Resistance Thrives in Darkness

Resistance kicked my butt for almost a decade in my twenties. I’ve written about this in The War of Art. I crossed the country thirteen times in that era, driving my ’65 Chevy van, for no reason whatsoever except that I was running away from myself and my obligation to do my own work and follow my own calling.

But here’s the Big Takeaway:

The reason Resistance won was that I had no idea it existed.

Resistance thrives in darkness.

Resistance loves invisibilty.

Resistance’s most diabolical trick is that it masquerades so convincingly as our own voice.

When you and I hear ourselves thinking,

“You’re a bum, you’re a loser, you’ve got no talent … “

or

“Who do you think you are, dreaming of making a movie, starting a business, writing a book? You? Don’t make me laugh!”

we think that voice is us. We believe that these thoughts are ours, that they are an objective self-assessment offered up by our own rational, reasoning selves.

They’re not.

They’re Resistance.

If you don’t believe me, let me show you the thousands of e-mails and letters I’ve gotten in which totally disparate, unknown-to-one-another individuals report the chatter they hear in their heads.

The voice is identical in every case.

Everyone hears the exact same thing.

The genius of Resistance (and why it’s so powerful) is it convinces each of us that that’s our voice.

If it’s our voice, we’ve gotta believe it, right?

If I could implant one solitary run of thoughts in the brains of everyone on the planet, it would be this:

That negative, self-sabotaging voice you hear in your head is not you.

Those thoughts are not yours.

They are Resistance.

Everyone hears that same voice.

Ignore it.

Resistance thrives in darkness.

Bring Resistance into the light and you defeat it.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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

32 Comments

  1. Thom on November 27, 2019 at 5:57 am

    Thank you for writing this. It came at a terrific time because the resistance has been winning this past month.

  2. Rich on November 27, 2019 at 8:04 am

    Thank you

  3. Skip Raschke on November 27, 2019 at 8:07 am

    TY STEVE! Sent this on to the “Kids” and friends!!!
    God Bless You and Yours.

  4. Tom Volkar on November 27, 2019 at 8:14 am

    Thanks much for this clear reminder of how resistance thrives. Bringing it into the light, not owning it and seeing it for what it is allows us to remove the insidious excuses that are so ready to quash our dreams.

  5. Erick on November 27, 2019 at 8:48 am

    Strong words you illuminate us with today indeed! Especially in the clarity of how you claraify “Resistance thrives in darkness” and even how you capitalize Resistance, giving it the respect it deserves based on its destructive potential. As a still-evolving artist desperately inspired to move past my own Resistance, I find your writing very powerful!

  6. George on November 27, 2019 at 9:06 am

    Im traveling for the Holiday and listening to The War of Art. Thanks for all you do!

  7. Carolyn Little on November 27, 2019 at 9:27 am

    When should I expect the email I signed up for about the video lessons regarding The War of Art? I submitted my email twice and after 1/2 day, I still have not received it in my inbox.

  8. Lyn Blair on November 27, 2019 at 9:30 am

    Absolutely! Awesome post!

    You’re so right and your examples of the chatter were so spot on. Yes, Resistance is the self-critic that thrives in darkness.

    We need to be aware of the commentary running through our thought. Unveiling Resistance is what it takes for the chatter to fade and lose its power over us. Constant vigilance and exposure take persistence but what Resistance hates the most is being discovered. Shine the light on it and align ourselves with the truth and it will lose its power. Our higher selves, who we really are, is truly intelligent, creative, loving and beautiful. We resemble our Source.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Great post!

  9. BING on November 27, 2019 at 9:50 am

    Thank you for the work you do.
    – Shalom

    • Susanne Dejanovich on December 4, 2019 at 2:47 pm

      Amen.

  10. Brian Nelson on November 27, 2019 at 10:01 am

    I was just listening to the Jordan Peterson podcast. It was a taped talk he gave in Oslo about being a victim. He again talked about different personalities that live inside us, and in many ‘possess’ us. Which is part of the reason the ancients had many Gods.

    Anyway, it is interesting. I have been toying with the idea of identifying, specifically–all the special separate mini-me forms of Resistance that materialize inside of me. For example: The Victim-he always sees how unfair the world is. The Addict-if I like it–do it always, everyday, forever. The Sloth-binge Netflix while eating Oreos…

    Could be a self-defeating strategy as Steven has aggregated them all into Resistance–and the prescription is to Turn Pro. I’ve been toying with the idea of giving each sub-personality a fuller breakout, maybe I can then identify what specifically is calling forth this particular beast.

    In the end, I find it deeply satisfying to meet here virtually, and share strategies to overcome the tragedy of life.
    bsn

    • Joe Jansen on November 27, 2019 at 1:08 pm

      Brian…

      Try this: https://aeon.co/videos/its-impossible-to-see-the-world-as-it-is-argues-a-cognitive-neuroscientist

      Cognitive psychologist Donald Hoffman (Professor of Cognitive Science at UC-Irvine) and his theories of “conscious agents.” The WHOLE thing is mind-bender (which I’ve watched three times so far, trying to let it soak in). But specific to Steve’s post and your comments here, jump to 30:30 and watch the couple minutes forward from there, and what he has to say about procedures where the corpus callosum is cut (say, for treatment of epilepsy) and the right and left hemispheres of the brain can be observed to then have separate consciousnesses, different personalities.

      “The left hemisphere likes to make up stories. The right hemisphere is a little more ‘in tune with reality’ and ‘a little less nice.'”

      Apart from his metaphor of our evolved sensory system as a “computer desktop,” it’s interesting to listen to him talking about “different conscious agents” operating within us, related to these “different voices within us.”

      Thinking about these experiences we have of “part of me wants to go to that meeting, but part of me doesn’t.” OR that other voice in our minds, Resistance with a capital R as one of those conscious agents, talking shit to us. Could be.

      • Brian Nelson on November 27, 2019 at 2:55 pm

        Joe,
        THANK YOU! I’ve listened, and now saved it and emailed the link to myself. He’s a big thinker, and I will need to re-listen a few times as well. A lot to digest.

        Here is the link to JP’s ‘Psychological Significance of Biblical Stories’ lecture series. 14 Lectures, all 2.5 hours–but SO RICH. I’ve listened to the entire series 3 times. I listened to them from the iTunes podcast, here is the YouTube version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-wWBGo6a2w

        Also, I like the capital R–I immediately knew Steve was correct to capitalize Resistance. Makes him real. It is much easier to fight an enemy you can see.
        bsn

        • Joe on November 29, 2019 at 6:08 am

          Thanks for the link to the JP lecture series, Brian. I listened to the first 15 minutes of the first episode, and feel like it’s worth the investment in time. I’ve put it in my queue.

          I was watching a Rogan podcast where he was talking to mathematician Eric Weinstein (Weinstein’s been on podcast conversations with JP before). Weinstein is explaining “Hopf fibrations” and “gauge symmetry theories,” and Rogan is trying to follow along. Finally, he sits back and says, “You know, I just don’t think I have the tools to understand this.”

          Weinstein responds: “I don’t think so. What we lack is the time.” https://youtu.be/2xiEEtoa-_4?t=183

          I think that’s what we’re recognizing when we way were “re-listening to let things sink in and digest.” Letting it soak in.

          I’ve lately been fascinated by the research at Johns Hopkins and Imperial College London and NYU and others, on the therapeutic uses of entheogens. JP has some interesting things to say on that revived field of medical research, too.

          • Joe on November 29, 2019 at 6:10 am

            <>



          • Joe on November 29, 2019 at 6:11 am

            Stumbling over my keyboard this morning. Clarifying above: “…that’s what we’re recognizing when we say we’re “re-listening…”



  11. Jim Woods on November 27, 2019 at 10:16 am

    “Resistance’s most diabolical trick is that it masquerades so convincingly as our own voice.”

    This point is the real key for me. Especially if you spend a lot of time in your head. As a writer, it is easy to cling on to conversations, ideas, phrases, our emotions and everything in between.

    But Resistance is a liar. Resistance has been kicking my ass 500 different ways in the past few weeks through sneaky voices that say, “Be responsible.” Or, “Be a good father. Be a good husband.” But that’s not my voice, that’s Resistance trying to stop me in my tracks. Thanks for this powerful reminder, Steve.

  12. bill on November 27, 2019 at 11:03 am

    You simply nailed it Steve, we know what it is but did you discover why it is?

  13. Xavia Arndt Sheffield on November 27, 2019 at 11:42 am

    Resistance can literally destroy the whole person, not just the writer within, if we LET it. It is a matter of re-training our thoughts. As Angela Davis said: “I will no longer accept the things I cannot change- I will change the things I cannot accept.” Hard but not impossible. I work on it every day. Thanks for your message and encouragement. Xavia

  14. Pauline Brin on November 27, 2019 at 12:27 pm

    Thank you for this powerful message.

  15. Jared on November 27, 2019 at 2:15 pm

    Thank you!

    I put your run on thoughts on my lock screen so I will see them often.

  16. Wai'ale'ale on November 27, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    I don’t think any voice is coming from out side. All are our inner voice. However, there is the voice basing on lesser self/self-centered, and the voice basing on greater self/Self/Universal Self. We need to bring out and keep encouraging to manifest the greater Self that is aware of all of network of Life and inter-dependence so that even though frightening, painful, feeling dark/weak, still we can choose to take action for own call/take responsibility for humanity. It’s a never-ending, each minute, each second, daily battle and struggle. The key is we also need to be aware that we can encourage ourselves at any moment to summon up Self filled with wisdom, courage and compassion, and that Self is actually the true nature of living being. We are fundamentally very strong being, and we all have power and ability to overcome any life challenge. We need to practice to feel/perceive the shining self like a diamond!

  17. Sharon on November 28, 2019 at 12:19 am

    I’ve been coming here for over 10 years now and still, Resistance has its way with me regularly. I SO want to “turn pro” but I keep getting knocked off my course. This past week, with the November greys, Resistance built it’s strength each day, as my resolve to battle dissipated a little more each day. Yesterday I was flooded with nausea each time I attempted to do what I wanted/needed to do. It is truly a diabolical force. Today is a new day, still grey, but I will try again. Thanks Steve, I believe what you believe. I lift myself back up, once again, and I hope and pray for the “turning pro” day.

  18. Sam on November 28, 2019 at 1:38 am

    “ The voice is identical in every case.
    Everyone hears the exact same thing. ”

    I am experienced in helping young people recover from eating disorders and It is the same phenomenon, all over the world, across different ages, generations and backgrounds, the majority of sufferers of eating disorders hear the same debilitating things, and do the same things in their brains’ quest to starve. I don’t just mean the obvious things we all think about and are portrayed in the media, and I don’t want to reveal them here but I found it equally fascinating and terrifying how the ED manifested INNATELY, to a Blueprint, just like Resistance.

  19. Patrick on November 28, 2019 at 5:33 am

    Once again magical words of wisdom Steven!

    “Resistance thrives in darkness.
    Bring Resistance into the light and you defeat it.”

    I would encourage everyone to embrace the resistance. Dance with it! Cuddle with it! Mingle with it! The playful paradox about light, is that the only true way to see the light….is from darkness. “You have to be willing to embrace the darkness before you can explore the light and service to others through lightwork.”

    You can’t purge the animal in you! You got to manage it and you got to know where your darkness both lives and comes from. As soon as you try to purge it, it is going take you like the undercurrent in the ocean. You are going to drown! Only you have the power to expand and explore your awareness within it the darkness. In the process of doing so, you are able to get rid of your darkest fears and discover untapped areas of yourself. Embrace it from the perspective of duality: Yin and Yang – expansion and contraction – inhale and exhale.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  20. Sharon on November 28, 2019 at 6:35 am

    The voice of resistance is there originally to protect us. Protect us from danger, from ostracization, from very simply doing stupid things that might put us in harm’s way. Writing can be challenging emotionally, intellectually, socially. It is often the place where we bare our soul, our ideas, our creativity, and the ability to research and create meaning.
    This can create a sense that we are at risk and that protective, albeit, negative voice kicks in.

    I often ask myself: What is the worst thing that can happen if I write this? If my research is not accurate if my idea flops. Usually, the answer is ‘not much’ – or even, I correct the research, iterate on the idea, stand by my view or creative license of interpretation.

    I like Patricks ending of his comment: expansion and contraction – inhale and exhale.

    I agree. Take a deep breath, stand up and shake your body off a bit (like a Zebra – see Why Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky) and get your fingers moving!

    Thank you Steven for keeping our reminders simple and on task.

    Off to write for a bit – something racy and risky!

    Happy Thanksgiving to you all

    • Madalena on December 8, 2019 at 5:39 pm

      I couldn’t agree more Sharon. I found Michelle Spiva’s romance template on Scrivener brilliant. It outlines what you should write first, such as the dialogue, then the descriptions and the scenes and step by step plot focus. I wrote the Chastity Black series using it, and it got very good reviews.

  21. Sam Luna on November 28, 2019 at 2:58 pm

    Thanks, Coach, as always.

  22. Yvonne on November 28, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    I cannot even tell you how much I look forward to Wednesdays because of your posts, this post being the perfect reason why. It came at the exact time I needed it. Thank you, Steve!

  23. Sharon on December 2, 2019 at 4:36 am

    Can resistance be in the form of other people/circumstances trying to stop us doing the work we want to do?

  24. Julie on December 2, 2019 at 7:49 pm

    Love this. So freeing….I keep thinking I’m self sabotoguing not getting to my edit of my book…love the idea of seeing it as separate from myself. Thanks!

  25. Madalena on December 8, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    I find that there are two forces at work within each of us. The effect of the particular force we live by becomes the sum total of our life. These two forces are Desire and Fear. Most people live their lives avoiding taking any chances to avoid that feeling of fear. They will deny a desire as fear has more power over them.
    I have found that what we believe about ourselves is actually just a story that we have mistaken as being who we are. – It’s just an emotional response that has become habit, embedded as children. Just deeply ingrained neural pathways that serves up the habitual emotional response on cue.
    It could be said that whole societies, religions, cultures and social classes could be kept in line this way.
    I think that our emotions are no more part of our true selves, then the clothes we wear or the car we drive. But all the same, emotions can control us if we let them. Like opinions, they are neither right or wrong.
    If you think about it, being able to effect someones emotions gives you tremendous power. Advertising works on this principal. It’s not the big house we really want – it’s all about how having the big house will make us feel.
    It’s not really about aspiring to look drop dead gorgeous and thin – it’s about how we think it will make us feel.
    Question everything – you will be surprised by what you find. If you don’t risk anything – you will never gain anything.
    As writers, you can feel the desire to express. You feel there is something more than what is currently on offer in this world and you feel it’s presence within you. As a writer the need to express this voice – it may only be a whisper, but its need to be heard will haunt you day and night if you don’t allow it to Be.
    You don’t have to try to be a good writer, you just have to allow the sleeping presence that is unique to you, the freedom to exist without fear of judgement – Beauty arises from the invisible, and you have created true art.

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