Hunting Ideas with the Resistance

It’s important for me to write. I know that. I say it out loud to remind myself. Sometimes, though, writing goes beyond difficult, and transforms into something larger, something forbidding, ominous. It’s at times like these that the temptation to stop writing is strong, to wait until inspiration flies within reach, then to snatch it out of the air like a lazy October fly.

Sometimes waiting is important. When everything seems to be moving too quickly, waiting can bring insight impossible to spot in the chaos.

More often than not, though, the difficulty in writing stems from resistance. Stopping is precisely what the resistance wants. The resistance is like a toddler who stumbles across a dirty word. If you respond–if you holler, if you laugh–you encourage the behavior. If a toddler finds she can make the whole world stop and react, she’s discovered a powerful truth. That kind of power is difficult to resist. So she says it again … and again … and again … until an adult quiets her.

If I give in to the resistance, I’m giving it power–a power it finds irresistible. If I give in enough, I train the resistance to believe it is in control–that it calls the tune to which I dance. If I am to write, more than just a scratching here or there, I must be the adult, and refuse to react to the resistance.

It’s difficult, though. Listening to the resistance whine requires a measure of self-discipline I sometimes find hard to summon. Like listening to the toddler repeatedly say, “I want to watch T.V. I want to watch T.V.,” it’s possible to stay strong … for a bit. After awhile, though, it feels so much easier to give in. And then begins the rationalization: “A little this time isn’t going to kill anybody; it’s been a long day, after all. I’m tired, and I just want a little peace and quiet.” But if I give in, which is to say, if I repeatedly give in, I reward the whining … a dangerous precedent.

When I write when the resistance begs me not to write, it’s not that I’m ignoring the resistance. The resistance represents my fears to me–my fear of failure, my fear of inadequacy, my fear that all the good ideas have flown south for the winter. Writing through the resistance is a way of taming it, of reestablishing the hierarchy of the parent/child relationship. We both, the resistance and I, need to know I’m the boss.

So, I have to write. And I write through the resistance not when I have a good idea, but in order to find where my ideas are hiding. Because my ideas rarely show themselves without a little searching on my part. It would be more convenient if my ideas were domesticated, to think that they liked me, and wanted to stay near me. But my best ideas are often the shyest ones, the ones I have to pursue into the jungle of consciousness, the thick underbrush of my mind. I catch glimpses of them here and there. They’re skittish, though. I have to chase them. Some of them give up without too much struggle. But there are some I have to run to ground.

If I listen to the resistance and refuse to go into the jungle, if I can talk myself out of writing, many of the best ideas never see the light of day. So, I write.

It’s important for me to write. My ideas have to be found, and the resistance must be tamed.