I was recommended a book by a friend recently called ‘The War of Art’ by Steven Pressfield. I heavily identified with the majority of its contents and strongly urge any aspiring writers to go and read it. Clicky for more information. The basic message is that THE RESISTANCE as Steven dubs it, is out to get us. Procrastination might be another word for it. He describes us, as creative humans, being locked into an eternal and daily battle with this force which is hell-bent on preventing us from beginning or finishing a plethora of spiritual, creative and positive actions including self care, writing, painting, spiritual development, fitness and any/other activities that nourish our mind, body and spirit. In short, stuff that is good for us.
Since reading this book, I have become acutely aware of THE RESISTANCE and have been letting it thoroughly (I can never spell that blasted word without spell-check) kick my arse and prevent me from self care, Tai Chi, writing, doodling, getting fit, spiritual development, prayer, meditation and anything else that feeds my spirit. I have come to the conclusion that THE RESISTANCE is an utter bastard and I am now declaring all out war on this mofo.
I have officially left my time consuming, stress laden job for nearly two full months now, yet I have not fully completed one piece of writing that I have been working on in that time. Granted, a novel will take much longer to finish than a poem, I’m not putting that kind of ridiculous expectations on myself, but the time I have had in between my new (wonderful and freeing) part time job, I have been hardly writing at all. Two good sessions in two months (4 if you count yesterday and today).
No more. I have my spiritual armour on, I have prayed to the word Gods and Goddesses and I am typing out some of my inane scribbles from yesterday, albeit at lunchtime. I am letting go of the little (yet loud) voice of doubt that sneaks in its snide little comments ‘well that isn’t really funny, you can’t publish that’. I’m a writer, not a fucking comedienne, it doesn’t always have to be funny. I’m not listening to any of it, for now I know that it is THE RESISTANCE in disguise, in a me costume, speaking to me in my own voice. Fuck you resistance. I am just going to write.
But not like this…
Yesterday was a productive day. I didn’t write any of my book, but I wrote something. Writing anything is better than not writing at all. Part of my problem is that I want every word I write to leap off the page, to sing and dance, every word must be astoundingly clever, with intricate plots and hyper real characters that spring from the pages to kidnap my audience’s attention, an instant masterpiece. That’s like picking up a guitar for the first time and expecting to play like Jimi Hendrix without the years of practice (which I do expect, hence why I only know a couple of chords and do not play guitar). No wonder I talk myself out of writing before I’ve even started. So yesterday, I launched my ridiculous expectations out of the window with THE RESISTANCE tied to them, and this is what came out.
Photographs of far flung places adorn the off white walls, showing off to the less well travelled ‘I have been somewhere (better than you)’. The smell of freshly brewed coffee weaves its way across the room, eavesdropping on hushed conversations around the tables. An empty table stands alone in between each habited one, populated with various humans of the world, old friends catching up, a child giggling with her father, an avid reader lost in the pages of a book, a couple (or potential couple) fanning one another’s flame – nonchalantly of course.
There are two other writers here, we all recognise each other through furtive glances and the occasional knowing smile. One writer stabs aggressively at her keyboard between darting looks upon my arrival in her domain, the other returns my knowing smile and is defeated by THE RESISTANCE after lightly tapping out a few lines. I am taking the old fashioned route today, sitting with my notebook and pen, scribbling furiously, observing, writing, until social media comes like gravity and pulls me away from my reverie.
Thieves of time! Must…reply….to…..comment…..must….look! In the past year, I have managed just 7 measly consecutive days with no social media, as part of a resistance fighting exercise before I knew what THE RESISTANCE was. But I digress. Back to the writing.
I am fighting my own resistance, stalling, avoiding, doing anything but writing. The first draft of my first book is almost done and after each writing session the sea of fear swallows me and drags me under the waves. I resurface, further away from my goal. I can make it out on the creative horizon, but it is just out of reach. Then something floats past me, hooks my attention and further away I drift. THE RESISTANCE traps me and carries me away from where I want to be.
I turn my cursed phone over, hiding the blinking blue light that screeches ‘You are missing something! Look at me, look at me!’. There are little bottles with pink wild flowers in them on each table and I notice how beautiful they are for the first time since arriving here. I look up and over the angry/stabby writer, to a large framed photograph of a mountain peak surrounded by billowing clouds. I wonder where the photograph was taken and a memory flashes into my mind. I am floating free in a swimming pool cut into a cliff, watching the marmalade sunrise melt into the sea. In awe of this natural beauty, witnessing my first sunset in a foreign country, I recall the brief moment of peace I felt in my soul at a time when I was at war with myself and everything around me was permeated by a great sadness.
I like it here, and have often come to sit at the cushioned window seat to write, read or study, or sometimes just to observe and think. There is a welcoming vibe about the place, inclusive and homely. An older couple arrive and play a game of dominoes while they enjoy their tea and cake. It was a touching moment, I love observing these slices of life, studying their facial expressions as they consider moves and talk. Envy comes to slap me round the brain, telling me me that I will never be that age sharing a pot of tea or a simple game with JP. He is gone forever, Envy says and I remember how much I miss him. That all too familiar stab of pain punches through my chest and swaps out my heart for a lump of dull granite. The phone appears in my hand and I scroll through my news feed, devouring the information displayed. Avoid avoid avoid.
A couple of hours earlier, I was messaging someone declaring all the good stuff ‘I am slowly moving on, I am more at peace with myself than I have been in years, I’ve made some huge life changes’ – all of which is true, but I say this because it is what I think other people want to hear. Moving on and making life changes does not grant immunity from the pain of losing someone. I accept that it is a part of me now and it will always be lurking around in the background, pouncing when I least expect it and occasionally dragging me back to the dark place.
The wave of feeling subsides without tears this time and I return my pen to the page. The little blue light is winking at me once more, taunting me with its wares. I cave into it and read the meaningless information, then take a photograph of my teapot, a napkin I have doodled a smiley face on whilst feeling painful feelings and the corner of my notebook. I post it for the online world to see complete with hash tags.
I return my pen to the page. It is almost time to leave. Despite the best efforts of THE RESISTANCE, I have managed to get almost six full pages of freehand down. This might not seem like an achievement to some, but I feel triumphant.
‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ by Procol Harum plays out through the speaker system and I smile wistfully. My Dad loved that record. I loved him. I still love him and JP and even though they are both gone, I remember that I am blessed with lots of other people I love. A sunny wave of gratitude washes over my spirit as I gather my things and pack them away. My pain no longer defines me. I am defined by love and gratitude. An overwhelming sense of Deja Vu descends, I have dreamed this precise moment or been here before, perhaps in another lifetime. A contented sigh flows from me as I return my pen and pad to my bag and head out to do the next thing on my journey, marvelling that I have seen and felt so much in this tiny fragment of time.