There is a popular book by Steven Pressfield called “The War of Art” in which he presents the concept of “Resistance with a capital R”. He describes Resistance as the main enemy of creative work, and every excuse we give ourselves why we cannot create is counted as Resistance.
We usually imagine Resistance, or creative block, as a solid, heavy thing blocking our path. It’s difficult to bypass and impossible to move or destroy.
Sometimes we see it as a little nagging monster, riding on our backs the entire time, covering our eyes and generally causing mayhem.
I propose a different visual that might feel less intimidating.
Imagine a scale. Not the one you use in the kitchen, but the old-fashioned one with two limbs (see illustration below).
On one side is the Resistance, and on the other side we have qualities that support your creative work. Depending on the project, these qualities may differ, and it’s up to you to find exactly what inspires you.
In the case of a project you care deeply about, this quality may be passion.
If you’re trying out something new, it may be curiosity.
When you have a deadline approaching fast, it might be urgency.
If you can’t wait to share the result with other people, it might be excitement.
You can have more than one quality, of course — the more the better.
When the Resistance is heavier than the other qualities, it’s difficult to start working.
One option that many people advocate is to just burst through Resistance with sheer willpower.
How well did that work for you in the past? Yeah, I thought so.
The problem with willpower
Willpower is a finite resource. It can be gradually built up, but you can’t jump from almost zero to one thousand willpower units overnight.
Every time I tried to use willpower alone, it came back biting me in the ass. I would last a day or two or maybe a week, but after a while I’d run out of willpower and drop my project altogether.
If you’re the sort of person with an iron willpower, I applaud you (and envy you just a bit). For those of us that aren’t, this approach is like pulling teeth.
There is another way
This idea came to me a while ago, and I’m sure I’m not the first one to think of it, maybe I’m not even the first one to use the scales analogy. It doesn’t matter who thought of it first, what matters is that it works. For me, at least. Maybe it will work for you too.
The key is in focusing on the other half of the scales.
There is a principle in Law of Attraction that says “What you focus on, expands” — regardless of whether you believe in the Law of Attraction or not, this is a good guideline to keep in mind. If we focus too much on what is wrong, we may not be able to see what is right, and we’re less open to solutions.
So the solution is to focus on “the brighter side”.
What qualities do you need in order to feel eager to start working on the project? Think about your project, and see what qualities you’ll get out of it as you’re working on it, and when you finish. List those qualities on a piece of paper.
These qualities are your counterweight to the big weight that is Resistance. If you gather enough of them, with enough intensity, something interesting will happen…
The scales will tip.
In this moment, when the scales are turned just a bit in your favor is when you need to act.
If you wait too long, the positive qualities will start to evaporate and the scales will turn back. But if you start working and continue to work and get over that bumpy start, you’ll actually start enjoying the work and you’ll be generating more and more of the positive qualities until the Resistance is totally overcome.
What’s different about this picture, compared to others, is that we don’t even bother with resistance itself. It right there all the time, because it’s a constant of life. But it doesn’t mean we’re powerless against it. We don’t have to push it, break through it, beat it into the ground with a hammer… we just counterweight it with other, more pleasant mental states.
Next time you come face to face with resistance, remember this visual.
There’s something on that right side of the scale that is pulling you forward. If you don’t have anything on that right side, then you have no reason to do the work at all. If you’re in that situation, find that reason.
As an additional step, you can turn this into a creative visualization exercise:
Imagine in your mind’s eye the scales, with a heavy dark weight labeled “Resistance” on the left side of the scale.
Now imagine that you’re adding lovely, golden weights of positive qualities to the right side.
Feel those qualities. Intensify these feelings as much as you can and see the golden weights become larger and heavier. Really immerse your entire being into these qualities…
…and see the scales tipping.
Now open your eyes and go create!
P.S. I turned this into a Pinterest-friendly graphic, so if you enjoyed this post, feel free to share it on Pinterest!
P.P.S. I’m currently writing an ebook about creative blocks, and I’m hashing out my ideas here on the blog, and through 1-on-1 work with my friends. So far I’ve gotten great feedback, but I’d always love to hear more from you.
If you want to be notified when I publish the book, you can sign up for my mailing list below and you’ll be the first to know!
About Nela Dunato
Artist, brand designer, teacher, and writer. Author of the book “The Human Centered Brand”. Owner of a boutique branding & design consultancy that helps experienced service-based businesses impress their dream clients.
On this blog I write about art, design, creativity, business, productivity and marketing, and share my creative process and tips. Read more about me...
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