I had a coaching call with a member of the For the Creators community last week who was struggling with showing up to her art each day. She explained to me that though she so wanted to paint and draw, and she knew she would enjoy the process, she often felt a huge amount of resistance in just starting.
This feeling is not unusual. It’s something experienced by myself and artists the world over.
The power of resistance
Sometimes this resistance shows up in my creative work. Recently it’s been rearing its head with some jewellery pieces that I’ve been thinking on and wanting to make for over a month, yet still haven’t been able to sit down and start.
Other times it steps into other areas of my life, like reading.
I love reading non-fiction, but I hate to admit that I have many unread books on my shelves because I often feel a strong resistance to sitting down to read. I feel this resistance even though I thoroughly enjoy the experience every time I actually begin.
So, what’s stopping us from doing these things we want to do most of all?
What is creative resistance?
Steven Pressfield talks about this feeling in his book The War of Art. He names it creative resistance and describes it as ”that invisible, destructive force that opposes you any time you try to accomplish something significant or make an improvement in any area of your life”.
In this sense, creative resistance shows up most often when we are trying to engage with those things that are most important to us.
The path of least resistance
Thousands of years of human evolution have pushed us to prefer the path of least resistance. In other words, the easiest way to find satisfaction is often the one we will take.
It makes sense if you consider it. It is easier and less fraught with potential let down to simply watch TV, browse Facebook or call a friend, than it is to engage with our creative work.
When we engage in low risk activities like these there are few negative outcomes in the short term. Our creative work on the other hand is fraught with potential difficulties, disappointment, uncertainty and overwhelm.
Creative work is fraught with risks
The risk that what we pursue might not manifest as we plan.
The risk that we may feel uninspired and lose motivation.
The risk that our work may be criticised by others.
And the risk that all our effort and time might be wasted on something that never eventuates at all.
Leaving it till ‘one day’
This risk often makes the alternative, the path of least resistance, the easiest of all to pursue.
And so we relegate our creative work to later. After TV, after the housework, after calling a friend, after browsing Facebook, after the gym, after work. But once all these things are done, there most often just isn’t any time left.
If you want to pursue your most important work, you need to push through the resistance and get started regardless - Click to Tweet
Take a step back and consider what you’re fearing most. Then ask yourself two questions.
What is the worst that could happen? And are you willing to take that risk for the sake of pursuing your art?
Do you struggle with creative resistance? Where do you feel it most? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.