The resistance is the part of us that, when left to its own devices, shies away from the difficult, the painful, and the challenging. Far from a benign obstacle, the resistance actively works to stymie forward motion. It’s our lizard brain, our doubts, and our fears come to life. It’s also a sign that you’re doing important work; that you’re a part of a change-making process. Because the resistance inevitably shows up when you’ve reached the edge of your comfort zone.
As humans, we seek out homeostasis. Equilibrium is a desirable state. Which is neither good nor bad. What it is, is a counterproductive way of being to embody if you’re trying to make art. Because art is inherently disruptive. Whether commercial or experimental, creative work has the potential to rewrite cultural narratives, take back power, and reshape the world around us and inside us. But first, we must overcome the resistance so we can make that art.
So many of the creatives I know, myself included, are dueling with the resistance as well as mental health needs. This makes finishing the work we feel called to do that much more labourious. Because the resistance has the ability to trigger a limitless number of self-destructive and/or self-sabotaging behaviours. Despite this, it’s not impossible to overcome the resistance. It might just require some specific attention.
Next to the importance of financial wellbeing, the second thing I wish I had been given more clear instruction on when I was first starting out as a creative is how to work with the resistance. While there's a lot of writing about imposter syndrome among creatives and the ways we can be our own worst enemies, there’s a lack of clear, personalized guidance about how exactly to overcome the beliefs, actions, and checkpoints that get in the way of us doing our best work.
That being said, in The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron addresses “creative U-turns” and offers practices to help recovering creatives make their way back to their art. Seth Godin talks about developing the habit of thrashing early as a way to drain the resistance bit by bit. I work with my clients to help them prioritize their overall wellbeing in order to make doing their work that much easier. Whomever your source of guidance, addressing the resistance needs to be a priority.
In my current creative practice, I can sometimes spend what feels like an indulgent amount of time bolstering myself against the resistance. From maintaining a consistent work schedule to taking care of my body to eliminating distractions, I am vigilant about giving the resistance very little to feed off of. And, however frustrated I get with the time/energy requirements of these resistance-buffering efforts, they all become worth it when I finally ship work that I’m proud of.
So, what helps you overcome resistance so you can get back to work?