The Battle of Resistance

This is a guest post from monthly contributor and storytelling genius Darrelyn Saloom. Follow her on Twitter. The photo above shows Darrelyn’s youngest son, Jesse, emerging from battle to hand his mommy a pink crayon and a gardenia on his first birthday on May 28, 1987. (For more great stories from Darrelyn, click on “Guest Post” in the categories column to the left.)

Miserable, this past September, I perused Twitter in search of relief. And found it. Steven Pressfield was guest author for a literary chat called LitChat. Wow! Steven Pressfield, author of The Legend of Bagger Vance, Last of the Amazons, Tides of War, Gates of Fire, The Virtues of War, but also a jewel of a book I’d not yet discovered, The War of Art.

Writers on Twitter questioned Pressfield for an hour. I managed to contribute a tweet or two, but awestruck, I froze up. Fortunately, other writers had their wits about them and asked excellent questions. And the author’s answers cut to the core of my suffering. A former Marine, he said his service “taught him to be miserable—a crucial skill for a writer. Seriously, not to complain but to keep doing it.”

I’d been complaining to my husband for weeks. Maybe I better just shut up and get back to work. Good advice. And wouldn’t that make my husband happy. And then Pressfield explained Resistance, the subject of The War of Art: “Resistance is that negative force that tries to stop us from doing what we know we should—write, work out, etc.” Bingo! My problem exactly.

In misery, I’d found so many excuses not to write: I’m out of ideas; I don’t feel well (four rounds of antibiotics, two cortisone shots, and I was still sick). I’m in menopause and about to turn 54. Yikes! My pity pot was endless. Okay, so I’m not in the Marines. I’m not sitting in a foxhole, in the rain, dodging bullets. I have a chronic sinus infection for goodness sakes. I’m running out of hormones.

But illness was not the enemy. Resistance was the enemy and had found a petri dish to blossom in my neurotic thinking. As soon as LitChat concluded, I ordered The War of Art. Overnight delivery, please. This was an emergency. By the next day, I was armed with a Pressfield paperback and found more on the subject of art and misery and even the Marines. Pressfield writes:

The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.
   
The artist must be like that Marine. He has to know how to be miserable. He has to love being miserable. He has to take pride in being more miserable than any other soldier or swabbie or jet jockey. Because this is war, baby. And war is hell.

Hell, indeed. But so far so good, I had the misery part covered. Reading further, Pressfield named my enemy: Resistance. But he did more than name it. He defined its insidious personality, its wily disguises, its teaching abilities. That’s right, teaching abilities. Because the news here is not all bad, the infallible enemy is also a teacher:

Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, Resistance will unfailingly point to true North—meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing.

We can use this. We can use it as a compass. We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others.

Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

Well, my current memoir collaboration must be aligned with the stars. Never in my life have I battled such Resistance. And for anyone who’s in the midst of her own battle, who struggles to get down to work, doubts she is good enough, blows her nose a lot and stares blankly at a computer screen,  wonders why she bothered to wake up, this is for you:

Resistance is directly proportional to love. If you’re feeling massive Resistance, the good news is, it means there’s tremendous love there too. If you didn’t love the project that is terrifying you, you wouldn’t feel anything. The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s indifference.

The more Resistance you experience, the more important your unmanifested art/project/enterprise is to you—and the more gratification you will feel when you finally do it.

So take comfort in knowing you’re on the right track. But don’t let your guard down. Not for a minute. Arm yourself with a copy of Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art; don your camouflaged helmet, your flak jacket and weapons. Battle Resistance every day, in spite of excuses, no matter what, by giving birth to the work you are meant to do.

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0 thoughts on “The Battle of Resistance

  1. Cindy Bullion

    I’ve always been in awe of my friend Darrelyn, and now that we’re in our 50’s I’m most in awe of her wonderful writing! The words just flow so wonderful and true…..
    Keep sharing please!
    Love……

  2. Amber J. Gardner

    I feel like this entry is speaking directly to me. It’s so inline with what I’ve been feeling the last few days, it’s scary.

    I’ve been so unhappy and this is the key! I’m definitely going to check out this book. I didn’t know such a book existed and if this stuff is true, then I’m definitely been committing to (and resisting) my true calling in life. I can tell cause I’ve been so miserable!

    I often tried to resist my suffering and tried to force myself to be happy. Reading this gave me a strange sense of relief. It’s telling me it’s okay to be miserable. It’s okay to feel these things and to use it. I think that has been my main problem.

    Thanks so much for insight! It’s definitely given me a new perspective. ^__^

    -Amber
    @ambthecreative (on Twitter)
    A Creative Journey (Blog)
    ambthecreative.blogspot.com

  3. Jillian

    Between you and Jane, you are providing the inspiration that I need to climb out of the pit that I have created to continue on with my writing.

    I have switched my mantra and am focusing on the positive. It’s good to know that I am not alone in my suffering.

    My other inspiration? The New York Times Bestselling book, The Tender Bar, written by J.R. Moehringer. His sentences and metaphors fill me with envy but encourage me to go on.

  4. Gina Mealacon

    After reading your post on Resistance, I’ve also come to embrace it. Having it exposed for what it truly is , has rejuvenated my passion. Thank you. And where do you get these perfect pictures-Magnolia flower- "Olive branch" Crayon-"Writers pen"

  5. Barbara @ Hole In The Donut

    When I read the part about Marines needing to love being miserable my first reaction was: "Oh, I thoroughly disagree! Happiness is a choice." Then I read further and realized that Pressfield and I are not that far apart. He seems to suggest we need to go through misery to get to the other side, and embrace the suffering created by misery. I, on the other hand, recognize misery but try not to attach to it. So while we take different paths, the outcome is the same. But I might propose that my way is a lot less stressful!

  6. Carolyn Burns Bass

    I commented on this terrific post earlier this morning, but the internet gremlins must have chewed it off. Here goes another try.

    It’s great to see a post here about writing. So much of what I read online is about getting published and staying published. That’s great, because all of us writers want to be published. Writing, however, is the vehicle that gets us there.

    You included one of my favorite lines from Pressfield’s THE WAR OF ART: "The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s indifference."

    I’m on a similar path in my writing. This week I wrote about Resistance as the enemy of my productivity in my personal blog. I think the face of Resistance is my own.

    If anyone is interested in reading the transcript to Steven Pressfield’s interview on LitChat, it’s here: http://bit.ly/2eTfZa.

  7. George J. Forest, Jr.

    I am more a fan of you, Darrelyn, than of your posts. Why? Because I still haven’t gotten comfortable with Twitter. With that caveat, I did indeed enjoy your review of Pressfield’s "The War of Art." I am not a writer but I loved your girlish enthusiasm and Pressfield’s wisdom. As Sun Tzu’s "The Art of War" teaches lessons far beyond making war, Pressfield teaches more than how to overcome writers block. It is nice to learn that I am not lazy, just passionate about so many things.

  8. George LaCas

    Brilliant! And let me say, Darrelyn, I’m a big fan of your guest posts here on this blog.

    Yes indeed, I was there for Steven Pressfield’s Twitter discussion, and the man’s advice struck me as solid and highly practical. The simplicity of his message – basically, "Get to Work!" – offers a shining solution.

    There’s far too much touchy-feely advice out there for writers and artists, most of it based on self-indulgent "understanding" of such issues as writer’s block, self-doubt, and discouragement.

    The answer is simple. If you write, you don’t have to worry about any of that stuff. Just write. It comes down to a choice: either write, or whine about not writing/feeling bad/self-doubt/rejection. Which one of those results in a manuscript?

  9. Jane Koenen Bretl

    Darrelyn,
    I love this post. Although I had heard of the book before, the descriptions I read did not compel me to buy it. It is now on my must-read list.

    "Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it."

    This is a Revelation for me, and it does provide comfort that the challenges are all part of the process. (It also inspires use of a mental helmet to fight off this Resistance and do what I love!)

    Thank you for the wise words!

  10. John Gorman

    Darrelyn,

    This is a wonderful piece. I too had a lot of resistance within myself the day my publisher accepted my novel. I went through hell when it went into print and was available on Amazon. I know that your post is primarily about the writing process, but Reflecting on what we’ve written can be unbearably taxing on our mind and soul.

    I am participating in NANO this year, National Novel writing month. It’s phenomenal having so many other writers pushing themselves to fill their laptop screens.

    I am going to mention "The War of Art" on my blog and also to my writers buddies because I think we all need to push past that critical threshold where the loves begins that resistance fades.

    Thanks for the post

    John Gorman

  11. Debra Marrs

    Great snapshot of Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art, and all about Resistance (with a capital "R"), Darrelyn!

    I find it interesting that you discovered the solution to your writerly angst via Twitter. Many people say Twitter, Facebook, and other forms of social media are merely a writer’s way of procrastinating and resisting even more.

    You prove otherwise. Participating in social media, finding and hanging around like-minded people who form our writerly tribes is what support us during the dark hours. We recognize ourselves in others, and often recognize, just as you have, that your path to writing is as easy or as difficult as anyone’s. Like soldiers, we must marshal on, one step at a time, sticking to the course, and never fail to keep our eyes on the goal.

    Thanks for the generous use of quotes from Pressfield’s concepts. This is a treasure-trove of info.

    And, btw, who could resist reading the rest of the piece after that SO cute photo of Jesse! So appropriate. 🙂

    Debra Marrs
    Editor and Coach for Writers
    http://www.yourwritelife.com
    @DebraMarrs (on Twitter)

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