The every-morning task: to write
Every time I wake, I face Resistance to writing – and I must take action to counter it.
Steven Pressfield, in a series of blog posts and a book, The War of Art, talks about the concept of Resistance – and makes it a counterpart to the Dream.
The thing that struck me as I read the posts (while trying to wake my brain up and get started with my own writing) is that it’s basically a Newtonian concept: the Resistance is a Force equal to and with the opposite direction to the Force we are trying to apply, the one that gets our Dream to happen.
So, the bigger the Dream, the bigger the Resistance.
My Dream is, right now, finishing Pride’s Children in time for publication on September 14, 2014. Why then? Because 1) I can probably finish it by then, and 2) I can afford to publish – without losing disability benefits – because they are either vanishing then (the private disability insurance which has made a huge difference to our ability to remain middle class when I became ill), or turning, ipso facto, into ‘retirement’ benefits. I will be 65 (not 66 – I still don’t get that part – since my cohort’s SS retirement age is 66). It doesn’t matter to SS and the whole system that it will have taken me 14 years to accumulate enough ‘good time’ to write and edit a novel when many days are lucky to get a single hour of time when my brain is on. Which, interpreted, means that I could not hold down a job (I would prefer to work – people look down on those who don’t) even if I wanted to.
Getting far afield here… getting back to ‘WHY?’
The point I’m trying to make is that I have bitten off way more than I can chew. Pride’s Children will be over 1/3 of a million words (approximately the same length as Gone With the Wind – a fat paperback on my shelf with 1468 pages), in four Parts (the last part is only 8 chapters, whereas the first three are 20 chapters each.
Needless to say, I had no idea it would be that long when I started – it grew, organically, from about 8 pages worth of outline.
Also needless to say, if I had known I probably wouldn’t have GOTTEN started. Hindsight, you know.
How to handle Resistance
The point I am trying to make will start with a quotation from Steven:
“Hovering before me as I wake up is the work I know I need to do that day. Inevitably that work is daunting and inescapably it brings up fear. Ineluctably I don’t want to do it. This fear and this avoidance combine to create the witch’s brew that boils and bubbles in the cauldron of my brain.”
Those of us with CFS – and CFS-like illnesses – know that we get up every morning with soup for brains, and that a big part of the day is accomplished when we can actually think. I won’t apologize for this limitation – I’m not unique in this respect, it has no moral undertones (except if you don’t believe in invisible illnesses, in which case you’ll probably think I’m a lazy and self-indulgent slob), and I’ve been facing it every morning for 24 years.
But sometime during every day I’m lucky, the brain comes on, we are actually now physically capable of thinking, and I am faced with that ‘work I know I need to do that day.’
Set aside the fact that after 24 years, the backlog of things I SHOULD do is a thousand feet shorter than Everest.
I have cut away almost everything that can be dumped, put off until some other day, or whose consequences will just have to be faced since I’ve missed the deadline. But I STILL have the decision, once choice is possible, of what to do.
In my defense – and all of ours – if most people had to do what I do every day just to function, we would be awarding them medals and telling them to take the rest of the day – nay, the rest of the YEAR – off to recover and just enjoy life.
Okay – now what?
But that kind of thinking doesn’t get books written – it just leads to you feeling justified in not trying, and we can’t have that, can we?
So, I know now, courtesy of Mr. Pressfield, that the Resistance I’m feeling in the pit of my stomach is exactly proportional to the size of the Dream=Book that I have grandiosely started, and now, by gum, will finish – God willin’ and the creek don’t rise.
It IS a monster – because the Resistance is the same size as the Book.
I am not lazy nor particularly self-indulgent, but I HAVE been underestimating the Enemy. And it always helps to face Reality.
The solution is JOY
From now on, I’m going to feel Joy when I wake up in the morning, because if will know the size of my Enemy, and his very size will confirm that I, ego notwithstanding, have taken on a monumental task, an enormous mountain to write, and I am going to win.
I have met the Enemy – and he is me. I can handle ‘me.’ It was the vague amorphous blob of Resistance that I feared.
You may all hold my feet to the fire if I fail (offer does not apply if Life decides to throw something truly major – worse than what I already live with – my way).