My Resistance Dream Diary

I’m gonna take a break this week from our series on Theme (we’ll be back) to address an issue that’s happening with me right now.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Dream #2 was just like one of his books.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Dream #2 was just like one of his books.

Dreams.

I’m just starting a new fiction project that’s overwhelming me with Resistance, and my dreams have been really interesting. I’d like to share a few of them—and the whole interactive process between waking, working life and nocturnal who-knows-what—over the next couple of weeks.

Maybe this will ring a bell with your own psychic adventures.

Here’s the backstory:

About two months ago I had an idea for a story. Immediately I was swamped with Resistance.

Was the idea any good? Could I pull it off? Did I want to? Would anybody be interested? Was it a movie or a book? How would I tell the story?

Maybe I should just forget it. The idea is not very “me.” I’ve never done anything like it before. I don’t know how to attack it, I don’t know how to position it, I don’t know how to promote it …

I decided to shelve it.

Then I had this dream.

 

I was playing golf with my old friend Phil. We were on the first tee of some course I had never played before. Two other guys were paired with us. The course was crowded. A bunch of foursomes were lining up behind us, ready for their turn.

I reached for my golf bag. Only it wasn’t my golf bag. It was some terrible, ratty bag about eighty years old. The clubs were antiques—scruffy, beat-up old sticks with wooden shafts warped with age and cracking with mildew. Then I zipped open the pocket that held the golf balls. OMG, all I had was the scroungiest collection of dimple-free, waterlogged, dead-ass balls that looked like they wouldn’t fly ten yards. Arrrgggh!

Meanwhile Phll was teeing off; our other two guys were getting ready. Somebody said to me, “There’s a decent ball out there.” He was pointing about two hundred yards away, down a side patch of grass. I took off on a run, picked up the ball and raced back to the tee. By now the other two guys had hit their drives; Phil was 150 yards away, striding down the fairway. The next foursome was already teeing their balls. I was out of breath, sweating, totally discombobulated.

WTF, there’s no point in even swinging. I picked up my ball and ratty old bag and gave up.

 

Now I may not be the greatest interpreter of dreams, but this one’s message seemed pretty unmistakable.

The first tee is the start of a project.

It’s an unknown golf course, i.e. totally new.

I’m unprepared. I’m rushing. I’m freaking out. I’m letting intangibles completely throw me off my stride.

I’m quitting before I begin.

In other words, the dream was simply depicting my state of mind in regard to this new project. I could see it now, and I didn’t like what I saw.

I changed my mind. I decided I would do the project.

I started the next day.

I got in about two hours (pretty much my max for the inception of a long-term work).

The day went pretty well. I was just trying to get my thoughts down on paper—what the story was about, who the characters were, Act One, Act Two, Act Three, how would it end. Just a toehold.

That night I had this dream.

 

I was in a foreign country, in a rental car, heading somewhere on a freeway that was not too crowded. I found myself behind a couple of cars driving ridiculously slowly. I began cursing them. What’s wrong with these foreign drivers? Then the cars turned off. I kept going.

The freeway got worse and worse in terms of road condition. Suddenly the pavement ended entirely. I was driving over a bed of gravel and rocks. Then the road became a dirt track. Suddenly the surface dropped down a slope and an actual stream cut across. I was cursing out loud, “This is like a freakin’ Third World country.” I decided to keep going. What else could I do? I drove deliberately down over the road edge toward the stream, aiming for a sort of natural causeway so I could drive over. The causeway ran out and suddenly I was in the water …

[Side note: water is a recurring image in dreams for me. It always means creativity, the flow of ideas. The greater the volume of water in a dream and the faster that water is flowing, the more creative power is moving through me.]

Somehow my rental car vanished and I was floating in the air, still going forward along the channel of the now-long-gone freeway.The channel still existed but it had become a river.

I found I could move forward if I “swam” through the air. I was maybe fifteen, twenty feet above the surface of the river, which was crystal-clear and about 100 feet wide, passing through shaded, canopied jungle. Not dense, there was plenty of soft sunlight. It was gorgeous, like Gabriel Marquez’ magical realism. It even felt South American.

I was propelling myself forward by drifting to the bluffs at the side of the river (kind of like retaining walls beside a freeway) and pushing off with my hands. Suddenly the river turned left. A breeze hit me, pushing me back. I was struggling against the wind. But when I got around the corner slightly, the wind changed and was now at my back. I looked ahead to the right and I could see the ocean. The sky was bright through the jungled canopy. I could see part of a beach, like a fishing village in South or Central America.

Suddenly ahead, between the river and the ocean, I saw a spectacular domed cathedral rising in the sunlight beyond the jungle. Spanish-looking. Absolutely gorgeous. I thought, Wow, what the hell have I stumbled onto here? Then I looked downriver. About a mile ahead, out in the clear on the right-hand bank, I saw a city. A beautiful city with South American style architecture.

I was close alongshore now, still flying. I passed slowly, just above a couple of local fishermen mending their nets. One told me, “It’s better to go all the way down to the city traveling along the river, rather than cutting inland, and land at the city so that you’re coming in off the river. More impressive. Good karma.”

I liked that. I decided that was just what I would do.

 

What could this dream mean? I take the universe depicted to refer to the work now, the new project I’ve just started. I’m in some “new world,” like the kind discovered by Cortez or Balboa, of which I’ve been very dubious and in fact didn’t even know or believe that it existed. Could I survive there? Yes! There’s plenty of water (creativity),  a whole brilliant new species of architecture, and a spectacular new city to explore. And the water is pellucid-clear, straight out of Eden.

In other words the dream is saying that this new work will be, at least for me (if not necessarily for anyone else), a totally-novel, consciousness-expanding adventure and experience.

This dream is one of the greatest I’ve ever had. It’s almost a Big Dream in the Jungian sense of once-in-a-decade, life-changing, epochal communiqués from the Unconscious.

I put aside all doubts about the new project.

I decided to go for it.

I was all in.

I’ll continue this exploration next week with the succeeding couple of dreams (and maybe the week after) to track the progress of this crazy thing. But the bottom line for me is the amazing dynamic architecture of the psyche.

It’s a battle.

A war.

On one shoulder we’ve got Resistance, diabolical as hell and absolutely out to destroy us, mind and soul.

On the other shoulder we have our brilliant sage/Merlin/Harry Potter/whatever, our benevolent Unconscious, sending us a Netflix movie tailored specifically for us and exotically beautiful, insightful, loaded with significance and meaning and wisdom.

And we’re there in the middle.

This is the artist’s inner world.

This is the artist’s life.

 

THE WAR OF ART

Read this one first.
It identifies the enemy—what I call Resistance with a capital “R,” i.e. fear, self-doubt, procrastination, perfectionism, all the forms of self-sabotage—that stop us from doing our work and realizing our dreams.
Start here.
Everything else proceeds from this.

The-War-of-Art

DO THE WORK

Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

do the work book banner 1

THE AUTHENTIC SWING

A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.

The-Authentic-Swing

NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SH*T

Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.

noboybookcover

TURNING PRO

Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"

Turning-Pro

27 Comments

  1. Joe on April 13, 2016 at 6:42 am

    Well, God bless you for this. Appreciated more than you know.

  2. Dora Sislian Themelis on April 13, 2016 at 6:54 am

    Last month I had my first solo art exhibit and sale in a small gallery in my area. It was a hard won battle with Resistance, but I saw it through. The show was a wonderful experience, well attended and received. I even sold a few paintings which I didn’t expect to happen at all.

    Post exhibition has been a full on Resistance nightmare. I can’t work, can’t sleep, let alone dream. The strange thing is that the Universe is speaking to me, not from dreams as you experience, but through the words of other people. I’ve had random conversations, or overheard someone else, and suddenly dumbfounded by what they’ve said, as if the words were for me, showing my next direction. I find myself blinking in disbelief.

    Resistance is definitely out to destroy me, as the Universe tries to push me forward by whatever means it can. The artist’s life is tough. Thank you for your wisdom.

  3. Lise on April 13, 2016 at 7:07 am

    Wow. Thank you for your transparency and vulnerability. Resistance is a bitch and the creative life often like like wandering in the desert while yearning for the promised land. Then while diving in, the desert becomes the land of milk and honey. I have those big archetypal dreams too. When I awake from them, I feel drugged or like a truck hit me.

  4. Scott Attenborough on April 13, 2016 at 7:13 am

    The overwhelming impression I got from your golf story concerned the ball you went chasing after in the grass.

    You were on an unknown journey with inadequate tools. You saw something glimmering in the grass, something you would rather do or use. You thought it would be better if you chased after that ball than use all of your beat up tools to play a course you were unfamiliar with.

    I sometimes myself chasing new tools and new knowledge at the expense of the current project. You go for that new thing and you lose track of you project and it’s worse because your friends are now gone. They’re on the adventure without you. Now you are playing catch-up. It’s overwhelming – you give up.

    Thank that ole muse for getting you back on track.

    Thank you for sharing your dreams. I am sure we all have our own interpretation based on our individual circumstances. That is why I love reading your work. I feel like I can always relate. It gives me insight into my journey. Happy Writing Wednesday – Scott

    • Brian on April 13, 2016 at 4:15 pm

      Scott,
      Great insight.
      bsn

  5. Ruth Nolan on April 13, 2016 at 7:34 am

    You’re prancing on silver stars, they are suspended amidst the black abyss for you and your journey.
    You’ve surly done the work to get there!
    Congratulations and thank you always for your courage and generosity and grit.

  6. Mary Doyle on April 13, 2016 at 7:56 am

    Thanks so much for sharing this! It amazes me that Resistance hasn’t given up on you yet – a good lesson for all of us.

  7. Gayle on April 13, 2016 at 7:57 am

    And as Dora mentioned in her comment, your words came bearing a strong message for me. Thank you! I also pay attention to my dreams (and lately, they are not just knocking on my door, they are barging in full force!). When dreams (inner world) and words (outer world) collude, that’s some mighty force! And I say:” Yeah – bring it on!!”

  8. LuAnn on April 13, 2016 at 8:12 am

    Thank you for sharing. It was exactly what I needed to hear today.

  9. Janet Lawler on April 13, 2016 at 8:22 am

    Hi Steven,

    Your post couldn’t have come at a better time. I am currently between projects and feel handcuffed creatively. Should I write a book? A TV pilot? A new spec script? A short play? I’ve written in all these mediums… but for my next story? This limbo has lasted for about three weeks now — I have a few stories on the burner — but looking for clarity on which to devote the next six months to. Then, I read your post. I’ll breathe and look for signs and just begin. Thank you, as always, Steven, for the inspiration.

  10. George Haughton on April 13, 2016 at 9:25 am

    For me, Action=Motivation…..Motivation does NOT equal Action

    When I decide on a project, I will immediately limit myself to taking action for two minutes. IMMEDIATELY! For me, resistance is slow in coming, so taking action, immediately, for two minutes is just enough time to outwit the R word. If I don’t start something within two minutes, I’m doomed.

    Like so many creatives, I would wait for “motivation” to hit in hopes of inspiring me to take action on a project. Then, one day, I inadvertently started working on a songwriting project without even thinking about it. After about two minutes, I realized that, “Hey, I’m working on this stupid thing.” Two hours later, I was still engaged.

    Now, when I’m faced with something I want to do, like a writing project, re-reading a Pressfield book, or cleaning out the cats’ box, I give myself two minutes and that’s it. My deal is I can stop after two minutes and forget about it, or I can keep going. 99% of the time, I keep going.

    So, for me…2 Minutes of Action = the Motivation!

    • Brian on April 13, 2016 at 6:16 pm

      George,
      I love it! Minimum effective dose.
      bsn

  11. Richard Asmus on April 13, 2016 at 9:33 am

    I just discovered a strange form of Resistance. I have an novel half finished with a theme of a young woman’s struggle to achieve her commitments to improving education, evn though overwhelmed with unexpected challenges. I shelved it to start my own struggle to improve education. In my search for associates, a friend inadvertently opened my eyes, and I can clearly see Resistance asking be to take on a massive new project to keep from having to finish another. Nice try, R, but sorry. I’m going back to the novel. And thanks Steven and everyone in the group.

  12. Jule Kucera on April 13, 2016 at 9:55 am

    Steven, thank you so much for sharing all of it–the resistance, the first dream, the action, the second dream. I don’t think you would have had the second without the action you took after the first. Aren’t dreams fascinating? And wasn’t the golf course the perfect place for you, then? When I think of you and golf, I think Bagger. In the second dream, there are no clubs or balls–nothing in your hands, nothing even under your feet! It’s just you, pushing off the cliffs, riding the waves of air and water. I’ve had memorable dreams that have caused me to leave things (a job, a relationship), and a dream that honored something (love after death), but I’ve never had a dream that caused me to move forward into something. I am so happy for you.

  13. Caron Harris on April 13, 2016 at 9:58 am

    This was so moving, and so helpful, like a gift. Thank you for sharing your experiences and I look forward to the continuation.

  14. Dick Yaeger on April 13, 2016 at 10:21 am

    Wow. I have this image of you startled awake at sunrise, eyes wide, sitting straight up in bad, scrambling for pencil and paper to write down the dream details before they’re forgotten. Then a big sigh and smile.

    • Dave LaRoche on April 13, 2016 at 7:28 pm

      Have you ever read Marquez, particularly “Solitude”? Pressfield’s final dream sounds just like it. One needs a recorder under the pillow.

  15. Beth Barany on April 13, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Brilliant (thank you Dreams) and encouraging! Thank you, Steven!

  16. Dave H. on April 13, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    Wow. Whenever I have had dreams this big and vivid, it almost always means something big is coming…

    Looking forward to seeing the end result!!

  17. Joel D Canfield on April 13, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    That’s magnificent every word.

    Hugely excited to see the new project.

  18. dabonci on April 13, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    Zowie. Steven’s technicolor dreamcoat! : )

  19. Jamie Miles on April 13, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    From one slugging through her first first draft, it comforts a bit to know a pro can struggle with the mind and will. Whenever I dream I’m on an airplane I turn to each row mate and apologize. Because the plane is going down. Every. Single. Time. My subconscious screaming at my conscious for setting goals and aspirations to lofty for little ole me to achieve. Makes perfect sense. Got to override that fear. Hmm.

  20. David Kaufmann on April 13, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    Thanks for sharing, for your vulnerability and insight. This one has struck a lot of chords in a lot of people. Dreams can be scary and energizing. Thanks.

  21. Dave LaRoche on April 13, 2016 at 7:33 pm

    Thanks for your blog, your reporting. Sometimes you hit squarely between the eyes, sometimes I see it passing by. All of it’s valuable. I’m relatively new here, but have become a fan … and a student.
    Dave

  22. Carol March on April 14, 2016 at 9:17 am

    Thank you so much for the insightful post. So interesting that I have been depressed for days, partly due to resistance and also because I am on the verge of losing my mentor to cancer, but I also had one of those important dreams two nights ago.It advised me to look away fromm the desert where nothing grows and focus back toward civilization.

    I so much appreciate your work, both fiction and especially the nonfiction. Not until yesterday did I realize that my lifelong struggle with depression is one of the faces of resistance.

  23. Jonah Calinawan on April 14, 2016 at 9:38 am

    I love the Just-In-Time storytelling here (as it’s happening!). I also love the water symbolism, which to me is all about being reborn. Great stuff. Can’t wait to hear more.

  24. Renita on April 16, 2016 at 11:21 am

    And now it is my dream. When I read something hard earned and true it becomes a part of me. Artists use consciousness to permeate their audience and change the world. This requires a cost to be paid. It costs us to be here and to create. Thanks for investing so generously in yourself and sharing the manna.

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