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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.

The Uninvited Guest

By Rosanne Bane

Last week, I planned to take a holiday break from my Process (creative play) and Product Time (writing). I committed to show up for 2 days of Process and 2 days of Product Time and that’s what I did. No guilt. No recriminations. No regrets. I knew that expecting myself to show up for Process and Product Time during a holiday break and all the extra work, play and family time that comes with a holiday would have been a set-up for failure.

I also knew that coming back to my writing on Monday would be more challenging. It’s always harder to return to work after time away. I’m out of practice. I’m stiff. I have to remind myself what I’m working on and why it matters. I have to re-motivate myself. Most importantly, I have to remember to just show up.

Monday night around 9:00 pm, I realized I hadn’t done my Product Time writing yet. You might think that my resistance kicked in then, but the truth is, my resistance had been with me all day. Resistance is sneaky; it knows it is most effective when we’re not even aware of it. But Resistance did call its side-kick Rationalization in for back-up at 9:00 pm.

“It’s late. I’m tired. I deserve a break,” Resistance whined inside my head.

“I’ve worked hard today. I spent a lot of time writing proposals today and that’s writing,” Rationalization lied. One of the most important tools in fighting Resistance is clarity; I know with absolute clarity what does and does not count as Product Time writing. Writing proposals does not count.

Resistance was smart enough to promise I would return to my Product Time writing, but just not today. “Tomorrow is soon enough” Resistance crooned.

I was smarter. I knew that if I didn’t show up on Monday, I was opening the door to Resistance, inviting to come in and get comfortable. I knew that doing that would be like inviting a vampire into my house (unlike resistance, vampires cannot go where they aren’t invited, but both resistance and vampires excel in the ability to clomp on, hang on and drain you dry). So I summoned all my energy resources and made the extraordinary effort required to push the button on the remote to turn off the TV, haul myself off the couch and into my office.

Resistance didn’t give up easily, of course. “I don’t know where to start… I don’t know what to do next… I need to do more research… I need to think about it some more…” The internal litany droned on.

So I started where I left off the last time I wrote.

“This will take forever…” Resistance threatened.

I reminded myself I only had to write for 15 minutes.

Resistance suggested “I really should be emailing that agent who said he might be interested… I should research other agents… or check my email, there might be something important in there.”

I reminded myself I only had to write for 15 minutes and I could do all those other things after I finished my 15 minutes.

Resistance pulled out one of its favorite weapons. “What’s the use? I’ll never get this published anyway. No one gets published anymore unless they’re already a celebrity.”

I reminded myself I only had to write for 15 minutes and I would figure out what to do about the state of the publishing industry after I finished my 15 minutes.

About 10 minutes in, Resistance knew it had lost this battle that day. I wrote for over an hour. I was satisfied, and for once, Resistance was not chattering away inside my head.

That was Monday. Resistance returned on Tuesday. And even though I put in my 15 minutes yesterday, I’m pretty sure Resistance will be back again today. And tomorrow, and the day after that, and pretty much every day until I retire.

But every day I show up and put in my time, I get stronger. Resistance doesn’t get noticeably weaker and it certainly never goes away, but every day I put in my 15 minutes, I deny Resistance the opportunity to get stronger. Every day I show up for my writing, I refuse to invite Resistance in, I refuse to say “Come on in, get comfortable and stay awhile.”

I know Resistance won’t go away, at least not for long. But it’s okay. I’m ready for it because I know when I’m committed to doing Product Time and when I’m taking a guilt-free break, I know what does and doesn’t count for Product Time writing, and most importantly, I know I only have to write for 15 minutes.

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2 Comments on “The Uninvited Guest”

  1. Michael Kelberer December 4, 2009 at 9:42 am #

    A very nice piece of writing, Rosanne. Thanks for sharing the details of the battle against resistance. Reminds me a lot of the Alcoholic Will. Same intimate knowledge of me and my weak points, same implacable persistence, and it needs to be fought in the same way, one day at a time.


    • rosannebane December 4, 2009 at 12:13 pm #

      Thanks Michael. Yes, writer’s resistance often engages what I call the Saboteur, the urge to self-destruction. Any addiction is a form of sabotage, and my Saboteur often tells me that I’ll find the answer to all my writing problems in the refrigerator. I’ll learned not to believe it.


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