Image credit: Jakob Van Santen
Over Christmas I read a book my little sister had been pushing on me for ages. It’s called The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by novelist Steven Pressfield.
The book was somewhat of a revelation. Pressfield confronts what he terms Resistance (yes, with a capital R), the force that keeps us from pursuing our highest and most true ambitions.
Resistance is the thing that keeps us from typing that first (or last) sentence of our book. It keeps us from signing up for that class, submitting that job application, calling that contact in the industry, being the kind of parent/spouse/daughter that we want to be.
Pressfield doesn’t hold back. He treats Resistance as a palpable force, so tangible it can crush us. He spends an entire third of the book deciphering what Resistance does to the artist. He talks about the excuses we make, all in the name of Resistance.
As a writer, I know that Resistance doesn’t go away. Not ever. It comes at me full-force, from the moment I wake in the morning. It tells me to organize the closet instead of write, go jogging instead of write, refresh my email one more time. Resistance tells me to make returns to Target or bake banana bread or even write the first chapter of that other, more alluring book that’s been lingering in my mind. Resistance wants me to do anything, anything other than what I know I should be doing.
It seems almost like a lost cause, doesn’t it, a hopeless battle against an indomitable warrior? Except that all around me I see determined people breaking through Resistance. They are the people who don’t allow excuses to hedge their dreams and ambitions. They make daily, measurable goals tied to tangible rewards, and they follow through on those goals. The most prolific advice given to writers is to write every day, no excuses. Stephen King (not a fan, but I love his book On Writing) famously writes every day of the year, including Christmas and his birthday. It becomes part of the fabric of everyday life, just like eating breakfast and taking a shower.
That same advice can be applied to anyone who has a goal, a far-reaching ambition. Whatever it is, do it today, and every day hereafter. It will not be easy. It will never be easy. You will inevitably find ten roadblocks standing in your way.
But here’s the key, something else Pressfield talks about in his book. Once you begin, once you break through, you will find angels guiding you along. As Mormon women, we know all about angels. We know what inspiration feels like, the kind that pours down straight from heaven, the kind that feels more like dictation from God than anything we could have created at our own hand. As divine spirits, we were born to create. In fact, we are most like our divine parents when we are in the act of creating. It only makes sense that we would receive help.
I love a fresh, shiny new year. It’s the perfect time to face Resistance head-on. It’s the perfect time to challenge ourselves to do that thing we were meant to do.
Start today. Do it every day of 2014, and every day after that.
I promise you will see miracles.