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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.

Brainy Writers Seek Uncertainty to Solve Resistance


creative options canstockphoto15229827Don’t know where you’re going? Excellent!

Not sure how you’ll get there? Outstanding!

On your way anyway? Kudos!

Know everything? My condolences.

Resistance is caused by fear. And fear of the unknown is the biggest fear of all. But it’s not not knowing that causes problems, it’s the fear of not knowing.

At the heart of all resistance – block, paralysis, procrastination, postponing, perfectionism, waiting for inspiration, following distractions, criticizing yourself and others, sabotaging yourself, etc. – lies the inclination to fight yourself (or despair) because you’re imperfect.

Resistance arises from the assumption that you should be someone other than who you are and your process should be something other than what it is.

The opposite of (and solution to) resistance is surrender. Accept that you are who you are. Celebrate that your process is what it is. That doesn’t mean you and your process will never change, but you can never change what you do not accept. And you may discover that what you think is a weakness is also your strength.

The creative process is a cycle of not knowing to discovering to sharing what you discover and back to not knowing something else.

big ideaBeing uncertain can be uncomfortable, but it is essential. Uncertainty is the necessary first step to discovery. You can’t discover what you already know (or think you know).

Asking good questions is the first step in the creative process. Discovery doesn’t show up until step four.

Knowing a lot may stroke your ego, but it’s the boring part of the creative process (which is why know-it-alls are such bores).

Complete expertise, aka knowing everything, isn’t any part of the creative process at all. When you know exactly what you’re going to write and how to write it, writing becomes routine, rote, uninspired – aka no longer creative.

Embrace uncertainty as your only route to creative discovery. Of course you don’t want to stay in uncertainty forever, just as you don’t want to stay in certainty forever (because you’re a creative person, you’d get bored).

But there is no need to fight with your uncertainty. As you relax into uncertainty, you become more comfortable with not knowing. When you stop fighting, when you stop thinking you’re supposed to know what you haven’t yet discovered, your resistance melts.

What uncertainty fuels (or could fuel) your writing?

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7 Comments on “Brainy Writers Seek Uncertainty to Solve Resistance”

  1. Joel D Canfield March 9, 2015 at 10:44 am #

    Dan Pink, in Drive,, talked about “Goldilocks tasks” — not to hard, not too easy, just right for flow.

    I hate doing work that doesn’t teach me. One of the many reasons I’ve been self-employed for ages.

    Writing teaches me what I think and feel and believe. Not the research, the actual writing. it has been a bizarre experience.

    I like the idea of always thinking, “What’s next?”

    Like

  2. John Rawlings March 5, 2015 at 9:39 pm #

    Speaking of intelligent questions: In Jim Harrison’s interview on the Authors Road website at 12:31, he says, “Most of my writing time is thinking. What’s next?” I think that might be the most intelligent question a writer may ask.

    Waiting for the answer though, may be the most difficult task for a writer, though it has obviously been beneficial for Mr. Harrison.

    http://www.authorsroad.com/JimHarrison.html

    Like

    • rosannebane March 6, 2015 at 8:47 am #

      Thanks John. I’m looking forward to reading the entire interview.

      Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] you’re living in the delusion that you’re supposed to always know. It’s less painful when you embrace uncertainty as a necessary part of the creative journey and a creative […]

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  2. Why It Doesn’t Matter If Your Writing Is Any Good | Bane of Your Resistance - June 30, 2017

    […] and “make progress” means you’ll stay stuck in crap and uncertainty. Surrender to the certainty that creativity is never certain and never […]

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  3. How Hemingway Made ‘Attention Residue’ Work for Writing | Bane of Your Resistance - October 13, 2016

    […] suspect the willingness to be uncertain (which is essential to creativity) correlates with lower need for cognitive closure. Not all of us are wired with low need for […]

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