A year or two ago, I read a bit of advice that really stuck with me. It helped me settle into a regular exercise routine, and it got me through last summer’s rigorous effort of writing a first draft of a novel in three months. That advice was really just a simple reminder, something to get you past that hump of resistance that rises up when you’re trying to start a new practice and you’re tempted to skip it for the day:
This has a more negative corollary, of course: if I skip this today, it’ll be easier to skip it tomorrow.
New habits are hard, whether it’s something you want to do (writing) or don’t want to do (exercise). But quitting a new commitment isn’t something that happens just once. Very few of us suddenly decide, “I’m not going to the gym ever again!” We just decide (or forget, which is an unconscious decision), “I’m not going to do it today.” And when the decision to go or not go comes around again? Well, precedent has been established.
That’s why it was so important for me to keep up the daily blogs, even though when I sat down to do it I had nothing of real merit to say. It was the practice that was important, not the performance. I promise, I am not going to keep blogging about what I’m blogging about. But because one of my purposes in posting daily is to keep track of my inner battle against creative resistance, I think it’s relevant to indulge in a moment of self-analysis. Resistance1 is a wily bastard, and it’ll come at you from all sorts of unexpected directions. Without strategies and tactics to combat it, you’ll end up in a years-long abyss of creative inertia. Believe me, I know. I’ve been there.
So, having spotted this potential road hazard—not having anything interesting to write about when it’s time to sit down to write the day’s post—I have plotted a detour. I’ve hauled out my writing journal (another resistance-fighting practice that I haven’t made full use of) and laid out a list of topics to blog about for the week. I thought about just making a list of potential topics to choose from, but decided that even the process of having to choose was fraught with potential resistance. There’s too much wiggle room, too much opportunity to say, “Nah, none of this sparks my interest today.” Instead, I’ve actually mapped the potential topics to specific days, so that when it’s time to sit down and write a post, I’ll know exactly what I’m there to do. I’m eliminating the resistance-manufactured block of not knowing what to write about, so I can get right into the meaningful work of actual writing.
I’ve plotted out the blog posts for the next week, and it’s my goal to make scheduling part of my regular Friday routine, as part of my general writing update. Naturally, I reserve the right to change the plan if a passion or interest of the moment demands immediate attention, but on the whole I think it will make every tomorrow a little bit easier.
- If you’re unfamiliar with the term “resistance” and it’s application to creative work, then I can’t recommend enough The Art of War by Steven Pressfield. For anyone who has ever struggled with writers block or other creative discipline problems, it’s a real eye-opener about how easily we become our own worst enemies, and a real motivator for finding the strength and strategies for overcoming it.