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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.

Master Resistance with Two Simple Commands Part 2

In the previous post, I promised that you can train your brain to follow two simple commands that will transform your writing no matter how resistant you are. The first was Sit-Stay. The second is:

Pay Attention

To a dog, Pay Attention means “look at me, make eye contact with me” (which is why some people use “Look at me” or just “Look” as the command).

To the dog it means “Give me all your attention and focus. Don’t look at the strange dog in the park, don’t look at the squirrel, don’t even look at the food on the ground, look at me.”

To a writer, Pay Attention means “Give all your attention and focus to your writing. Don’t look at email/Twitter/Facebook/etc., don’t look at the dust on the bookcase or the dirty dishes, don’t even think about the people who depend on you to make their lives secure and comfortable.”

Training Attention

When you train a dog to pay attention, you hold a treat to your face, just above your eyes. When the dog makes eye contact, you give verbal reinforcement (“Good pay attention” or “Good look at me”), then you give her the treat.

Eventually, you stop using the treat to lure the dog’s eyes toward yours, though you still use the hand signal (fingers to eyes) and give the reward.

If you want a dog to confidently look you in the eyes and give you her attention, you need to be the source of good things: praise, approval, affection, good touch, toys, treats and unconditional love.

Seriously, how well do you think a dog can attend to a person who is critical, mean, harsh, angry and never sees any small behavior worthy of praise or reward? Any attention will be the ‘stay out of his way’ variety, not the confident and expectant gaze you want from a dog you’re partnering with.

Likewise, if you want to be able to confidently focus on your writing, your writing needs to be the source and the recipient of good things: self-approval, praise, affection, treats, other rewards, even unconditional love.

Of course, your writing is going to be criticized or rejected by some people if you send it out in the world, but you have to love it. Even though you know you can continue to improve the writing, you must always appreciate what’s good about it in its current state as well as its potential. You need to approve of your own efforts and enjoy the thrill in discovery. If you don’t, why bother?

Easier for a Dog

Pay Attention is a great deal more challenging for the writer than the dog. The dog knows what to pay attention to: the person who gave the command. So the dog can give absolute attention.

But the writer has to discern what to pay attention to. You need a softer focus. Today, Pay Attention might mean attending to book you’re researching or the person you’re interviewing. Tomorrow, the best way to pay attention might be to go for a walk or sit and stare out the window so you can entertain the ideas and images flickering through your mind.

So How Do You Know?

Decide in advance what you’ll focus on during your Product Time, that is, in the time when you Sit-Stay and Pay Attention to your writing. If you can’t decide, number your choices and use dice or a random number generator (Google or Bing can find one for you) to select one activity or idea to attend to.

Don’t worry if you pick the “wrong” focus; you can change it tomorrow. But once you’ve picked today’s focus activity, don’t second guess yourself. So what if you “should have” picked something else to focus on? You’re only committed for 15 minutes.

You can’t tell in the moment whether you’ve made a mistake or taken a step in a brilliant new direction. You might not know for days or weeks that what seemed like a waste of time is really the seed of something spectacular.

Trial and error is essential to creative discovery. All the “missteps” are essential; you can’t take journey without them. If you always knew exactly where you were going and how to get there, it wouldn’t be a journey of creative discovery.

Simple But Not Easy

I promised you two simple commands to transform your writing resistance. I never said they would be easy. But practice brings mastery, so Sit-Stay and Pay Attention!

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7 Comments on “Master Resistance with Two Simple Commands Part 2”

  1. Kimberlyann DeAngelo October 15, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    This is excellent…I am wagging my tail, no more chasing it, on my way to sitting-staying. Thank you. Please visit my website http://www.thesistersandbrothersoflistening.com. There is a link to my first book, and Drink the Liquid Sound of Wisdom. A link to the blog page as well. Welcome your feedback.


    • rosannebane October 16, 2012 at 10:13 am #

      Thanks Kimberlyann. I visited your website and book — very nicely done! You have a wonderfully uplifting mission statement and a powerful message to share. It’s clear that writing is one of the ways you serve. I bet you have a sense of who is giving you the commands to Sit-Stay and Pay Attention! Keep showing up.


      • Kimberlyann DeAngelo November 3, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

        Thank you for such kind and encouraging comments. I do know who is giving the commands. Although I pay attention, I don’t always show up. Sometimes, like a puppy, I run around eager to explore every distraction. This eventually makes me dizzy, extremely fatigued. Then I recognize that voice is still there gently waiting, sitting patiently, and I understand why I LONG to sit. I allow myself permission to stay…to “show up”.


        • Kimberlyann DeAngelo November 3, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

          I love the wit and humour mixed with insight that shines through your posts. Always inspirational.
          Always a joy to receive. Thank you. I know you put a good deal of work into what you do, yet in the end the effort is effortless.


          • rosannebane November 4, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

            Thanks Kimberlyann! I’m tickled that you appreciate my humor!
            Like you, I can get busy chasing distractions and when I finally stop doing that, I too long to sit. And it feels so good when I do.


  2. Myra October 15, 2012 at 7:19 pm #

    There is something I need to talk with you about right away, but I cannot find your email address, would you email me, please?
    Myra Fourwinds


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