The “Resistance” Is What Keeps You From Writing

By Jennifer Blanchard

Last week, on the blog, Zen Habits, business-genius, Seth Godin, wrote a guest post on “The Reason You’re Stuck (and the one best way to avoid the six ways that will keep you stuck).”

In the post, Godin defined two terms that are extremely relevant to all writers:

  • Ship—“Ship as in get it out the door,” Godin says in the post. “Ship as in make a difference at work. Ship as in contribute your art and vision and expertise and passion to the project you’re working on.”
  • The Resistance—“The resistance is that little voice in the back of your head, the one that tells you that it will never work, the one that insists you check your email one last time, the one that worries that people will laugh at you,” he says.

    “The resistance loves committees and it hates a mission,” Godin says. “The resistance creates fear and uncertainty, and it will do almost anything to keep you from being noticed. There’s a biological underpinning to the resistance–your amygdala. The amygdala is the pre-historic portion of your brain, located near the brain stem. It’s responsible for fear and anger and revenge and sex and survival. When the amygdala is aroused, when it feels threatened, when there’s a sense that people might actually laugh at you, it takes over. It rises up in rage and fear and shuts you down.

    “And so the resistance kicks in,” he says. “The resistance goes to meetings and plays devil’s advocate (I didn’t know the devil needed an advocate.).

    “The resistance finds excuses, it makes tasks needlessly complex (or oversimplifies so much that you fail),” he says. “The resistance uses phrases like, ‘see, I told you it would never work.’ The resistance demands that you study the issue more, or grab a Diet Coke, or go visit those friends who are in from out of town and you won’t be able to see them unless you go right now. The resistance invented yak shaving. The resistance is also responsible for giving you an even better idea just before you finish this one… in fact, the resistance will do anything it can to prevent you from shipping.”

The resistance is an extremely powerful force at work in your life. It’s the thing that keeps you living a mediocre life in a mediocre place with mediocre people. It’s the fear that holds you back from starting that novel or making a habit of writing daily or submitting a query to an agent.

The resistance is your comfort zone. It’s that place that keeps you playing a small game in life. It’s the thing that keeps you from taking any risks.

But allowing the resistance to take over your life can be a death sentence. At least where creativity and reaching your dreams are concerned.

Godin says the only way to overcome the resistance is to have something–a dream, a goal, a project–you’re so excited about that you literally cannot sleep until you finish it.

“You must find something SO IMPORTANT that it is worth enraging your prehistoric fears, SO IMPORTANT that you can’t sleep until it ships,” Godin says.

That’s the only way.

What does your resistance keep you from finishing? What is your SO IMPORTANT something?

About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is founder of Procrastinating Writers. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.

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