Resistance is Not Futile

After reading several recommendations - some here, the most recent one from a Robert McKee interview I read online - I just bought, and read, Steven Pressfield’s The Art of War, which is supposed to be all about overcoming the “block” to writing. I’ll say off the bat that I’m glad of Robert McKee’s preface, which forewarns the read about what is coming in Part Three of the book - a treatise on how creativity is a gift from God and the angels etc - so that I was prepared and ready to skim it (I did, but let’s not get into that given the debate going on elsewhere in the forums :slight_smile: ). But I have to say that I found Parts One and Two really - well, inspiring, for want of a better word. The crux of the book comes in just giving the enemy a name - “Resistance”. You want to write, but the Resistance inside you stops you from doing it. You feel guilty and crap every day you put it off, but still you do… And so on. Really, the message of the book is just, “Sit down, every day, and be there ready to write something. Even if it’s crap, even if you can’t think of a thing, just sit down at your computer doing that one thing.” But the way he puts it - it’s a convincing argument. So, after months more of procrastinating, I finally sat down again today and wrote 1,000 words. And tomorrow I am ready to fight Resistance again. I definitely recommend it (but heed McKee’s warning about Part Three if you’re not so big with the angels).

All the best,

Good for you, Keith. I love the Art of War. I’ve had it for a couple of years, and I keep it on my bedside table. I’ve even corresponded with Steven Pressfield, who is extremely accessible, sent me some lovely private responses, and put me on his email list.

That said, ASK me when the last time I opened the book was. :blush: :laughing: It sits there in perfect view every day of my life, challenging me when I collapse and stare at the ceiling on yet another unproductive afternoon, when the lead weight of RESISTANCE chortles wickedly at me from my very marrow. Knowing is not necessarily ultimately triumphing, unfortunately, when it comes to insidious enemies of the spirit.

I did manage to do my 1000 words a day till I got this bloody thing finished and done with, but to be honest I owe that more to Scrivener than Pressfield.

Still, it IS a good book. And I am solidly on board with the angels, so you’d think if it would “take” properly with anyone, it would be moi. Sigh. :neutral_face:

War of Art is a great book. If it didn’t help you to actually start writing, it would anyway remains a fantastic manual of style.

My only problem with the book is how Resistance is considered Evil. Resistance (or Resistenza) is the name of the partisans fighting fascism in Italy. If I accept Pressfield’s strategy, I should become a bit too much militaristic for my tastes.

So, when reading his book I’ve always tried to transliterate names and objectives, and call Resistance with a different name: The Kols. Readers of El Eternauta will understand me.


Maybe resistance is not to be battled, suppose it is to be waited out? Actually part of a process of writing. Eventually a need to write is built up, either making you or because you are ready to get on with it.

Either way, writing is uncomfortable and the default position is not getting on with it. (Having said that, it’s much better than going to work.) I really want to avoid the tags ‘creativity’, magic, God, blocks and self-expression when thinking about writing. It’s about getting on with it and when you’re ready (and how you make yourself ready) to do it.

If you want a book that addresses resistance using a softer metaphor, then check out The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. … 790&sr=1-1


No! Don’t tell me that - it’ll be another year before I do anything.

Maybe if you think of “resistance” as the folks who wrote the ending to BSG…

I think I hear resistance being slaughtered.

VERY well put J. Ain’t that the truth?
And yet, we can launch into bursts of it, s-l-a-v-i-n-g over a hot keyboard, inwardly soooo happy to be just ‘doing it’. (She’s a strange thing, joy.)

The resistance — and yes, I second, or third, (or whatever) the recommendation of Pressfield’s sublime book — can take many, many shapes and disguises, just as he describes, but I find your “uncomfortable” also expresses it v nicely.

David (Getting Things Done) Allan said your procrastination (ahem, one’s procrastination) is often directly proportional to how close the task is to your life’s purpose — or something like that. I agree. Sad but true.

Discipline. It’s not a four letter word, but it may as well be.

Now back to work! — best wishes, Peter

As a teacher, I’ve often had to deal with students who have writer’s block. You wouldn’t think they had lived long enough to be so messed up, but it happens, usually because they are perfectionists and every word they type/write seems to need correcting.

One method I used in several cases was to have them speak into recorders, then play back, and type up what they heard. Using speech to create a first “rough draft” seemed to help. Often they continued to use the recorder, or else gained enough confidence to write silently and put off revising for a later stage.

For an older writer, one busy with daily duties and distractions, it’s not “block” so much as drift; the tide of time keeps washing away the hours and quiet needed to write. So perhaps a recorder would work here as well: go for a one-hour walk and dictate the story. On weekends, listen and type up what’s useful in those hours of dictation. As the story gains momentum, it may become an irresistible call.

Having contracted ME (Myalgic Encephalopathy), in 99, I always referred to the condition as feeling: wasted; zombified; brain dead, and various other malphemisms. But, whichever term I used, it was invariably intended as a description of the syndrome, and not usually, of one particular symptom.

In March 07, I entered a (or, could even be,[i]another[/i]), delusional phase of my life, where I erroneously entertained the dual-notion that I could:

A) through a course of study (the first since 1959), become a ‘writer’.

B) through subjecting my brain (ME`s a neurological disease), to the mental discipline required to attain that status, I would have gained the necessary skills, to enable me to tame down the ME, and bend it to my will.

Both notions fell at the first miniscule hurdle. However, what it did do, was enable me to add another sobriquet to the list.
[b][u]‘The Writers Block From Hell’[/u][/b] The above could be used as a description of the syndrome in general, but more specifically, of one of the more, bizarre`, symptoms: ‘Shutdown’. Bear with me while I regale you with the best example I can think of.

An attempted break in at my eldest daughters house . Someone tried to crowbar one of the cheapo, wooden, double glazed downstairs window open. As a temporary security measure, whilst awaiting a total refitting throughout the house, of a more robust/secure d/glazed system, I decided to fit two right angled brackets to each d/stairs window. Three holes each in both faces of the brackets. One face screwed to the frame, the other screwed to the openers frame. The rationale behind this move, was simply that anyone attempting a break-in, would take so long, and make enough noise to awaken the dead in to the bargain. So theoretically, anybody in the house would have more than enough warning, and sufficient time to alert the police.

Seven opening windows downstairs=14 brackets.

Six holes per bracket=84 holes to be drilled.

Id fitted brackets to five of the windows, the last one being the first in the kitchen. I was about to fit the first of the two brackets, to the second window in the kitchen. This is where it gets weird: I picked up the bracket, intending to offer it up the window frame, in order to mark off the holes for the screws...and there I stood for over a minute, just looking at the window, unable to enact that very simple procedure. I wasnt physically immobilised in anyway, because I turned around and leant against the cupboard behind me. Then I put down the bkt and pencil, and picked up and filled the kettle before putting it on to boil. Took a mug from the cupboard; rooted out the tea bags and sweeteners.

At this point I picked up bkt. and pencil again, and walked across to the window, my intention being as before, and just like before I stood there unable to complete this simple task. I stood there until I heard the kettle switch itself off, at which point I brewed up.

Cup of tea in hand, I toddled off and inspected my handiwork on the other five windows. After a while I returned to the kitchen, and picked up bracket and pencil, but nothing had changed. I took what was left of my cuppa, and sat in the backyard, listening to a soddin` blackbird singin its head off.

From shutdown to restart, it took about 45mins. This,shutdown, phenomenon, occurs often enough, but is in no way ameliorated or exacerbated by the inherent complexity or simplicity of the task to hand. The shutdown/block can endure for minutes; hours; days or months.

The point of all this preamble, is to give as comprehensive an account, of a phenomenon that sounds and seems suspiciously like what goes on in your/our heads, when you/we complain of writer`s block.

I dont know ( and I suppose its the the question Im posing ) if, when you complain of, ‘Block’, do you already have the words at your disposal, but suffer an inability to put them down on paper or screen, just like me with the bkts. I knew what I had to do and how to do it, but, just couldnt.

I hope this makes sense to you all. I really am more than half convinced that these phenomena , ‘Shutdown & Block’, have the same fountainhead.

Ill let yous off the hook.
Take care

Thanks for sharing that Vic. Nice writing. (“Both notions fell at the first miniscule hurdle.” - sweetly put, mate.)
I know that feeling … the Knowing what you “gotta do” … but failing to engage.

Psycho-analysing myself, sometimes it can be because I don’t feel ‘confident’ in my ability to engage with a good chance of success. There’s a ‘piece’ (or a perception of a piece, a ghost of a piece) somehow ‘missing’.

Without reaching for a glib answer (remember, I am intimately acquainted with Pressfield’s/our nemesis, resistance)… I’ve found a good way to ‘get going’ is to break some aspect of the writing task down into a ‘turn the handle on the widget-cranking device’ type endeavour (credit David Allan again, and my journalism training: deadlines, deadlines, deadlines) and expect/wait for (count on?) the creative fumes to catch alight like flammable spirit. Seems to work.

For me, most of the time, it still comes down to bum-glue, though. Seat of the pants in the seat of the chair. A walk outdoors can do wonders for untying a knotty problem whether plot, theme or how to express a thought. But you’ve got to put in the time at the keyboard. It’s creative work.

Just as we’ve learned to separate the editing phase from the ‘creating’ phase (but hey, it’s ALL creating, like darkroom work cropping and zooming etc) we sometimes (I mean me, Peter, sometimes) need reminding that you can’t edit what you ain’t written … and get something written down.

Which is why Scrivener, with its astonishing support for ‘fragments’ and ‘drafts’ and ‘versions’ of things, is SO COOL.

Cheers, P

Vic: nice post. Resonated strongly with me as I had severe post-viral fatigue last year, and still have occasional episodes of “shutdown”. Your description was perfect. There’s a task. Simple. In front of you and ready to go. And yet the will, no not “will”, the ability to actually initiate seems beyond reach. Frustrating and exhausting in equal measure.

Sometimes it’s nice to know that others have similar experiences. Thanks.

I don’t think it’s the same as writer’s block, and definitely not procrastination, but shares features with both. Writer’s block I can overcome (put the pen to page and write), but zombie brain eats time and effort like it’s popcorn at the movies - doesn’t even notice they’re gone until the credits roll.

I have been writing at least 250 words a day since August 6, 2009. In the hopes that what I’m writing my indeed make into my story, that’s the goal at least.

I thought after doing it this long it would only get easier, but that’s just not happening. It only seems to get harder and harder. Then I hit a point where I need to write a certain point in my story, one that I know exactly how it goes, and I freeze. The more I know about what I’m going to write, the more I’m afraid to mess it up.

Now my 250 words a day; that’s a word count out of Scrivener, I put them in the research folder under name of the MONTH folder, DAY text file, I do not edit in anyway (I’m just doing my best to get it out), and when I’m finished I write in the synopsis something like “POV Character Name. Short description. Maybe what chapter or what scene its connected to.”

When I’m done I’ll copy and paste it in the correct folder in the draft then edit it sometime later (because I’m sure there are mistakes and it just awful, but I got something done).

That’s just the way I do it. It’s been working for me so far, but like I said, it’s getting harder and harder. If anyone has tried something similar, or thinks they have a better way, I would love to hear it.

Hope that helps.

Thank you, Vick for describing so vividly a familiar experience. In my case, I’ve had those shutdown moments since my stroke eighteen months ago. I lost the ability to read and write for nine months, although I could speak and comprehend the two languages I know. Reading and writing has been a laborious process. Through the last frustrating months, I’ve continued to research and write my novel. I’ll often shutdown. An example: I had a clear image of ‘gazebo’. I knew what it was, what it did, many different versions of what it looks like, how many syllables it contained, how I wanted to use it in a sentence. The word gazebo, however, was elusive. I just couldn’t find that word in my brain. This happens often. Because of these expeiences, I’ve resorted to a technique that is very helpful. I write xxx if the word has three syllables, xx if two, etc. I know I know the word, it’s just floating around somewhere in the damaged part of my brain. It would be too easy for me to spend the next three days it took me to find gazebo. Instead, I keep working until the word/s return. The words come back in unexpected times and places, so I have a notepad handy at all times. Like you, I feel the frustration but don’t give in to it. Have a cuppa, knowing that you know what you know, it’s just not immediately available. My pages were full of xx and xxx. Happily, I’ve submitted my draft to my editor, and hopefully, the book will be out next fall, in both English and Spanish editions. Not a xx or xxx or even xxxx in them.


Vic, a fine piece of writing, which belies the fact that you’re blocked as a writer, and I believe one could take your 2,823 posts to this forum and concoct quite a few stories, if not novels.

But more to the point: you describe the task above as one of quotas, so many brackets and so many holes. It’s one thing to do that to pace yourself, and say now I’m a quarter done, now a half, and look forward to completion and a cold beer or hot cuppa, but what if finishing a task fills you with dread? Because the task is like every hour, day, and season we face; time that will pass, usefully or not, and then what did it matter? The freezing may be trying to make time stop, not to progress, not to tip you over the edge and into a blank abyss. What you describe is not just CFS but also PTSS, where a horror scene replays in an endless loop.

A neuropsychologist would want to know when it happens, what are the circumstances, are you alone, and it would also help to see a brain scan during these episodes? They may be minute strokes or seizures. My mother had a series of them, periods of time when she could hear but not see and time seemed to stop. In which case, don’t despair, medication will help. You could do yourself a lot of good by keeping a log of these experiences, to share with a physician.

My personal theory: a life-long diet of hot dog soup and baked bean pizza will seriously mess with your head, man. :stuck_out_tongue:

I sure did laugh when I read that line, Vic. Ah, the desire to gain some control over this illness – how many times and how many ways have I tried to “bend it to my will” and failed? For me, the simple act of writing one sentence is no longer simple. And if I try, if I push, my brain seizes, grinds to a halt and steam pours out of my ears.

I think the ME (aka CFS) is teaching me how to yield, let go, … perhaps the ME is teaching me how to bend. :wink:

Take care.

Dear Pete, nom, BT, Esmeralda, Droo,
Primarily, The motivational factors behind posting this response are: a) I feel an obligation to thank you all for your responses and kind words, because they deserve acknowledgement; b) not to do so, would be discourteous/ downright pig ignorant; c) I want to express my thanks, and respond to some of the points raised in your responses. But, however heartfelt the wanting, and the initial anticipation of pleasure in its execution, once something acquires an imperative like; Must be Done’; ‘Got to…’; No choice!’ etc. it assumes the mantle of a thankless or arduous task. Im talking post 99/ME. Im really struggling with this post. Ive been at it on and off since 8.40am this morning. Its like another version of shutdown ‘Shutdown v1.1
As the Red Lion`s poet in residence, Bill Shackspeer, might put it:

want, desire: ay, there’s the rub:
For with those heart needs; to desire; to want,
what machinator most foul,
doth the brain become.

When heart`s; wants; desires;
become playthings of the brain;
and the heart…left bereft;
only: duty!; got to!; obligation!; must do!, remain.

Affection, now an arduous task, forlorn and still,
doth cause us… pause.
Pause, so… dead…yet…so long of life.

I`ll post this now, or it may never see light of day.

Karen, hiya :smiley:
Just noticed your post. You, probably more than most, will know what Im talking about :wink: Dont struggle with replies, no rush, for, even though, ‘time waits for no man’, women can always make it wait for them. :laughing:

‘A gift much expected is paid, not given.’ ← something like that.

Relax, Vic. (I hope I can say that without hurting your feelings.) No pressure from this end.
I know what you mean, but I don’t see the forum that way.

My acknowledgement of your valuable, insightful, well-written previous post doesn’t oblige you to say nuffin’… let alone in iambic pentameter! (if that’s what it is. I dunno. Don’t hate me 'cos I’m ignorant.)

You’ve certainly touched a nerve, though, Vic, huh? Judging by the responses.

Karen: “And if I try, if I push, my brain seizes, grinds to a halt and steam pours out of my ears.”
My eyes misted at this. Crikey, that’s a bit tough. 'orrible.

Best wishes, P

The point I was making in the previous post was, that once youre faced with, what in reality is ( or just in your own perception of things), a no choice; must do, situation, however pleasurable an endeavour, it becomes, a chore; a get it done and finished with, and out of the way chore! This is a symptom of ME. My ME addled brain responds to what it perceives as an imperative, in that way. :frowning: No!Way! Is it whats in my heart :smiley:

By the way! Dont think Im trying to turn this thread into a Me Support…what ever. Im trying to look for evidence that: BLOCK! is as much a symptom of brain malfunction as is ME. Or as Ive already said, ‘Has the same fountainhead’.

Doubts? Apprehension? Sense of inferiority/inadequacy? However tenuous it may be, the link to the noodle is there. SHIT!!! I feel an imperative coming on! I ve GOT to pour myself an obscenely overgenerous splash/glass of the Holy Distillation :cry: tch! its a dogs life! Thats me finished for the night
Good night

OK Vic. Thanks for elaborating.
I think I get it: (the thought of an ‘imperative’ and the response to it – to the thought).

As I said to Karen, ‘Crikey.’ – I appreciate you both (all?) … and the illumination.
I didn’t know about this. regards, - P