|This is my Star Trek avatar created on Trekkietar|
|By IMPAwards, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54488873|
I won’t spoil First Contact for you (but if you haven’t seen it, where have you been?) but those words, resistance is futile, are used to great effect in the climax of the film.
By now you’re probably wondering what this has to do with writing.
Well, this week I’ve had the Borg catch-cry in my head as I’ve pondered a different, but very futile kind of resistance: resistance to writing.
I suffer from this resistance a lot—even though I love writing. Do you? I know I’m not alone.
To create a world and immerse yourself in the lives of your characters is a thing of joy. You get to know these make-believe people, torture them in some diabolically cathartic way, then cheer them on as they overcome the obstacles you throw before them. What’s not to like? Writing can be so much fun, so why do we resist sitting down and filling empty pages with our words.
Resistance is weird. Why will we do almost anything other than write our first draft of a fiction novel? I’ll work on my website, write a blog post, take the dog for a walk. Anything. I have a friend who says her cupboards are never cleaner than when she’s drafting a novel.
I’m convinced resistance is different from writer’s block. While these two problems can be related, in my experience writer’s block is usually caused by a problem within our stories. If our plot isn’t working or if the goals, motivations and conflicts of our characters aren’t sound, we can easily stop writing and feel blocked. Resistance, on the other hand, is often experienced even before we sit down to type.
The resistance I’m talking about is also different from the inability to write that comes from serious life situations. I couldn’t write for six months after my brother died. That wasn’t resistance, it was grief.
Resistance to writing is the psychological force that pushes back against us when we try to create.
In the realm of physics, resistance reduces to the ability of a wire to conduct electricity. The larger the resistance, the less electricity passes. In the same way, resistance to writing holds back the creative flow.
Inertia is another physics term that says a mass will stay still or keep moving in a uniform way unless it’s acted upon by an opposing force. If you have a large SUV broken down in front of your driveway, it will stay there unless you are strong enough to push it out of the way. The good news is that once you get the SUV moving, inertia helps to keep it moving. The harder you push, the more the vehicle gathers momentum. But if you stop pushing, it will stop moving because of gravity and friction. Now if you are trying to push it uphill and you stop pushing...
|Image by Schäferle from Pixabay|
Writing resistance is like that inertia. If we can overcome it, we gain momentum that keeps us moving forward, but if we don’t maintain our force and intention, our stories grind to a halt.
Resistance to writing can lead to futility. It can stop us in our tracks, take us captive and rob us of the satisfaction of creating a body of work we are proud of. It can cripple our self-esteem, assimilate us into the mundane and crucify our joy.
But fighting resistance is not futile. It can be beaten even if, like me, you have a bad case of this malady.
Here are some things that can help:
- Start. It sounds simple but the best way to overcome resistance is to begin. Determine that you will write some part of your novel, however miniscule, each day.
- Make your goal doable. If resistance is a strong force in your writing life, then start with a tiny goal. Forget NaNoWriMo with its 50K words in a month. Begin with 300 words a day. Or say you will spend half an hour a day writing new story.
- Give yourself permission for those 300 words to be the worst writing ever. Because words, even badly composed words, can be edited and built upon.
- Experiment. Try a different approach. I recently discovered the dictation function in the Office 365 version of Word. I am woeful at dictation, but when I use it to get a distracted rabble of words down onto the page, I don’t have a blank page anymore. And the fear goes away.
- Use a pen name. Sarah Painter in her book, Stop Worrying, Start Writing, suggests if fear of failure is holding you back, tell yourself you are going to publish your book under a secret pen name. Whether you use that name or your real name at the time of publication, doesn’t matter. What matters is that you trick your brain into thinking no one important to you need know these words are yours.
- Believe in God? Then pray. After all, one of his titles is Creator!
Nor is resisting resistance. With writing, the power of resistance is itself futile. It can be beaten.
And no alien cyborg is gonna stop us!
Have you wrestled with resistance? What tactics do you use to beat it? Let me know in the comments below.
Susan J Bruce, aka Sue Jeffrey, spent her childhood reading, drawing, and collecting stray animals. Now she’s grown up, she does the same kinds of things. Susan worked for many years as a veterinarian, and now writes stories filled with mystery, suspense, heart and hope. Susan also loves to paint animals. Susan won the ‘Short’ section of the inaugural Stories of Life writing competition and won the 'Unpublished Manuscript' section of the 2018 Caleb prize. Susan is the editor of 'If They Could Talk: Bible Stories Told By the Animals' (Morning Star Publishing) and her stories and poems have appeared in multiple anthologies. Click here to check out Susan’s writing and artwork on her website.