Why Resistance to Your Writing is Sometimes Good
Here is one thing I have learned for certain in the gazillion years I’ve been writing: that resistance always has meaning.
Always, always, always.
It is up to you to figure out what that meaning might be. But here’s the deal: once you do figure it out, then you can explore it. And get over it. You’ll understand more about how you approach your writing, and also your current writing project. As far as I’m concerned, that covers pretty much everything. So let’s look at both these categories.
How You Approach Your Writing
Your very own wonderful little self longs for expression. And I’d venture a guess that for just about anybody reading this newsletter, that wonderful little self longs for expression through writing. But sometimes that same wonderful self does things that are counter to that longing of expression. Like procrastination, for example. Or being a perfectionist. Or being harshly self-critical. Or being all loosey-goosey and not discerning enough. (Sending out a first draft, anyone?)
You know which one is your own personal favorite form of resistance. Mine is procrastination, and I’m very good at it. I can even convince myself that what I’m doing when I’m not writing is critical to my well-being. I can surf the internet and the whole time convince myself it is crucial to research for my novel. I can scroll through my phone and convince myself I’m doing social media (when really I’m looking at cool photos on Instagram). And so on. Insert your favorite distractions above.
But because I know this is my form of resistance, that this is likely how I’m going to approach my writing when things get tough, I also can call myself on it. And the funny thing is, because I understand how I resist writing, I can also see how I resist other things in my life. Like exercise. Or gardening. Or cleaning the house.
It is important to not get all judgy on yourself. At first, just observe. Watch what you do and how you react and think of how interesting it all is, how clever a brain you have atop your body. Next time, realize you’re doing it again. And carry on. After this happens enough, the observation of it will stop you—because you’ll grow weary of observing this pattern over and over again. Trust me, watching oneself sputter and flail about does get boring pretty quickly.
Your Writing Project
The other aspect to resistance is your WIP (work in progress). You may hit upon a scene or a chapter or a segment of it that you start to avoid. You can be writing merrily along and suddenly something just isn’t working. You marshal your forces. You attempt to carry on as usual. You forge ahead.
But nothing works. The words fall flat on the page, the dialogue sounds wooden, the scene just won’t come together.
Okay, remember: resistance always has meaning.
And in this case, something is wrong. Here’s a handy checklist to divine what it might be:
Your setting. Most often, this is it for me. Maybe the scene is currently set inside and needs to be outside, or vice-versa. Maybe you’ve set too many scenes in the same place. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve changes the location of the scene and suddenly it comes alive.
Your characters. Are the correct ones in the scene? Does your character need to confide in her best friend or her mother? Or maybe an old woman sitting on the park bench? Play around with the characters in the scene to see if you can’t get it going again.
Their motivation or backstory. Perhaps you think your heroine is motivated by greed—but when you take the time to dig deeper you realize it’s the opposite. Maybe you think your antagonist is a cranky jerk because his father died when he was young, but really, it was his mother who passed. Etc.
The placement. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with the scene, but where you’ve got it set in the plot isn’t working. This is harder to figure out until you’ve finished a full draft, but worth considering.
These are just a few suggestions—I recommend looking at every aspect of the story until you figure out what’s going on. And for my money, the best way to figure things out is to write about it. I like to call this writing around, and I probably write about three to five times as many pages in writing around as I do in my current WIP. It is how I figure out everything.
So, there you have it—proof that your resistance is a good thing. The catch is, you have to deal with it. But that’s much better than giving up writing for a week or a month or a year.
What are your favorite strategies for dealing with resistance? Please comment below.
Photos from freeimages.
0 thoughts on “Why Resistance to Your Writing is Sometimes Good”
Your comment on scenes caused me to think. Visiting the scenes, I think, is inspirational in itself. That alone can start me writing. Unfortunately, I do not live in Chattanooga, the setting of my current books. Nor do I live in Birmingham where my next books take place. I wrote a short story set in Atlanta. Google street view was a big help, but . . . . It’s one thing to look at photos but I much prefer walking the area. I’ve always come back fired up after my day trips.
Charlotte Rains dixon
Agree. Sometimes just being in a new place makes me itch to start writing and use it as a setting. I’m excited that your next book is in Birmingham. I stayed the night there once on a drive from Mobile to Nashville with my dear friend Linda Busby Parker. I’d like to spend more time there. Looked like an interesting city. And yes, Google street view is amazing.
Have you read Steven Pressfield’s amazing book on resistance called The War of Art? It really opened my eyes to how we constantly sabotage ourselves, and how that resistance will always be there. The goal is to combat it at every single time.
Charlotte Rains dixon
Melissa, I read it years ago–but it truly has been years and I need to re-read it. I follow his blog and its always got good stuff. Thanks for the suggestion.