Today’s subject matter came to me after I read a post from another writer. She had put her writing down over a year ago and has not picked it up since. That information tells me that she must have suffered some kind of trauma. It doesn’t really matter what it was that happened. What does matter is to look at the resistance it caused. We are talking about some major resistance.
For example, when I was in the 5th grade, my class was given the assignment to write a poem. That was the extent of the homework directions that I could remember, “write a poem.” The only poems I had ever read rhymed. I thought that all poems must rhyme. So, under much duress and panic;(this was long before I was diagnosed with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and ADHD) I asked my mother to help me. That would turn out to be a huge mistake. She was dyslexic too and had no more idea of how to write a poem than I did. The quote below, by Ernest Hemingway, is pretty much how it felt to write that poem.
The next day in class the poems were collected. As the teacher picked up each one, she read through it silently. When she came to mine, she halted right in front of my desk. Holding up my poem she began, “Now here is an example of a horrible poem. This student (gee I wonder who that could be) doesn’t understand poetry at all. Listen to this awful poem.” Then, she read it to the class. I was mortified but there was more to come. “It is stupid, and the student who wrote it was too stupid to understand the homework….” There was more but all I heard after that was the pounding in my ears from the blood rushing to my face and burning my cheeks. I was sure everyone could see my crimson face of shame. I would not write a poem again until I was 30 years old and only then because of encouragement from a friend to take a poetry class from a particular professor at Hunter. I am glad I did.
I sensed similar hugeness of resistance from this writer who had put down her work. It would be a sad shame if she did not write for years, or worse, not again. We must not let resistance stop of any sort, stop us.
As a writer, to feel such resistance is a tough thing to face. We are such sensitive creatures. We have to develop thicker skins. We have to reframe what resistance means to us. Behind it may lay shame, definitely fear, but guess what? It can also harbor excitement.
What? Excitement? I can hear you all asking, “Have you lost your mind?”
Have you heard of reframing? Just in case you have not heard of it. I will explain. Reframing is a great technique. Reframing happens when you take something you have viewed as a negative, like the above experience I described and change it to a positive. My resistance to writing poetry grew out of the shame I felt in being ridiculed in front of my class. But, when I took that poetry class at Hunter, all of those years later, things changed.
My professor told us that writing fiction by itself is a courageous thing to do. Writing poetry is even more courageous. If you think about it for a minute, you will understand why. If you are a poet, you know what I am talking about.
Poetry comes from the depths of our soul. We write it from the rawest places in our hearts. That makes us vulnerable. Reflecting back to that fateful day in 5th grade, I realize now, it was the teacher who did not understand.
My professor at Hunter helped me to reframe my humiliating experience with that first attempt at poetry to a proud one at Hunter. After all, no coward was about to try to write poetry. Sure, I was still scared to write it but now I was a courageous writer! Feel the fear and do it anyway! I had done that many times in my life; poetry writing was just one more. Do you see how I reframed that resistance?
Now, I consider resistance a good thing. It’s good because it means you’re on the verge of a breakthrough usually, a tremendous one. Here is a different example of how resistance is a good thing.
When I worked as a substance abuse counselor, patients were sometimes resistant to a question I asked them. I had touched a nerve. Fear. That was good! Behind the fear, they had something painful to face. If they could face it; light would be shed on a new level of understanding and with that came healing. It is the same with writing but, better.
Resistance in writing means you are about to open the door to something wonderful. The power of that is frightening. The vulnerability is scary but, great things are about to happen and with greatness comes responsibility. That is what scares us. It is our job as writers to face that fear of resistance; allow the greatness to come through. Yes, it is daunting. Only the courageous ones, the ones who go pro will feel that fear and do it anyway. This is where we separate girls from women, boys from men, and wannabe writers from pros.
Writing is not for the faint of heart. Here is how/ Ernest Hemingway described writing.
“There is nothing to writing. You sit down at the typewriter and bleed.”
And yes, sometimes it is like that. Other times it is more like this:
“There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.”
Which would you prefer? The view of resistance brewed from shame or, the reframing of resistance on the brink of brilliance?
The hardest part of writing is the sitting down part and facing that blank screen or page. Once you get going, it is much easier and sometimes, well often for me, delicious. Well, that is, until I read it! But, that is what revision is for. Okay, here are some tips to help you if you are having a bout of resistance or perhaps writers block. Both of these will keep us from sitting down to write.
- Awareness: pay attention to your body signals. What happens when you think about sitting down to write? Check in with you body. It never fails so let you know what is going on with your feelings. How to do this?
Become quiet. Sit in a comfortable chair. (house too loud with kids or teens? Sit on the toilet or take a bath. Be sure to lock that door putting on a sign on it if you need to- Do Not Disturb Unless there is blood spurting, projectile vomiting, or fire-big fire).
Ask questions: Where in your body does it hurt, feel sick, ache, or feel fatigued? What changes when you think about a favorite activity or food? Now tell yourself you have to sit down and write. What happens within your body now? And lastly, ask, “What would the Pro’s do?”
Reframe the resistance: Why something brilliant is afoot!
Reframe writer’s block: Ack, it’s only resistance!
2. Focus: Decide exactly what you will do when you sit down. Decide what time you will sit and how long you will sit to write. Do not deviate from that plan! If necessary shut off your internet. You can use https://freedom.to/ do this if want and close out all other programs on your laptop or computer.
3. Behave like the Pro’s: Sit your butt down and write and don’t budge until you scheduled break time! It is good to take a break every 45-50 minutes to stretch and move around. I use a timer for this.
4. Just do it! If you want to be a writer, WRITE! Do it on a regular basis. That will be different for each writer. Experiment 1 to 2 weeks at a time to see what works for you for the time of day and length of writing time. Remember, it takes 3 weeks for a new habit to develop.
And now a note from Stephen King.
“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.”