Monday, December 3, 2012

Resistance Isn't Futile... It's Death Itself

This is Resistance's PR campaign. It wants you to think Resistance is Noble, when really, it's much more like being the Borg.

Steven Pressfield in The War of Art says, "Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance."

Pressfield believes that Resistance is that anti-life, anti-creative force that stands between you and the creative life you are supposed to live. Resistance is literally Death Itself, a tiny, daily death that stops you from creating the works you are capable of. I agree with Pressfield, with the caveat that I believe there still needs to be a balance between life and creation - that our creative works are born out of the life we live, and sometimes the call to live life is exactly that, not just a siren song diverting us from our "true" creative work.

But caveats aside, The War of Art is well worth the read. And Resistance is a real and deadly (to your creative work) thing.

My Resistance mostly manifests as fear (see my recent internal dialogue with Fear as it attempted to stop me from writing my most recent NaNo novel). Resistance also pushed on my brain as I contemplated outlining my next SF series. It's always, always, there whenever I'm ready to start a new project, or finish an old one, or push the "publish" button. But Resistance doesn't reserve its deadly charms for when I'm attempting large, ambitious things. It wages a relentless war even at the smallest scales, most recently when a blogger asked me to write a guest post, topic: How would you explain Christmas to someone who has never experienced it before?

Me: Uh... what?

Resistance: You can't write about that! What if people get offended? I mean, you're going to explain Christmas?? That's like religion. Taboo topic. Walk away slowly.

Me: Oh good grief, it can't be that bad. Surely I can talk about Christmas without igniting some kind of religious war.

Resistance: I wouldn't be so sure.

Me: It's really that I don't like writing prompts.

Resistance: Me either! So... stifling. I mean, why would we care about this topic anyway? We should only write things when the mood strikes us, when something strange and mysterious wells up deep from within us, setting our muse on fire...

Me: Ok, I know that's complete bunk. I mean, I'm a writer. I should be able to make a grocery list interesting. Why would something like this stop me? I just need to be creative about it.

Resistance: Sure, creative. Like we have time for that. Don't you see all those emails clogging your inbox? Creativity takes energy. We ran out of that before we even got up today.

Me: Now you're just depressing me. So, let's think. What kind of person would never have experienced Christmas before?

Resistance: Jews, Muslims, Hindis... pretty much everyone who isn't Christian.

Me: That's the obvious angle. I want to be creative. Hey! Robots! I bet they don't have Christmas! Being immortal and all...

Resistance: That sounds really cheesy.

Me: Except that I happen to have a really non-cheesy androids-of-the-future story all plotted out already.

Resistance: You haven't even written that story yet!

Me: Yeah, but I already have the characters banging around in my head. It wouldn't be hard to let them loose for a while...

Resistance: Wait, no, don't do that!

Me: Why? What are you afraid of?

Resistance: Those characters... you love those characters... 

Me: I know. It will probably get me excited about writing the novel too.

Resistance: Nooooo! *sobs* *slinks away*

Me: *writes furiously, grin on face* 

The funny thing about Resistance is that whenever I overcome it, I invariably create things that I love. (Like this little bit of flash fiction - scroll to the bottom.) I've come to recognize Resistance of a harbinger of great work waiting to happen, if I just let go of my fear and tackle it head on.

In this Christmas season, I hope you take time to enjoy your family, friends, and Holiday Celebrations of Choice. And I hope you also find time to let your creative energies loose and bring something new and wonderful into the world.

Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling Mindjack Series, which includes two novels, three novellas, one novel-in-waiting, and a trailer. She's currently writing her NaNoWriMo novel, a steampunk fantasy romance, and has plans to embark on that androids-of-the-future story as soon as Resistance gets out of her way.


  1. A delightful post, as ever! I've often wondered what Christmas looks like from the outside. Be sure and put up a link if you do that guest post.

    Lately my Resistance comes in the form of, "You simply don't have time to write anything." And then there's the, "You know that story doesn't really interest you. You'd get bored and never finish." And also the very deadly, "You don't really need to be a writer anyway. That was just some whim you had to keep yourself from going insane with boredom back in the days when your only other intellectual stimulation was figuring out how to keep all the kiddie's socks matched." Thanks for reminding me to fight back.

    1. Laura, I don't want to upstage the guest post (it's coming later this month) but that flash fiction link above will show you want I wrote. :)

      And please, please, please kill off that deadly Resistance that says you don't need to write. That one needs to die good and dead!!

    2. I think that a certain amount of, "My worth as a human being does not depend on my success as a writer" is good for my mental health. Also, too much of, "I don't have time for this other thing I want to do because I must leave space for writing" breeds resentment. But to tell myself writing doesn't matter to me anymore is an evil lie. Why did I start to sob for joy and longing as my husband was reading aloud to the children the other night and my ten-year-old gasped when Mary Lennox found the key to the secret garden? Because some day I want some child somewhere to gasp at some marvelous plot twist in one of my stories, ninety years after I'm dead! So there.

    3. Exactly! And I have no doubt you will some day. :)

  2. Susan, I love it! My father is a professional artist and he always encouraged us to spend some time every day doing something creative. I love the way I feel when I'm doing something creative, and to see a finished project at the end. But Resistance is real,and it's always there, and I think part of that is guilt. Why is it, especially as adults, that we feel guilty spending time on creativity, but not on earning money or cleaning the house?

    1. Thanks Jonene! I wish I had an artist in the house who would have encouraged my creative side. I have no problems banishing guilt about cleaning the house (as you can tell by looking at my house), but the earning money part was tough for me. One of the greatest satisfactions of indie publishing, for me, was being able to banish that guilt too, by earning enough to "justify" my time.

  3. Resistance sucks. And it's tenacious. And really good at its job. But, that makes it even more exhilarating when we conquer Resistance and forge ahead. Great post.

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