Once I wrote an entire play just to avoid the play I was supposed to be writing.
Let me explain.
I had pitched a play idea to a company, gotten a commission, outlined a first draft, and because I was in my early twenties with no responsibilities and a commission check, had oodles and oodles of time to write. When the company called and asked if I could submit the draft in a week, I thought, No problem.
Two days later, I had fallen into a consistent schedule – sleep till noon, take a yoga class, and then meet up with friends for long-winded dinner dates. Gathering strength, I told myself.
The third day in, I baked two trays of cookies and a pie.
By late afternoon I had opened my laptop. Now we’re getting somewhere, I thought. Then I literally spent the next 8 hours opening and re-opening the fridge. Not because I was hungry (see tray of cookies and pie above), but because I didn’t want to look at the blank screen on my laptop. Every time my butt grazed the seat of my chair it would bolt back to the fridge, where I would add to the gradual warming of the planet by staring intently at my half-eaten lasagna.
The morning before the deadline, I received a friendly email from the producer mentioning how excited she was to read the draft, and to start working with me. How flattering! I spent the morning reading and re-reading the email, considering her word choice, tense use, verbiage, and tone.
And then, I wrote an entirely different play. It had nothing to do with my original pitch, had none of the agreed upon characters, didn’t fit the company’s mandate, and therefore had zero chances of being produced by that company.
That my friends, is called RESISTANCE.
Resistance is ANY COVERT OPERATION TAKEN BY YOUR CREATIVE SELF TO STOP YOU IN YOUR TRACKS.
RESISTANCE is the mouse that just won’t die.
RESISTANCE is the bungee cord that launches you away from your writing to your fridge.
RESISTANCE is the brick wall that you build between you and your notebook.
Resistance hides in the form of DISTRACTION, RESPONSIBILITY, ANGER, and SELF-JUDGEMENT.
It is present at each stage of the creative process, and it CANNOT BE ELIMINATED.
And, believe it or not, RESISTANCE IS YOUR FRIEND.
That’s right, RESISTANCE IS YOUR FRIEND.
Resistance, much like any revolt, is meant to stop you in your tracks for a reason. It is saying: STOP. TAKE A PAUSE. WHAT ARE YOU NOT SEEING?
Maybe you are ignoring a character or an idea because you don’t know how to put them on the page, and so you write about something different until you are blue in the face. Or maybe you want to write a memoir, but out of fear, you battle for six months with the opening chapter of a novel you know will never get written.
Or maybe, like me, you have an impulse for an idea that needs to be written before you can begin to write another, like a short one-act about a girl who is struggling to understand her broken heart, and who falls in love with an angel in order to figure it out.
Now when I hit the wall, when the bungee cord pulls at my core, I don’t fight it. I try and listen to it. I know that resistance is a sign that I am trying to tell myself something. So, I breathe for a moment in that feeling and an action comes to me.
In this way, I BEFRIEND MY RESISTANCE.
If the resistance is the fear of beginning, I am gentle with it. I give myself a low pressure freewriting task to get myself going. If the resistance is another project beckoning me, I pay attention to it without letting it deter me. I jot down a few notes, maybe schedule some creative time for it later, and continue. If the resistance is anger and frustration at not getting onto the page what I need, and if the anger is growing exponentially, I acknowledge that what I need is time. I am not a writing robot. I am a human being. There are times when a walk (or run) will allow the anger to pass so that I can take stock of what I need to continue. And if the resistance is that I want to bake pies and make cookies, I build that hour into my writing time. I make space for it in my routine instead of making it the thing that distracts me. The best ideas come while smelling cooking blueberries.
So…yes, I missed that deadline.
I submitted the play a week late. That’s because after I wrote my little angelic one-act, the floodgates opened and the original play came pouring out onto the page. I then, two years later, it was produced and published.
And that angelic little one-act? It was produced in two theatre festivals, toured nationally and was revived a few years after that.
What forms does your resistance take? What do you do to work through them? In what ways can you befriend your resistance? Share your thoughts in the comments below.