contest with a word count of only 1500 words. It may not be the best story ever, but I got to go over those 1500 words several times until, at least in the reading, there were no clunkers left! (As I was just reading in Writer’s Digest, your own instincts about your writing are best. If something causes you to hesitate, then fix it.}
Ultimately, what keeps me here is a joy I find once I jump in and just start writing. I trick myself until I can get to the page, grease the wheels and get this baby moving. What is the antidote to inertia, or resistance? Action. Do whatever you need to trick yourself to get to the page every day and the rest should take care of itself. Happy writing everyone.