Author Steven Pressfield goes on to describe in his book ‘The War of Art’ how this “Resistance” holds people back from being more creative.
In the Foreword, screenwriter and teacher Robert McKee explains Resistance is “his all-encompassing term for what Freud called the Death Wish — that destructive force inside human nature that rises whenever we consider a tough, long-term course of action that might do for us or others something that’s actually good.”
The book emphasizes that confronting creative blocks is an “Inner Creative Battle” against mental varieties of enemy, some of them very subtle, not so clear and definable as an outer foe.
At the beginning of his book Pressfield gives an example of how Resistance almost beat him.
“This is the form it took. It told me (the voice in my head) that I was a writer of fiction, not nonfiction, and that I shouldn’t be exposing these concepts of Resistance literally and overtly; rather, I should incorporate them metaphorically into a novel. That’s a pretty damn subtle and convincing argument.
“The rationalization Resistance presented me with was that I should write, say, a war piece in which the principles of Resistance were expressed as the fear a warrior feels. Resistance also told me I shouldn’t seek to instruct, or put myself forward as a purveyor of wisdom; that this was vain, egotistical, possibly even corrupt, and that it would work harm to me in the end.
“That scared me. It made a lot of sense. What finally convinced me to go ahead was simply that I was so unhappy not going ahead. I was developing symptoms. As soon as I sat down and began, I was okay.”
This going ahead with a creative project because it feels right for us to do so, in spite of all the inner “rational” arguments about what is wrong with it, or with us as a creator, is an approach many creativity coaches and writers declare will help us move ahead.
Pressfield argues what holds us back – from expressing our creative and other forms of abilities – is often a matter of fear, especially a key form of fear:
“Fear of madness. Fear of insanity. Fear of death. These are serious fears. But they’re not the real fear. Not the Master Fear, the Mother of all Fears that’s so close to us that even when we verbalize it we don’t believe it. Fear That We Will Succeed. That we can access the powers we secretly know we possess. That we can become the person we sense in our hearts we truly are.
“This is the most terrifying prospect a human being can face, because it ejects him at one go (he imagines) from all the tribal inclusions his psyche is wired for and has been for fifty million years.”
He gives a more concrete example of the threat of exclusion:
“The professional cannot take rejection personally because to do so reinforces Resistance. Editors are not the enemy; critics are not the enemy. Resistance is the enemy. The battle is inside our own heads. We cannot let external criticism, even if it’s true, fortify our internal foe. That foe is strong enough already.”
He adds, “The professional gives an ear to criticism, seeking to learn and grow. But she never forgets that Resistance is using criticism against her on a far more diabolical level. Resistance enlists criticism to reinforce the fifth column of fear already at work inside the artist’s head, seeking to break her will and crack her dedication. The professional does not fall for this. Her resolution, before all others, remains: No matter what, I will never let Resistance beat me.”
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield.
[By the way, many people like the book – it is listed as #3 in the Kindle Store in the Self-Help / Creativity category.]
Pressfield is also author of Do the Work. He says in an interview, “If the reader has a project they want to start or complete, such as a new business they want to open or a book they want to write, Do the Work is designed to take them from starting to shipping to hitting all the predictable resistance points along the way.”
Creativity coach and author Eric Maisel also writes about battling creative blocks, especially limiting thinking.
“When a thought that doesn’t serve you lingers, actively combat it. Some thoughts just won’t go away. Maybe it’s ‘No one wanted my first novel, and my second novel is an even more difficult sell, so why in heaven’s name am I writing it?’
“You may not be able to get rid of this thought simply by snapping your fingers. Then do more than snap your fingers. Fight the thought tooth and nail. Maybe you’ll have to write out the ten reasons why this book may be wanted. Maybe you’ll have to chat seriously with yourself about self-publishing. You must battle brooding, clinging, disabling thoughts — or else you will be thinking them regularly.”
[The image is Emily Browning as Babydoll, who has been put in a mental institution by her abusive stepfather. Retreating to a dream world as a coping strategy, she uses a katana sword and other weapons to battle giant samurai warriors, among other foes and inner fears. From the movie Sucker Punch, 2011, Zack Snyder, Director / Writer.]
Some of the quotes by Steven Pressfield are also used in the “Identity – Ego – Self Esteem” section of my main book – read more about it at the site: Developing Multiple Talents: The personal side of creative expression.
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Last reviewed: 8 Jun 2013