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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.

Respect the Wisdom of Resistance So You Can Move Past It

If Aime the Amnesiac could remember that Dr. Claparede had stuck her with a pin (Aime’s story is described in last week’s post), the next time he offered to shake hands, she could say “Not so fast, buddy. Let me see if you’ve got anything in your hand first.” She could check to see if the threat was still there, and if not, move forward.

If you can remember what’s threatening you around your writing, you can check to see if that threat is a real concern now, and if not, move forward.

But since Aimee couldn’t remember why she was resistant, her limbic system chose the path of least threat, that is, refuse to shake hands.

Likewise, when you can’t remember why you’re resistant, your limbic system will choose the path of least threat, that is, refuse to write. Just because you don’t know why you’re resistant, doesn’t mean there isn’t a good reason.

To get past the resistance and back to writing and enjoying it, you must start by respecting wisdom of the resistance. Here’s how.

     1.  Stop disrespecting yourself. Stop thinking things like “This is stupid.” Or “I’m just being lazy and undisciplined.” Or “I must not have what it takes.”

     2.  Trust that the resistance is there for a reason, even if you don’t consciously know what that reason is.

     3.  Consider possible causes. Remember that Aimee said “Perhaps you have a pin or something in your hand.” That wasn’t a conscious memory that she felt any certainty about, but her unconscious memory was doing its best could to communicate.

One way to consider possible causes is to write “Why I Am Resistant” on the top of a page and then, as quickly as you can, write 25 reasons, starting each with the word “Maybe.” Some reasons might be sensible: “Maybe I’ve been rejected by this editor before and that hurts” or “Maybe I got punished for making up stories when I was a kid.” Or “Maybe I’m afraid someone will steal my idea because Susan B. took credit for the drawing I did in high school.” Some reasons might be pretty far-fetched: “Maybe I was abducted by aliens who ridiculed my poetry for being too Earthian.” Just come up with 25 maybes.

Other ways to uncover possible causes of your writing resistance are to journal about it, talk it over with writer friends, or make a mind-map or cluster.

     4.  Highlight the reasons that resonate with you, the ones that your intuition responds to. Take these reasons to Step 5.

     5.  Brainstorm possible solutions and next steps. For example: “So I’ve been rejected by this editor before. I can read the editor’s comments, review the column I’m writing for and really study the magazine, so my next query will be more on target. Getting rejected is part of the business and it won’t kill me or even do me serious harm. I don’t like being rejected, but I’ll like never being published in this magazine even less. So I’ll risk it. I’ll keep trying and when I get rejected, I’ll share that with my writer’s group who’ll commiserate and help me get back on the horse. And when I get accepted, I’ll share that with my writer’s group who’ll celebrate with me. I’ll look for similar magazines and send queries to them, too. Maybe I could send queries out to several magazines for several different projects so that any one rejection will sting less.”

Respecting the wisdom of your writing resistance means accepting that the resistance is there for a reason. It also means knowing that real problems have real solutions. If there is a reason to be resistant, there’s a way around it.  

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