Fisherman's Wharf Hostel, San Francisco January 2010
John Updike is in good company this week. I am currently reading his Pulitzer Prize winner Rabbit is Rich. And when excuses and resistance snuck up on me like the seeker in a game of hide-and-seek a few days ago, two remarkable non-fiction books joined Updike. I pulled William Stafford’s Writing the Australian Crawl and Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art from their six-week-old perch on my bookshelf to commiserate with Updike.
Steven Pressfield is my go-to-guy for defending myself against the creativity killer, resistance. He tells me “The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.” So the more I resist something, the more I should pursue it? Or this pithy phrase, “what you resist, persists.” In my experience, that’s exactly right. It is demanding my attention by the pure emotion of fear that manifests as resistance. Have you ever started a workout routine or diet only to have it beat you before the first week is over? Resistance is your silent, deadly partner too.
Leading up to this blog I wanted to quit writing. I didn’t have anything new to write about. Resistance had its death grip on me – it has such a success rate that it will never quit –and I am not the only one in its crosshairs. Truth be told – the little voice in my head said it couldn’t be done and I believed it. It doesn’t matter what the “it” was – the point is I listened to it and let it beat me. I picked up my pen for a total of two pages all week – my aim is a page a day. I stared at my laptop for hours, telling myself “I’ll write something as soon as I’m caught up on Facebook (whatever that means) and all my emails have been addressed.”
My copy of Stafford’s book had never been opened before this week. He writes directly to the writer’s vocation, more specifically to poets. A poet friend of mine shared a quote from this book that resonated with me so I had to purchase it in order to draw upon it. He speaks to having dreams:
Sometimes I feel a writer should be like this – that you need your bad poems. You shouldn’t inhibit yourself. You need to have your dreams; you need to have your poems. If you begin to keep from dreaming or from trying to write your poems, you could be in trouble. You have to learn to say “Welcome…welcome.” Welcome, dreams. Welcome, poems. And then if somebody says “I don’t like that dream,” you can say “Well, it’s my life. I had to dream it.” And if somebody else says “I don’t like that poem,” you can say “Well, it’s my life. That poem was in the way, so I wrote it.
For me, resistance is exactly like that last part. I think every piece needs to be a masterpiece. This thought paralyzes me and silences the ink. As soon as I embrace the idea that most of my writing is a process to get to the rare gems, the ink flows with a happy noise. What’s “in the way,” gets on paper so I can move on.
All three of these authors worked together this week to get me off the pity potty. Updike’s magical voice in my fiction choice inspires me to write. Stafford encourages me to simply show up and let the ink sound off. And Pressfield is a much-needed kick in the pants to keep going and win my creative battles – well, all my battles. I am learning to embrace the things that are the most difficult, because I know from experience that the pay off will be immeasurable joy; one more point for me and zero for resistance.