It’s sunrise in Athens. We just left the port in a ferry the size of a small cruise ship, headed for Naxos. The ride is smooth; the ship is gliding out of the protected bay and into the Ionian Sea, gracefully making it’s way across still, strikingly blue water around the peninsula before we turn towards the rising sun and make for the Cyclades. We’re in one of the lounges, watching morning Greece slip past in the distance while we write.
For me, writing is like working out or playing a sport in many ways. It’s exercise, albeit mental. when I’m done I feel invigorated, like I’ve accomplished something. Further, I feel like I’ve used a part of me that needs to be used, you know? Like, made use of some available talent instead of letting it sit fallow somewhere in my schedule and my mind.
Also like exercise, it’s clearly a habit. If I make a go of it for a few days then it’s pretty easy to kept going. But if something comes up and my daily routine gets changed, then for me it’s very easy to fall out of a set routine. Like there’s that little part of me that was waiting patiently while all this “being productive disciplined” shit was happening, and right when there was the slightest opportunity, this thing spoke up.
“Hey, you’ll do this tomorrow. This is a long flight. Can’t write on a travel day.”
Which, of course, is ridiculous. In his amazing book “The War of Art” Steven Pressfield calls this insidious little voice “the resistance.” And everything he said about it is true, at least in my experience.
So, while in Florence I blog like a fiend. I also dedicate time to the current writing project without fail on a daily basis. But when there’s a break in my routine, I have a travel day that takes me to London and then to Chicago for a conference, BAM. Or rather, a quite sort of -snap- and that’s it. I’m off the path, and not writing. I probably don’t even notice it for days.
At some point I realize it and think “eh. It’s just a blog. ( insert excuse why it’s not important, here ).”
And that day goes by with no writing. And then another. Now and then I’ll be at the computer and think “Hmmmmm, I should write.” And then I’ll either suddenly remember I haven’t written a reply to an email I got three days ago, I’ll check Facebook or Reddit for this one thing that pops up in my mind, and thoughts of writing, or of “practicing my art” as Pressfield would put it, are gone. banished and forgotten for another day or two.
Deep inside somewhere, The resistance is giggling. Quietly, so as not to draw attention to itself.
It’s giggling because in one fell swoop it also managed to get me to stop posting pics to the blog’s Instagram as well. That’s how The Resistance works, you see. It it gets a single, it almost always goes for the double or triple. And almost always gets it.
After Chicago I returned to London and renewed my effort to finish the writing project Kim and I are working on together. i stayed with it for some days, maybe a week, then something against nudged me off of it. I never got back to blogging, even after friends asked me “Where’s the next post?” and acquaintances wrote “For the next post, you should talk about such and such.”
Buy the way, if you ever write a blog, or anything that other people read, when someone nudges you like this, you should really start writing immediately. Pull over first, no need to write right there in traffic. But get to it soon, because they’re not nagging you, no matter what The Resistance might have you believe. By mentioning they’re looking forward to the next bit of whatever you decide is important enough to ut out there, they are paying you a tremendous compliment, and doing you a favor. Showing you a bit of respect. Return the favor, and take up your art again.
It took me a while, but here I am. Nice to be back with you all. That’s also a little trick, if you didn’t know it – if you can’t think of what to write about, write about not being able to write. I actually had a few other ideas of blog topics, but I thought this whole habit/nudging/resistance/art thing was also worth talking about.
I’ve read in a few places that for a habit to become ingrained it needs to be practiced for 21 days. I’m pretty sure this doesn’t mean I need to write 21 little mini-novellas, like I am with this post today. But I need to show up to the plate and swing the bat at pitches.
Be more aware of the things you’d like to do that produce something, that are creative. The things that make you feel good, because they tap into your soul. They’re not easy, maybe. But you’ll know them because they’re 1. creative and 2. they make you ( and maybe someone else ) feel good. Also, I’d add 3. they require effort against The Resistance, because this is almost always true. Be more conscious of your habit of doing these things, and even more important why you -don’t- do them. What are the excuses you find yourself repeating? What’s keeping you from your art? That’s The Resistance, and it is not your friend.
Pressfield also wrote “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” which is an equally fulfilling read and a good movie.