Making Friends with Resistance

This is a guest post by Alison Gresik

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You may have heard that Resistance is the enemy of creative work. That the reason we don’t take action or finish what we start is because the malevolent force of Resistance, like a nasty super-charged version of entropy, pushes us away from our studios.

And that the solution to overcoming Resistance is fighting it with everything we’ve got.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not keen to enlist in a war of art. I don’t want the central metaphor of my creative life to be one of conflict and struggle, where I overcome this opposing force by sheer determination of will. Or fail to overcome and feel miserable.

Not only that, but I actually believe that Resistance is a blessing.

I am a fiction writer by trade, and one of the things I love about writing novels is the interesting puzzles it presents. I start with a blank page and a few ideas, I mess around with scenes and characters, and slowly every piece clicks into place. I especially love the moment when an answer arrives after much hair-pulling and everything afterward flows in a gush.

If there were no challenge in the writing process – if every word came easily and I could get down a perfect draft from start to finish – where’s the fun in that? I’m glad to be working in a discipline that can hold my interest for a lifetime, always giving me a new conundrum to solve.

We need to call a truce in this battle.

Let’s start by framing Resistance in a more neutral way by calling it friction (and stop the capitalizing, which only gives it more power.) Not so scary, right? Friction is just one thing rubbing up against another. Friction can generate heat or smooth down edges or provoke pleasurable sensations (oh dear, it’s impossible to write about friction without referencing sex. So consider it referenced.)

I propose two beneficial ways of working with friction:

1. Reduce the friction around getting to your studio.

The place where we do want things to be easy is on our walk to the easel, the craft room, the writing desk. We want to slide effortlessly into place and begin our work.

Creating ease here means making changes in our inner and outer worlds. You don’t want friction from interfering thoughts or distracting emotions. Nor do you want to beat down obstacles every time you try to claim space and time for your art.

I’m a big fan of building virtual labyrinths in our lives — structures that automatically channel our creative energy in the ways we want it to go. I’m always asking myself, “How can this be easier?”

2. Celebrate and enjoy the friction of your creative work.

When you notice that you’ve encountered a sticky problem and don’t know how to proceed, be thankful for that. Say to yourself, “I’m curious about how this snag will get resolved,” and be open to ideas from unlikely places.

In the down-and-dirty of making things, that’s where hard also means interesting and absorbing and fun. All qualities that are essential to an art-committed life.

Will you join me in waving a white flag at Resistance? Where are you ready to lay down arms and work with friction, not against it?

Alison Gresik is a life design agent for quietly rebellious writers and artists. Shatter the Mould is her coaching service for those ready to melt down and remake their lives in service of their art. Visit her website to check out her free teleclass, Claiming Your Artistic License.

10 thoughts on “Making Friends with Resistance

  1. “and stop the capitalizing, which only gives it more power”

    Yes! This has always bothered me when reading this kind of writing that people capitalize the word. (And not just because I’m a grammarian by trade.) We’re giving that word power without getting anything positive in return when we do that. Lowercase for the win!

    1. Grammarians unite!

      I suppose the idea behind capitalizing Resistance is to say, “This is a real thing, take it seriously!”

      But I think the more important message is that we have influence over our creative process — we’re not at the mercy of this force just because it’s been given proper noun status.

  2. Alison, thank you for this post! I have this little technique that I use with myself that reminds me of what you’re talking about here. I call it “letting the creative tension” build. When I feel resistance around doing some bit of my work, I do something *else* instead and purposely let the creative tension build around doing the other {resisted} thing. And when I start to feel momentum building for the put-off work, I let it build a little more before switching my full attention to it. Delayed pleasures and all that. šŸ˜‰

    1. What I love about your example, Abby, is the familiarity and mastery you have with your process. You notice the resistance and intentionally play with it for your own purposes. Beautiful.

  3. “Iā€™m always asking myself, ‘How can this be easier?'”

    Alison, LOVE this!

    When it comes to movement, resistance means you’re trying to move in a way that isn’t efficient and will take A LOT more effort than necessary and your body is simply trying to give you a head’s up. The more you try to force that movement, the more resistance you will meet.

    Sweet post!

    1. Thanks for applying these principles to another mode of being, Gini. I suppose that resistance is a good thing when you’re strength-training your muscles, and not such a good thing for repetitive, everyday movement.

  4. Boy did I need this today! I am having trouble getting back into the groove after vacation and find myself wanting to do everything but get back to work! Re-framing Resistance as friction is very helpful. It’s also a good reminder that sometimes the first order of business is just clearing up my workspace so it’s an inviting place to come to. Thanks!

    1. You’re welcome! Transitions are tricky because when here’s more of a gap between where we are (still relaxing on holiday) and where we’re trying to get to (applying ourselves to our work), the friction goes up.

      It doesn’t mean we don’t fundamentally want to work, just that there’s some effort needed to smooth over the gap. Your idea of clearing your workspace is just the thing!

  5. I can’t believe how much I relate to this article, it’s exactly what I needed to read at the moment. I completely agree that you need to have an special area dedicated for creation, as with me I like to use my laptop. I’ve actually been seriously thinking about buying a computer desk because my laptop’s currently on my coffee table, which isn’t very comfortable to sit at. I think this has confirmed that I need a proper desk and chair!

    Glad to know I’m not the only one with this problem :)

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