I love reading. In fact, I read constantly. But of all the books I’ve read, there’s one that I tend to revisit, year after year.
It’s about a subject that every creator struggles with, the little voice in your head that keeps you from making things. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield gives this voice a name: the Resistance. And yes, it’s capitalized because it’s that important.
The Resistance is why we think we’re not good enough. It is why we procrastinate endlessly. It is why we give up too easily. It is why we binge watch Netflix for hours, rather than create. It is why we do everything, but what we should be doing. It is enemy number 1.
I re-visit The War of Art to remind myself how to overcome the Resistance. It’s the inspiration I need to remember that the struggle is important. Have you encountered it? Surely some of these examples will sound familiar.
Tomorrow almost always means never. You’re not choosing your work, you’re just making yourself feel better in that moment. Thinking that future you will get the work done, so it’s OK to ignore it for now. Saying tomorrow is an excuse. Tomorrow never comes, but tomorrow is where the Resistance thrives.
Ah, the famous first words of most great excuses. If only I didn’t need to run this errand today, I would have gotten to work. If only I didn’t have to cook dinner, I would have put in the time. If only is the Resistance offering feeble excuses that help you rationalize your inability to get to work.
After I finish…
Life is complex. There are always a million and one things to do, but if we try to wait for the perfect time, it will never arrive. You can’t wait. The Resistance likes to tell us this story because it sounds logical, but it’s just a facade. Another excuse to stop you from achieving your goals.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool. Richard Feynman
The Resistance is a challenging opponent. It pulls out all the stops to trick and fool you into never doing work that matters. It is the antithesis of creating, which is why I keep coming back to The War Of Art. The book faces the Resistance head on. It doesn’t cut corners or pull punches. It tells it like it is and shows you what you need to defeat the Resistance.
If you’ve encountered the Resistance there is good and bad news. The good news is that you’ve probably come across something worth doing. In fact, it may be the most important thing you can be doing right now.
Why? Because the Resistance is a lot like a compass. It works hard to stop you from making work that matters. From taking chances and being brave. If it wasn’t important, the Resistance wouldn’t bother. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that you’re going to have to overcome the Resistance. One way or another, you have to defeat it. It’s no easy task, but here are a few steps to get started.
1. Understand it’s real.
Before anything else, you have to acknowledge that the Resistance is actually there. It is actively working against you around the clock and you have to beat it. Just having this realization alone will help you see things in a new way.
You’ll notice when the Resistance is at work, which means you’ll have a better chance of overcoming it when the time comes.
2. Accept it never ends.
The Resistance doesn’t take days off. Every day, every hour, and every minute, it’ll be there, trying to stop you. You have to face it for life. The only way to win is to be consistent and prioritize what truly matters to you. You have to be a professional and clock-in everyday, ready to fight.
The Resistance won’t stop. Will you?
3. Embrace the struggle.
You surely didn’t think it would be easy, did you?
Beating the resistance is no cake walk. It’s going to make you miserable. It’s going to be the last thing you want to do on most days.
But the satisfaction you get from winning the day, day after day, will keep you going. That struggle and the outcome of it are what will make it worth your while. In the end, you’ll be proud of what you accomplished, rather than disappointed in what you didn’t.
4. Win the war, not just the battle.
Just because you win one day, doesn’t mean the fight is over. You have to realize this is a long process. You don’t want to win just the battles, you want to win the war. This means you must practice patience and recognize that progress will be slow and difficult.
You’ll get there, but not over night. You’re playing the part of the tortoise, not the hare. Anything worth doing, takes time, as does beating the Resistance. Accept this and you’ll be able to continue the grind.
At the end of the day, I ask myself only one question. I don’t ask myself, ‘Did I write anything good today?’ I don’t ask myself, ‘Did I write a lot today?’ I only ask myself, ‘Did I overcome the Resistance today?’ Steven Pressfield
Every year, I re-read this book to remind myself of the daily battle I have to face. That all creators have to face. Battling the resistance is not easy, but it is important.
You must embrace the suck, dig in for the long haul, practice patience, and make your art.
If you want to learn more, I highly recommend you read The War Of Art and prepare yourself to overcome the Resistance, one day at a time.