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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Giving Thanks for Resistance?

By Rosanne Bane

I sat at my keyboard lamenting the fact that the easiest blog topic this week – giving thanks – is not really option for me because what is there to be grateful for in resistance? But the more I thought about it, I realized that resistance does serve a purpose. So here it is: the Improbable Post about Five Gifts of Resistance.

1.  Resistance Reveals Your Passion

A student in my Writer’s Resistance class confessed “I thought I must really not want to be a writer since I’m not writing.” I reassured her that her resistance was a sign that she did want to write. If she didn’t want to write, she wouldn’t be in class. And if she didn’t want to write, she wouldn’t feel less resistant, she’d feel indifferent. 

We don’t have resistance to things we’re not interested in. For example, I have no resistance around climbing Mt. Everest. I’m not torn between wanting to climb Everest and not being able to; I just don’t care. I climbed Tablerock Mountain in North Carolina when I was a 16-year-old participant at Outward Bound. I continued rock climbing for a couple of years after that because I worked at a store that sold backpacking, cross-country skiing, kayaking and mountaineering equipment and my mentor and co-workers all climbed. Then I realized I didn’t really like heights and decided not to do it anymore. I have no regrets because I have no interest. No resistance means no passion.  

2.  Resistance Keeps You Interested — and Interesting

We experience resistance when the limbic system (aka emotional brain) recognizes a potential threat. Creative risk will induce resistance, but creative risk is essential to creative reward. If there wasn’t some risk, some challenge, some puzzle to solve, you’d be bored with your writing. (Bored writer = boring writing = bored readers who just disappear.)

You can easily solve a jigsaw puzzle designed for a 5-year-old, but who cares? The degree of difficulty in solving the creative puzzle determines the degree of satisfaction in figuring out how it all fits together. Resistance is an essential part of creative fulfillment.

3.  Resistance Holds Energy

While you’re resisting your writing, it seems that your resistance is a great big energy drain. And in many ways, it is. You’re pouring energy into your writing, but not making progress, because you’re pouring equal energy into to avoiding your writing.

As soon as you learn how to respond to your resistance, there is a tremendous release of energy. This stored energy can propel you to new heights or in new directions and sustain your writing for days, even weeks.

4.  Resistance Makes You Stronger

The only way to get a stronger body is to challenge your body just slightly past your limits, then rest. The muscles that are damaged by exercise grow stronger when they repair themselves.

The only way to get stronger as a writer is to challenge yourself to write just slightly past your limits, then let the writing rest for awhile, maybe get a little feedback (just make sure it’s the right kind of feedback) and then “repair” the writing. What do you feel before and as you write past your limits? Resistance, of course.

5.  Resistance Is Natural

Resistance is normal. Every writer experiences resistance at some time. What matters is not whether you experience resistance (you will); it’s what you do with your resistance. You’re never going to be free of resistance (unless you’re writing the equivalent of a jigsaw puzzle for a kindergartner), so embrace resistance as a natural part of your writing life.

Resistance is like a vulture. Vultures aren’t pretty, but they are an essential player in the ecosystem. They deserve a place in the natural world just like all the other birds. You’ll never want a pet vulture, but when you learn to appreciate their purpose, you can see a kind of strength, grace and beauty in them.

Likewise, you probably won’t up and down for joy the next time you feel writer’s resistance, but you can learn to appreciate its purpose and learn to respond to it with your own strength, grace and beauty.

So here’s a toast to our writer’s resistance! May it continue to show us our passion, challenge and strengthen us, and bring energy and grace to our writing!


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7 Comments on “Giving Thanks for Resistance?”

  1. Stephanie Djock December 1, 2009 at 11:38 am #

    Thanks, Rosanne, for this piece. I remind myself of points #1 and #2 – I’m having resistance because the project is very important to me and it’s a challenge. I also consider the question you asked in the Writer’s Resistance class: “What is your resistance telling you?” In my case, when the writing was plodding along like molasses, I asked myself that. An answer came a bit later: The story needed to be told in a different voice. The energy is now returning to my actual writing. Thanks, resistance!


    • rosannebane December 1, 2009 at 1:16 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your experience and pointing out how helpful it is to approach resistance with an assumption that it may have something to tell you.


  2. barbarat2 November 26, 2009 at 11:36 am #

    Thank you, Rosanne, for an enlightening and inspiring post. Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving, and see you in class next week! — Barbara T.


  3. Michael Kelberer November 25, 2009 at 8:10 am #

    Hey Rosanne,
    Very nice piece. Have you read Stephen Pressfield’s the War of Art? He’s big on identifying and overcoming Resistance.


    • rosannebane December 1, 2009 at 1:20 pm #

      Stephen Pressfield’s War of Art is outstanding! He doesn’t explore the causes of resistance and that limits his perspective a little, but that’s okay because it leaves room for this blog and my upcoming book to add something to the discussion.


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