This is a picture of something that is not unusual or new. Every morning I face this.
And every morning I sigh at the job that lays ahead. I make a face as Resistance washes over me. I. Just. Don’t. Want. To. Empty. The. Dishwasher. I can’t understand why this seems like so much work for me. I should be thankful I have such an amazing appliance. I should be dancing and singing each morning with joy that I have clean dishes to put in my cupboard without a whole lot of work on my part.
But every morning, without fail I look at the dishwasher and I feel a curl of opposition. The sense that this is simply too much work and I don’t feel like doing it.
But if I don’t do it now I’ll have to do it later. So I sigh and pull out the first few plates. Then a few more.
And then, slowly as my hands start working I fall into a familiar rhythm and my mind stops it’s whining. Ten minutes later (I know! A WHOLE TEN MINUTES of my day!) the dishes are put away, the dirty dishes are safely inside and the job that I dreaded is completed. Was that so hard? No. But TEN MINUTES ago the problem seemed like a huge deal.
I have the same difficulty every time I sit down in front of the computer to write. I know what I need to do. I have been doing this almost as long as I’ve owned a dishwasher. Yet every morning I sit down in my office in front of my computer, my hand hits the mouse to wake it up (which takes significantly less time that it takes me) and the screen from the work of the day pops up. I look at it and feel the same emotion when I’m faced with the dishwasher.
Just. Don’t. Want. To. Write. And before I can even figure out what is going on (in my case the left hand truly doesn’t know what the right is doing in) my mouse scrolls over to Facebook, or Kboards, or my dashboard, or the exchange rate or anything rather than my current writing project. You know those ‘clickbait’ headlines? I happen to be a sucker for them because it’s easier to see why Kate Middleton and Prince George are fighting rather than figure out how to resolve my own hero and heroine’s conflict.
It’s steady, relentless and it’s probably the only consistent thing in my writing career.
Stephen Pressfield in his book “The War of Art” says, “We’re wrong if we think we’re the only ones struggling with Resistance. Everyone who has a body experiences Resistance.”
I like how he capitalizes the word, making it an entity. I wish there was a magic bullet to getting rid of Resistance. I haven’t found it yet. I only know that it uses a variety of tools to do it’s work. Some of them are:
Rationalizing – you don’t need to work right now. You should do this research. You can use the break.
Procrastinating – I’ll get it done later. Tomorrow will be better.
Fear – This is really hard. I don’t know if I can do it. It wouldn’t be so bad if I gave up. Lots of other people haven’t been able to get published. Lots of people have only written a few books and then they’re done.
Excuses – I’m not feeling that good. The words just aren’t coming. I shouldn’t write if I don’t feel inspired. My words will fall flat on the page.
Adversity – Things aren’t going that well for me right now. I’ll wait until the wind blows fairer. My last work got rejected, this one will too.
These can all sound reasonable and plausible. But they are all masks for Resistance. And they are all very sneaky.
Once I learned to name it and to see how it was digging it’s pernicious claws into my writing time I found that I was more prepared when it came. I looked it straight in the eye, did not let it hover over my shoulder whispering it’s crazy lies in my ear. I saw it for what it was.
And then I checked Facebook.
No. I’m kidding. I slowly found my own ways to fight resistance. The most important one has been routine. Create a routine and then, like emptying the dishwasher, the jobs fall into place. When I follow my routine, Resistance doesn’t have a chance to start luring me away from my job. I don’t give it time to start whispering its lies.
The very first and most important part of my routine is my devotional time. My time to let go of myself. To read my Bible. To spend time with God. To give the day to him. Then I go exercise. Then, I keep my feet moving, my body following the routine as I sit in front of my computer. I give myself some time to check e-mail, Facebook and after half an hour of that (or so) I turn off the internet and get to work. And as I work, as I let the words get pulled out of me, the resistance fades and the lives of my character start to matter.
And at the end of the day a sense of satisfaction and well-being come over me that I never feel on the days I’ve given in to Resistance as I wasted time on Facebook, checking out videos on YouTube, cleaning out my wool stash,spending time on writing forums,or researching the best writing programs always searching for that elusive magic bullet that will slay all my dragons and write my story for me.
I’d love to say that this routine happens every day. That each day I flow through the above jobs and every day I get oodles of writing done. It has taken me a few years to find my routine. And yea, I’ve had my off days. I’m not always so faithful. But the many days I do follow this routine are the days I have been able to still the lure of Resistance. These are the days I feel the best about myself and my day. I cling to that feeling, hold it close and use to to remind me to take that first step in my day. That first step toward my chair to pick up my Bible and then routine takes over and the hands start working.
And the work gets done.
What about you? Do you face resistance? What do you do to overcome it?
Jill Weatherholt says
Great post, Carolyne! Years ago, I read that the greater the resistance, the greater the potential is on the other side. Keeping this in mind each day, I plow through my “To Do” list. At the end of the day I feel a sense of accomplishment because all of those little things, like unloading the dishwasher, add up. Have a great weekend!
Carolyne Aarsen says
I agree, Jill. Sometimes my biggest resistance is to the things that have reaped me the biggest rewards. And yes, my to-do lists are important. Sometimes they hang over my head, but how good it feels to cross things off.
Melissa Henderson says
Yes, I face resistance at times. I know there are things I should be doing, like making certain phone calls. But, if my heart is not in having the conversation, I tend to “put off” the call until later. Then, the day goes by and night comes and once again, I haven’t made that awkward call. I did realize that I needed to make that call and yesterday, I did make the call. I am so happy that the conversation was a good one. :-)
Carolyne Aarsen says
I’ve don’t that too, Melissa. Or put off a conversation I know I needed to have. And, like you said, when it’s done it often isn’t as bad as we thought it would be. Or, conversely, it could be a blessing. Thanks for stopping by to comment.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and struggles. I’m like you, I hate to empty the dishwasher and a number of household things, I’d rather be reading books, going on Facebook.
I also have to get into a routine each morning so my life doesn’t take over before I spend time with my wonderful Father.
I’m reminded of a song by Lionel Harris, I Miss My Time With You. It’s God saying He misses our time together. If you get a chance listen to it. I often have this song running through my head in the morning. How much richer our lives would be if we just sit down and spend a few minutes with Him!
I’ve found that if I start with His time my day goes so much better.
Carolyne Aarsen says
Hey Marylin, I have so often found that the days I give in to the resistance are the days I’m the most unsatisfied. I give in to my impulses and sit and read, or fool around on the computer doing mindless searches of wide-calf boots (for instance) but I never feel good about it. And as for as my devotions go, I have to remind myself that this day is a gift and that I want to use it wisely. And the best use it to bring it to God the first thing in the day.
Carolyne so true! Thanks again for sharing!
Oops… Larnelle Harris.
Valerie Comer says
Thanks for reminding me of that song, Marylin! That spoke to me.
I miss my time with you
those moments together
I need to be with you each day
and it hurt’s me when you say
you’re too busy
busy trying to serve me
but how can you serve me
when your spirit’s empty
there’s a longing in my heart
wanting more than just a part of you
I miss my time with you
Good song, Val. I’ve never heard that one before. And thanks, Marylin for bringing it up in the first place. We often think that God is too busy for us and yet He years for us to spend time with him.
Marylin Furumasu says
So true Carolyne! Why is it we are the one to walk away?! Like I said this song continues to play in my mind often! Thanks Valerie for sharing the words!
Thought provoking post, Carolyne! I think we learn resistance as an infant, which then continues through childhood and into adulthood. We resist parents, teachers, adults and even as you so elegantly stated ourselves. For our every day survival routine is important, because the routine becomes habits, which we can then do on auto-pilot. We all have morning and nighttime routines. We resist certain routines, when we seek to have control of a situation or which somebody else would take control of the situation. Some of this goes back to yesterday’s post – after 43 years of marriage why am I the events planner, why do I have to go along and buy my own Christmas present, why can’t my husband pick up on hints????? Maybe it is his love language or maybe everybody resists something in their lives.
Create a routine and then the jobs fall into place and become habits. I read it takes 30 days for something to become a habit.
Best wishes and Happy Weekend!
Thought I reread post: should say “wish somebody else would take control of the situation,” like making the phone call, cleaning the house, paying the bills, or planning a date night.
I always have liked the lesson in the phrase “the freedom of my chains”. (Olivia Newton John) The reality that once we have control of our lives and exercise a measure of discipline we are freer than when we do whatever we feel like doing. As for hints, I’ve had to learn that most men are too linear and literal to ‘get’ hints. So I just push a catalog in front of him or make a list for my birthday. Not very romantic but it takes the pressure off of him. And in spite of the fact that I don’t think he cares, it does create pressure! And yeah, I sometimes wish someone would tell me “go to bed” “Put that book down” and one of my favorite phrases “supper is ready’, but I’m too much of a controller and after awhile would resist just on principle. Thanks for stopping by, Renate!
I find a routine helps as does telling myself I can take a break for 15 minutes or so and then getting back to what needs doing. I too, try to start my day with Bible reading and I find that helps, but I still can get sidetracked :-)
Sidetracked seems to be all part of resistance as well. The lure of the ‘other’. For me I’ve found turning off the internet for a period of time puts me in work mode.
Katy C. says
On that note…I need to go clean my bathroom. =) Thank you for sharing this!
Hey, Katy! Of course you do! And while you’re there, rearrange your cosmetics. Tidy your brush drawer and toss in a load of laundry! There’s always, always something else that can lure you away.
Very encouraging post, Carolyne. Your routine is a lot like I want mine to be, and to know that it didn’t happen all at once helps me take another step in that direction. I love the phrase “one simple change” – and little by little, I’m learning to redirect resistance. There is hope!
Hey, Ruth, it has taken me a few years to get here. Plus it helps that I don’t have kids in the house anymore. And yes, one small change. I think it’s like dieting and exercise. We plunge into huge commitments that we can’t hope to keep up. So make one change and do it regularly and soon it will become part of your routine.
Thank you for the insightful post, Carolyne. I’m really struggling with this recently. It’s so hard to put a limit on my social media time! I’m trying to thoughtfully dedicate each working hour of my day to the Lord. Seems to help my poor, distracted, unmotivated self.
Distractions have always been there, Deb! But I think it’s worse for us writers now. That’s why I deliberately shut off the internet (like I just did) and work for a couple of hours and then allow myself a few moments of Facebook and blog checking. (and looking for the perfect cheesecake recipe for my new Instant Pot). But yeah, I find if I see the day as a gift to use then I tend to be more deliberate about how I spend my time and the choices I make.
Merrillee Whren says
What a great post! It really spoke to where I am.
Thanks, Merillee! I think all of us writers have been there or are there.
Linda Hogue says
I completely relate, I have the same problem, & like you when I start my day doing devotions first I am able to get through my day so much better than when I don’t.
Carolyne Aarsen says
Thanks for your comment,, Linda! Starting the day right does make a difference. I feel like I’ve gotten myself centred when I start the day with God.
Linda Rainey says
Procrastination is me,on or I get started it’s easy but getting started mid hard.
Carolyne Aarsen says
Hey Linda, I hear you. But sometimes I just buckle down and keep going.
Oh I love this!! I’m not a writer, but this post applies to my life too. Why is it that everything else pulls us away from what we SHOULD be doing?? Housework….I hate doing it. Period. But if I don’t do it, I end up resenting how my house looks and then guilt sets in because I know I could have taken a half an hour to spiffy up the place. I mean really, I have a small house so 10-15 mins maximum to sweep the kitchen/bathroom floors and then vacuum…you’d think I wouldn’t throw a fit like my 2 yr old grand-girl over it….lol!!
What I have I don’t to overcome this? I’ve learned to split my work in half….one day I’ll do X amount and the next the last half of it. It’s less burdensome for me & seems an easier goal to accomplish. And the satisfaction that comes from knowing I’ve done what I set out to do, well that’s just priceless :-) I’ve learned to take smaller chunks of whatever & just do it. Then I can sit down at my computer and do what I really love doing….FB or catching up with the blogs I follow on a daily basis :-)
Ooops….just noticed my typo….that sentence should read “What I have I DONE to overcome this”….not DON’T…lol!!
Oh the dreaded word “resistance” we try to ignore it but it sits there staring us in the face . It is almost mocking us and we turn away trying to ignore it. I try to ignore it but in the end when u finally do what. Weds to be done, I think how silly I was . Not every chore is fun but they all serve a purpose of completion.
Excellent piece. :) Unfortuanely I don’t try to fight Resistance at all.