The Resistance

Two of my favorite writers, Seth Godin and Steven Pressfield write about a term Steven coined, “the resistance,” quite a lot. It has been a major theme for me the last nine years, ever since my buddy Frank Bell turned me on to the War of Art by Mr. Pressfield in 2011. Thanks Frank. By the way, if you haven’t listened to Frank’s music, you should. But, I digress.

What is this resistance? It has been labeled many things. The lizard brain, primate brain, fight or flight, writer’s block, and on and on. The resistance is what tells us that we aren’t good enough. It stops us from starting. It keeps us from even trying.

The resistance is most present whenever we are about to start something. It’s the part of us that gets us to watch one more episode of that marathon show rather than starting our new project. It’s the part of us that wants to go to happy hour when we could clock out and stay in the office to work on the new product that we are developing that will make our company more money. It’s the part of us that encourages us to take a long lunch and have an extra mimosa rather than bringing a sack lunch, staying in, stretching for 20 minutes and eating, while we work on the newsletter that we want to send to our family.

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield outlines that the only way to beat the resistance is to have a daily practice where we fight and win every day. He recommends that it be the first thing we do in our day. He has a very strict and rigorous schedule that he keeps in the morning as a part of his personal practice. I highly recommend reading his book and incorporating the principles if you haven’t already.

Yesterday I wrote about one of the biggest reasons I write a blog post every day, the process of inner and outer reflection and empathy. This act of fighting of the resistance is another reason I write a blog post everyday. It starts the day off with me fighting and winning. It sets the tone. You see, when I wake up, this is what happens:

1. I wake at 5(ish) am, greeted by my lovely partner who relentlessly gets up and makes us coffee. I find her presence and coffee to be a very helpful tool in starting my fight against the resistance. In this moment, because I am in the habit of writing everyday, I am already thinking about what I have to do. The resistance is there, telling me I don’t have any ideas, my writing isn’t that great, no one reads it, there’s no point… You get the idea. But I keep going and I keep thinking about a topic as I sip coffee and wake my body.

2. I roll a spliff. This is the time I use to start thinking about what to write about today and generating ideas. I also find cannabis to be very helpful in this battle. Cannabis helps me let go of myself and go into a more universal mind, if you will.

3. I go outside and enjoy the pre-dawn light with my spliff and coffee. This is such a great moment in my day. I breathe. I give thanks. I prepare my mind and begin processing what I want to write about. I think about my life, my clients, my work, my relationship, my kids and often I try to distill the lessons that I am learning for myself. Frequently during this time, the wheels start turning and I have to put out my spliff and rush inside to my computer to start typing out my thoughts.

The resistance is there the whole time. Putting down every thought, shaming every idea. He’s really mean, he just won’t shut up. But as I said, he is loudest at first. As I let him yell on and on, but continue my work regardless, his voice gets further away and soon it sounds like he is across the canyon yelling about something I can’t quite make out. Soon my fingers are flying as fast as words can come to mind and before you know it, I am done for the day. Typically by now, it is around 7am.

Then it starts again, as now I jump into the same sort of process with creating a graphic for each post. Only this time, I don’t start with coffee and a spliff. I jump right in. I start looking at imagery and thinking about themes or abstract themes. The first one that sticks out to me, I just roll with it. I don’t ask, is that good enough? I just go. Some of them end up being ink sketches, some are typography, some are geometric illustrator pieces… Whatever the technique, I have three things I am trying to accomplish. Relate the art to the writing. Try working in a genre of design that isn’t natural to me. Make it in 30 minutes. I rarely hit all three. But I try, every day. When I am done I hit publish and spend an additional 15 minutes sharing the post on social media. Every day, the resistance gets a little weaker and I get a little stronger…

I have definitely not covered the resistance and the dance that we all do with it in full here. I have merely pointed it out. I hope that for most of you, you see your own resistance to doing the difficult and consistent art of your life. I hope if you have never had language for this, that you find it useful in waging your own war. For those of you that already have language and skills around this, I hope it renews you to fight on and deepen your practice. I also hope that you all get Steven’s book and that you start reading Seth’s blog at least for a few months.

Enjoy your day and fight on!

Jesse Barney