Resistance And The Writer’s Battle Of Self-Doubt

I’d never encountered writer’s block, or Resistance as Steven Pressfield calls it, like this before. I’ve always put Neil Gaiman’s philosophy to practice – that people won’t be able to tell if you wrote when inspired or not, you just need to get the words out.

But I have to admit I am here. Resistance is winning big time. I delete more words than I put down and no matter how I push against this Wall I can’t seem to move it. My creativity is suffocating.

Have you ever been there – where you just could not stomach the march forward that your book required? Have you ever thought your message had zero impact and no one would notice whether you wrote or not?

The comforting part about these questions is that every writer has been there. From Euripides to Chaucer to JK Rowling to you, every single person that aspired to write has encountered this feeling before.

If the above statement is true, how did they get past the Wall of Resistance?

Brick wall
Courtesy David Playford

Last week was the dark battle.

Philosophical questions about my worth surfaced.

These questions were enemies I thought I defeated long ago. Turns out they are always there and I was unequipped to face them this time.

Then a thought occurred to me as I sat down to put words on the page again, something I am sure I read but have forgotten the attribution.

Writing is about writing not about who I am or what I’ve done or not done. It’s about putting another word down. All of it is momentum. And momentum can be slow and grueling. It can take an hour to string four sentences together.

I tricked myself into believing that writing would be inspiring every time I put myself in my chair and when I wasn’t enjoying myself and the progress was deleting the bad and not adding the good, I came away discouraged. When that happens too many times doubts can surface, ugly doubts.

There is a saying in our house. When my young children are crying in the middle of the night or won’t go to bed I repeat it to myself or say aloud to my wife  – parents win every time. No matter how long the crying or the number of questions or mess in the room parents win by persisting, by rising above.

If you are here, at the edge of giving up like me, remember that writing is work.

It’s taking punches as much as giving them.

Sometimes you have to wait for your opponent to tire before striking back.

This blog post is my first attempt at a left hook.

What’s yours?

Planes, Neil Gaiman, and the Inca

I take immense pleasure in listening to author interviews and hearing about what inspires them. Occasionally, I take something significant from one of these creative soirees.

In an interview, Neil Gaiman suggested that Tolkien was able to write The Lord of the Rings because he read about Finnish philology. This might not make any sense at all, but it also might make sense absolutely. His writing was born out of what he loved to read and his reading lead him a lot of places. Of course he would invent languages, he studied them. He loved Nothernness and out of that love came Aragon and Elves and Rohan. He didn’t just read fantasy and rehash another fantasy story (I know I know he basically invented modern fantasy, but there was plenty out there).

Mr. Gaimans’ suggestion to would be authors is to read books about all sorts of things. Take a winding path through your local independent bookstore and visit genres and sections you haven’t before. You might be surprised by what you find.

While on a plane last week I read a book titled 1491 by Charles Mann, which Incahypothesizes what the Americas might have been like before Columbus bumped into them. Suddenly, without intention, all sorts of inspiration came to me.

What would it be like it one of the Inca people saw a plane? This might be a common thought, (traveling back in time to meet cavemen for example) but it might not have been as profound if I was not on an actual jetliner reading that particular book.

I’m not sure where this venture into other books and topics might take me, but it’s inspiring. I hope you don’t inbreed your writing or try to imitate an author you like but chase after what interests you. I am sure that out of this pursuit will come a book that is you. Not some cheap imitation.

Read something new today.