Overcoming the resistance to writing
Are you in a state of writing resistance? Are you holding back from writing your book? I ask not so I can sell you this solution or that solution, but just to make you aware of your own answer. And also to say, I too have been holding back with my work; with my business, with my books – and with living my life. I have been so lost in resistance that I have been static for a long time. I feel like someone living in a snow globe, just when I find some peace, everything gets shaken up again. I have lost my way.
But last week, I had an epiphany; three realisations about my life came from three distinct events, each of which has brought me to a place of deeper understanding and realisation about why my life is not working out the way I want it to and what I need to do to change it.
Whenever I say the word ‘resistance’ I always think of the Borg in Star Trek. When they are about to capture their prey, they advise each that ‘resistance is futile’. In other words: don’t bother resisting us, we are stronger than you. Of course, resistance is also futile because it literally gets you nowhere. When you resist, you are stuck. You are paralysed and unable to move and when you are stuck, everything can feel futile. This can lead to an ‘all-or-nothing’ mentality, which keeps us stuck because it makes only big actions feel purposeful, when in fact, baby steps are what we need to take if we are to break free.
Another phrase I heard about resistance this week was from a self-builder on the Channel 4 television programme, Grand Designs. She and her husband wanted to clad their building in a special blue brick, but the planners had said ‘no’. Her response to this was not to accept it (they had in fact already ordered and paid for the bricks) but to persist with her claim and dispute the ruling because, as she put it: ‘persistence beats resistance’. I had never heard that before but I liked it and so I tucked it away into my armoury of sayings. Baby steps, again.
Finally, at the end of last week, I randomly opened my Kindle reader on my iPad to find I was part-way through reading Nick Williams’ book The Business You Were Born to Create. It just so happened to be open on the pages where he lists all the forms that resistance can take: tiredness, putting things off indefinitely, talking yourself out of doing things, being in fear of judgement, isolation…the list was long. At the end of the list, he writes: “I am sure you can recognise a number of the activities listed above as ways in which you resist pursuing your dreams.” I laughed out loud: I recognised ALL of them! Hands up, guilty as charged gov’ner.
So, resistance had raised itself as a topic (though I have to admit this was not the first time). I realised instantly that I had come to a point in my life where I finally needed to start dealing with it because it wasn’t going to magically go away. Resistance keeps you stuck but with persistence you can beat it. Baby steps are a recommended way forward, but whatever I did, I realised I was going to more than baby steps, I was going to need courage to beat the problem.
So, now on to realisation number two: the need for courage.
At the end of last week, on one of my regular calls with my very talented mutual-coaching friend Karen Revell, we agreed that I needed an outlet for a different part of myself than the business-owner of Book-Launch Your Business. I admitted that I have always been a closet intellectual and that I missed academic work. I also admitted that I had been harbouring a desire to write a book about courage. It is an idea I had several months ago and felt emotionally drawn to, but didn’t manage to progress beyond a few scribbles in a notebook. I was busy, stressed, had too much else to do and so the idea got buried under a pile of more immediately necessary stuff.
Having admitted my desires, over the weekend, I allowed myself to indulge in my new project. I began by watching two of Brene Brown’s TED talks about her specialist subject, shame and its antidote, vulnerability. I have no idea why I decided to start there; it was a purely instinctive act. As I watched, I was reminded that Brown had identified a cohort of people who lived differently to many of us because they lived their lives without shame. They achieved this by living in a way that Brown characterised as being ‘wholehearted’. From her research, Brown noted that there are three critical qualities shared by those who live wholeheartedly and one of those is courage.
Brown gives a definition of courage as the ability ‘to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart’. In order to overcome shame we need to step into being ourselves with more freedom and authenticity, we need to be vulnerable, to accept that we are not perfect, to allow ourselves to feel and not to numb ourselves with alcohol, food and other addictions. Part of living wholeheartedly means telling the story of who we are with our whole heart, taking the risk of being vulnerable and casting aside our need to be safe by rejecting perfectionism.
Given my work in Book-Launch Your Business – helping other business owners to write, publish and launch their books – my pursuit of the topic of courage suddenly seemed incredibly relevant. These were two important realisations: the part played by resistance in my life, and the need for courage, to be vulnerable and to tell the story of who I am with my whole heart.
Permission to ‘be mediocre’
Despite all of this, I still awoke on Monday dogged with the same bundle of fears, confusion and doubts clouding my mind. But as I sat down at my desk, I remembered an interview I had seen over the weekend on BBC One between Fern Britton and Donny Osmond.
Back in the day, I was a bit of an Osmond fan, and I was interested to hear about Donny because I knew he had experienced some struggles in his own life after his early teeny-bopper years. He talked about his time singing in the band, The Osmonds, with his brothers, having his television show with his sister Marie and then the wilderness years when he wanted to move away from his ‘Puppy Love’ image but was unable to develop himself musically and shake off the past because the press wouldn’t let him move on.
Eventually, with persistence he made progress. He started to get traction again, and landed a role in the musical: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. However, just as he began to live his life again, he was dogged with terrible stage fright. He was sick, he sweated before going on stage; in a word, he was a total wreck. Then, one day, when he was on the point of giving up the role, his wife suggested to him that he give himself permission to go on stage and ‘be mediocre’. She realised that part of what was troubling Donny was the need to be perfect all the time. As soon as he released that need to be perfect, the fears subsided and he was able to perform – and as it turned out, it was the performance of his life.
Now I have three significant realisations about my own lack of progress in my life and business. I was full of resistance, perfectionism and the need to keep up the front of being ‘successful’. I had no means of accessing my courage, which I didn’t believe I had anyway, and I had forgotten how to enjoy my work. Given that I have spent the best part of the last 10 years getting to the point where I am now (entirely self-employed), this was not a good state to be in. I was supposed to be enjoying this!
This morning, when I sat at my desk and all those fears began to haunt me, I turned my thoughts to the Law of Attraction (I watched The Secret again on DVD last night), I reminded myself of the futility of resistance, and remembered instead the joy I would release in myself by living with courage. I asked myself: if I were to spend my day today enjoying my work, giving of myself and doing my best to tell my story with my whole heart, what would I do next?
And the answer is this; this blog post. I am laying aside my need for perfection, I am picking up the baton of vulnerability and I am telling my story. As I step into this frightening and exposed place, I wonder if I am entirely sane. After all, in the world of business, we are encouraged to appear successful, in control and problem-free. Who would want to work with us if we were not these things?
But my question is this: how can I help you move beyond the problems and issues that are holding you back if I cannot share my own experiences? I am not less of an expert on publishing, I am not less able to edit, proofread and advise you on your book because I am not a mini-god of human perfection and self-assuredness. I am human, I experience fears, and resistance and, yes, shame. I hope that by sharing my story it gives you the space to be human too, so together we can find a path forward; together we can tell our stories from our hearts and begin to live with courage, joy and freedom.
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