One, Two, Three, Four, I declare a Creative War!
That’s what we do whenever we create anything and every blank page, screen, or canvas is our battlefield.
Make no bones about it, you must be a hard-fast Creative Warrior to survive the onslaught that is coming. It doesn’t matter how passionate you are about your subject or medium, or how long you’ve been doing it.
The same battle is confronted by both amateurs and professionals alike.
The enemy may come straight at you, it may wear different faces, or it may be completely hidden, but it is always the same and it will never stop attacking.
Who is this ominous foe?
Its name is Resistance.
In his book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield coined the term Resistance. He identifies Resistance as a universal force with a singular mission: to keep things as they are. Resistance doesn’t like change and creativity IS change. So, Resistance’s only purpose is to fight against all forms of creativity.
To accomplish its goal, Resistance takes on many different forms: fear, anxiety, distraction, and your inner critical voice, to name a few.
According to Pressfield, Resistance is the most insidious adversary affecting every creative’s life. Its sole mission is to do whatever it takes to sabotage his/her aspirations and dreams. Resistance doesn’t care if you are new to the game or if you’ve been a creative for decades, it’s always there and always ready for battle.
Kinda like a Terminator:
A little melodramatic, but it’s the truth. Resistance will not stop until you are dead.
Okay, Dave, this was NOT the uplifting post I was hoping to read on this fine Monday. If it’s always there trying to bring the beat down on me…what can I do about it? Why should I even bother?
Very valid questions and the very same ones I was facing recently. With all the new changes I’ve been working on and planning for Reinventure, Resistance was right there pushing back and trying to maintain the status quo. The scary part? I didn’t even realize it.
That’s one of the weapons in Resistance’s arsenal. It’s cleverer than a pickpocket at a nudist colony. It will figure out a way to stop you and you won’t realize it’s even happening. Distraction is Resistance’s ultimate weapon.
You have something you want to do (write a book, create a painting, make a video, etc.), but suddenly other things gain more importance: cleaning the house, doing laundry, binging on Netflix, or even just eating.
Resistance whispers in your ear all the rationalizations behind the “important” tasks. After all, how can you start that manuscript if your home is in disarray? Or if the laundry has piled up? Maybe just a small snack to give you energy…
Before you know it, your project has been sidelined and now it’s even harder to get started.
Resistance: 1 – You: 0
How can you combat this kind of enemy? Fret not, my friends. You are not going into battle unarmed. There ARE weapons at your disposal to fight this foe.
I See You
The first step in combating Resistance is to shine a light on it and see it for what it is. It’s time to call BS on everything you’re doing and focus on everything you’re NOT doing.
Once you label your actions as Resistance, not only does it begin to lose its power, but it helps you move forward in the right direction. The trance is broken and clarity returns.
Identifying Resistance is just the beginning. Once you call out your actions for what they are, you now need to identify their root cause.
9 times out of 10, the root cause for all of us is Fear…and that’s okay.
No Fearless Warriors
Forget all you think you know. There is no such thing as a Fearless Warrior. Fearlessness does not exist. If there’s no such thing as a Fearless Warrior and society keeps trying to tell us to be one, is it any wonder that we all think there’s something wrong with us when we feel fear?
How often have you held on to shame because you fearful and not fearless? Do you get angry or frustrated with yourself because you’re not like someone else you assume is fearless or somehow better than you?
You’re not alone.
What do Rihanna, Barbra Streisand, and Adele all have in common?
They all suffer with extreme stage fright. Each one is a seasoned performer, yet you can often find them bent over a bucket before almost every performance.
How can this be? They’ve all been successful artists for years. Barbra for decades. Shouldn’t this have gone away a long time ago? Shouldn’t they be over it by now? Shouldn’t they be fearless??
Fear (Resistance) never goes away. The only thing that separates you from Rihanna is that Rihanna identifies her fear for what it is and moves forward in spite of it. She feels the fear and does it anyway.
Steven Pressfield says this is the difference between the Amateur and the Professional. This isn’t a judgment or criticism, mind you. We are ALL amateurs in the beginning, but we can ALL become Professionals.
Amateurs wait on the sidelines waiting to become fearless and end up staying there for eternity. Pros know that fear is always there and show up consistently no matter what. They focus on the work and not the worry.
Rihanna, Barbra, and Adele are no different from you. The fear, self-deprecation, and doubt you feel is universal and plagues every other creative on the planet. The only difference is that they choose power over their fears, rather than allowing their fears to overpower them. They do this by meeting Resistance head on and working through it.
They refuse to let that inner voice shut them down.
That D5 Guy
There will always be critics of your work, but none more formidable than that insidious little voice inside your head. The one that keeps telling you that you’re wrong, you’re not good enough, and that you should just quit.
That inner critic is Resistance again and we all have our own version of it. Its voice can be cruel and vicious. After all, this is war, remember? War against the Self and Resistance knows just what to say to stop us in our tracks. It knows our soft spots.
Like fear, this voice will always be there. It’s up to you if you choose to empower it. The more you listen, the louder it will get.
Imagine being on stage performing a monologue in front of hundreds of people. Everyone is enjoying your performance, except for that guy in seat D5. He begins making nasty comments about you and your worthiness. He knows just what to say to cut you.
You hear his words and it begins to affect your performance. You can feel your cheeks flush and you begin to falter in your delivery. D5 guy sees this and gets louder. The louder he gets, the weaker you feel.
You can stop what you’re doing and run off stage never to return, or you can keep going and in spite of D5.
What if there’s a third alternative? What if you choose to redirect your performance? What if, instead of performing to the room, you finish your performance with fire and passion directly to D5 guy? Can you imagine what would happen if you did this in reality?
I’d bet good money that he would get so uncomfortable that he’d get up and leave the theater.
THAT’S how you deal with your inner critic. Pick up your sword and shield, gird yourself, and march directly into your fear. Plow over this enemy with the strength of your passion and self-worth.
You do this by focusing on your work and not the outcome. Forget perfection (Resistance feeds on perfectionism) and overwhelm your inner critic with sheer volume of work. Go after that guy in D5 and show him just how worthy you are.
The enemy of creativity is Resistance and all Creatives are continuously at war with it. There is no end to this battle. A true Creative Warrior knows this and prepares for every encounter by consistently working and never faltering.
There is no final battle to be won.
Victory is for those who continue the fight and never give up.