Last week, I mentioned how I was reading Steven Pressfield’s DO THE WORK! Overcome Resistance and get out of your own way. I finished it a few nights ago—it’s a quick read and pretty entertaining. I’ve been pondering the lessons therein and what they might mean for me.
Resistance is the big, bad dragon in Pressfield’s book. Resistance is all the stuff that keeps us from pursuing what we truly long for. In my case, what I truly long for is a career as a fiction writer.
Some helpful advice from the book I plan to take seriously:
- About the actual work of writing: “One rule for first full working drafts: get them done ASAP. Don’t worry about quality. Act, don’t reflect. Momentum is everything. Get to THE END as if the devil himself were breathing down your neck and poking you in the butt with his pitchfork.” I think resistance is the devil Pressfield infers.
- About finishing and actually putting your stuff out there—he borrows Seth Godin’s term “shipping”: “Because finishing is the critical part of any project. If we can’t finish, all our work is for nothing. When we ship, we declare our stuff ready for prime time.”
- And finally, an anecdote about the lengths Michael Crichton would go to when he was nearing the end of a novel (he’d check into a hotel and work non-stop till he was done): “He knew that Resistance was strongest at the finish. He did what he had to do, no matter how nutty or unorthodox, to finish and be ready to ship.”
I’m fairly certain staying in a hotel and just writing is not an option for me; even if it was, I’m not sure that would work for me. But I get the gist of it—do what’s necessary (as long as it’s within my moral, ethical and economic boundaries) to “get ‘er done.”
But there are a couple of things about resistance that Pressfield doesn’t address. Number one, having subsisted on a steady diet of Star Trek: The Next Generation in my early twenties, I couldn’t help but think of the Borg, with all the mention of resistance. For those of you unfamiliar, the Borg are a massive collection of cybernetic organisms linked via a hive mind. Their insidious goal is “the forcible assimilation of diverse sentient species, technologies, and knowledge.” (Thanks, Memory Alpha.) Pretty much the scariest threat humans ever faced.
The Borg’s mantra? “Resistance is futile.”
Taken in context of DO THE WORK, it sort of makes resistance a little less scary. Like, all the resistance you face in trying to complete something might be futile in the end. If you stick with the project (for me, a series of stories featuring Lacey Becnel, a protagonist of my creation) and don’t let obstacles derail you completely.
HA! Take that, Borg!
So, I recognize that might be a bit of a stretch. I know myself—I’m not that optimistic, to think that I can consistently face down resistance by cheerily turning one of the scariest-ever lines of dialogue on its head.
My number two point feels a little more thought out. And it’s this: Resistance makes you stronger. I know this from my two favorite forms of exercise—running and swimming. Running wouldn’t offer all the same benefits if there was no pavement to offer resistance. Swimming would just be kicking and flailing about if there was no water (bet it would look pretty funny, too).
It never feels good when I’m “doing the work.” Struggling for breath, or feeling the impact on my aging bones. Or suffering through crippling self-doubt while writing. While that pain may be necessary, it’s also of limited duration. And ultimately, worth it. I’m a healthier human from the running and swimming, and (hopefully) a better writer from the work of producing manuscripts.