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 key point:

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

We all have our private images of Resistance. This is mine. “Ming the Merciless” from the old FLASH GORDON serials.

Resistance thrives in darkness.

Resistance loves secrecy.

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

 When we 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 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 thought in the brains of every struggling soul 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.

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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?"

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"PUT YOUR ASS WHERE YOUR HEART WANTS TO BE"

Available for pre-order in paperback, ebook, and audiobook.

49 Comments

  1. Jackie on April 6, 2022 at 3:06 am

    The bum showed up at my door this week. I said, “Sorry, no time. Too many kids here. Move on.” (I’m editing my kid’s book.) Thanks Steve, in the past he would have gotten a foot in the door.

    • Chrissy on April 6, 2022 at 2:37 pm

      Bravo!!! 🥂

  2. Nick Sherman on April 6, 2022 at 7:09 am

    We must be Brutal.

  3. Jake on April 6, 2022 at 7:19 am

    Yes sir – Action not thoughts or feelings helps us feel like ourselves again the masculine urge!

  4. Callie B. Elwayns on April 6, 2022 at 7:22 am

    Just as I’m stepping over the threshold to another level of risk in my art and offering – that old contraction comes! I know it’s resistance of course but nevertheless it’s lure is mesmerizing. It knows something big is at stake for me and for so many others I serve. Time to take a stand and recommit to what’s true and do the work!

    Thank you for the reminder and inspiration Steven.
    Love Callie

  5. Mia Sherwood Landau on April 6, 2022 at 7:28 am

    Ming The Merciless… priceless. I am keeping his name and his face in my mind. Yes! It’s all true! I don’t even have to watch the old movie because he has run roughshod through my creative life long enough. Be gone with you, MTM!

  6. Susan Setteducato on April 6, 2022 at 7:30 am

    I named my Resistance Bob after my first ex-husband. Then, on the advice of Liz Gilbert (I think it was her??) I wrote Bob a letter. I keep it on my wall and when I feel the black mold creeping in, I stand and read it out loud. It always makes me laugh, which breaks the dark spell.

  7. Dea on April 6, 2022 at 7:31 am

    Thank you for helping us turn on the Light, teaching how to continue to work regardless of the presence of those dark ninnies.
    They kind of tend to dissolve in that steady, determined presence and cease to torture.
    Reminds me of the Wizard of Oz when the curtain gets pulled. And….it’s never a one off solution, since the darkness seems to have so many forms requiring ongoing – and truly Spartan focus – (reading Gates of Fire now to help break the trend of only reading War of Art…wow I love this book!) YET, the Light does empower. Thank you @SP.

  8. Mia Sherwood Landau on April 6, 2022 at 7:33 am

    Ok, I took a screenshot of MTM to keep on my phone. Now I can confront him verbally when necessary!

  9. Kate Stanton on April 6, 2022 at 7:34 am

    I like how Steve says the “genius of Resistance”. It is genius. We must work harder and smarter than it. Being aware it is is there to sabotage and steal dreams is the first step!! LOL at Ming the Merciless. Mine take the shape in my mind of “Mean Girls”. Regina George’s in the brain. Those same mean girls from grade school that gave me fake invitations to parties or spread rumors when I was just quiet. I should be long past that, but Resistance loves to remind me of those embarrassing moments at 1 am in the morning: “they were right, you are TOO much TOO sensitive”…
    Fighting back with the power of the pen!!
    Today’s post reminds me of this lyric. When we feel broken down by Resistance:
    “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” -Leonard Cohen

    • Gerry Lantz on April 6, 2022 at 7:43 am

      Love the Leonard C0hen lyric–more light please.

  10. Lisa Lanzetta on April 6, 2022 at 7:34 am

    The ‘War of Art’ found me at a time when I was shifting the way I bring my work into the world. Resistance had shown up as depression before the big threshold crossing. I am again at a time of another threshold crossing and there is the rascal again. As always, perfect timing, thank you Steve. I know this rascal and all it’s sneaky ways, yet find it still trips me up. Time to re-visit War of Art and Turning Pro! These little gems are like a sweet and not so sweet (ass kicker) dear friend who understands the creative process.

  11. Marvin Ginsberg on April 6, 2022 at 7:38 am

    Masterful assessment. Well put.

  12. Jenny on April 6, 2022 at 7:43 am

    To quote the greatest writer of all time: Get thee behind me, Satan!

  13. Gerry Lantz on April 6, 2022 at 7:51 am

    It is so hard to separate ourselves from our thoughts. “We are not our thoughts” as my first yoga teacher said to me–and it knocked me on my ass. We are however the ACTIONS we take. Action, not thoughts, as a respondent said above. Early in life my mantra was “I’m not creative enough…” to be a writer, filmmaker, critic–whatever. It worked until I picked up a pen, got into advertising in NYC, started my own brand consultancy. Yet every day, I have to force myself to put, as Steven says, “Put my ass where my heart wants to be.” Yep, hard. Yep, far more productive. And yep, you feel and think creatively when you do. Steve’s posts make my day and push me to start and start over. Thanks.

    • Kate Stanton on April 6, 2022 at 8:11 am

      Good work putting Resistance on its ass, Gerry! Clearly you are creative both in problem solving and in new ideas! I like what Maya Angelou said about creativity:
      “You Can’t Use Up Creativity, the More You Use the More You Have” …writers work out that muscle!

  14. Yvonne on April 6, 2022 at 8:06 am

    Exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you, Steve!

  15. Ellen on April 6, 2022 at 8:17 am

    Steven… You are my hero. I have lived in 12 states (which I did enjoy) looking for “my spot in this world” not knowing “my spot is within” until I read “War of Art”. I have read the book and read it again and finished “Do the Work”. I am also painting again! There are times I was 6 months past contract dates. I have even given deposits back because of resistance. I see the blessings of my journey, as difficult as it was. I cannot imagine the many blessings and “ah ha moments” you had on your journey as painful as it may have been. I do thank you for being the hero of resistance in your life and sharing it with all who have crossed paths with you and or your work!

  16. Jeff Sutherland on April 6, 2022 at 8:26 am

    Not today, Resistance!

    May your message ring loud & clear, far & wide, Steven. Thank you for the reminder.

    Jeff

  17. Brian Nelson on April 6, 2022 at 8:54 am

    Back again for my weekly dose of smash-mouth Truth.

    I’ll add alone to darkness. Not solitary, that is different. I mean isolated. When Resistance truly has its talons in me, I shrink away from life, from those who love me, I hide in shame and despair.

    In the past few years I’ve been stumbling towards faith. When I first read “War of Art” I was a cynical agnostic. A more accurate picture might be a traumatized kid shaking his fist at God.

    “War of Art” gave me new language to confront Darkness. Now, I’m pretty sure Resistance was in the Garden, or as another genius artist sang, ” …when Jesus Christ had is moment of doubt and pain, Killed the Tzar and his ministers, rode a tank, held a general’s rank when the blitzkrieg raged and the bodies stank..”

    Alone and in the dark is where Resistance reigns.

    The ties that bind us, as a species, are forged when we confront adversity shoulder to shoulder, linking arms, holding hands.

    This is why I come back with nearly religious zeal each Wednesday. I want to link arms, hold hands, and confront the enemy.
    bsn

    • Diane Dreher on April 6, 2022 at 9:04 am

      Yes, Brian. Resistance gets us when we are all alone. Solidarity defeats Resistance which is why I keep coming back every Wednesday. Together we are strong in spirit.

      • Brian Nelson on April 6, 2022 at 12:53 pm

        Diane,
        I’m nodding my head as I type this. There is a magic in numbers, then we need to do the work ourselves. The community is like water/air/nourishment to strengthen us to confront the enemy in our own dens/offices/studios/startups.
        bsn

    • Kate Stanton on April 6, 2022 at 9:56 am

      Brian,
      Your lovely posts are truth bombs as well. I liked your analogy last week. I hope you don’t mind me sharing, but I also used to shake my fists at God. When that got me nowhere, I completely denied his existence. I felt like he was ignoring my cries for help, so I will ignore him back. It wasn’t until I had nothing to lose that I had an a-ha moment. How about a personal relationship with God? I viewed the creator through a warped lens based on my earthly experiences and what I expected from people. It was all my little brain knew. God didn’t do those things to me. He didn’t allow them to happen. He carried me through it though when I surrendered! Like Steve’s post last week–letting go and letting love and the universe take control. Why is this concept so effing hard to do!?!? It’s a good thing creators have their outlets to ask these questions that could otherwise drive us crazy! Keep working…it’s inspiring!

      • Brian Nelson on April 6, 2022 at 2:34 pm

        Kate,
        I blushed! Thank you for the kind words.

        If Steven had written ‘War of Art’ with Biblical language, I would have tossed it in the trash. Too hurt to hear that ‘pablum’ at the time.

        His allegory was enough of a bridge to open my mind to powers greater than myself.
        bsn

    • Bing on April 6, 2022 at 3:51 pm

      AMEN Brian, thanks

  18. Diane Dreher on April 6, 2022 at 9:01 am

    Just what I needed to hear today. As I approach a new project, a new threshold, I can hear resistance trying to drain my energy and block the light.

  19. Edna Barbosa on April 6, 2022 at 9:22 am

    this is synchronicity, just yesterday I heard Lucia Helena GalvĂŁo commenting on this book, I really need this!

  20. Sandra on April 6, 2022 at 9:25 am

    Thank you. I needed a reminder.

  21. George Carpenter IV on April 6, 2022 at 9:25 am

    A daily battle to the death.

  22. Erick on April 6, 2022 at 9:29 am

    Cherished INDEED is your statement “Bring Resistance into the light and you defeat it”!!!

  23. Bing on April 6, 2022 at 9:29 am

    Here is another angle on resistance. That voice may also be trying to protect me, like “oh honey, with your past of drugs and alcohol you don’t want to go down that path of being on artist. Look what happened to Van Gogh, he ended up at age 37 climbing an apple tree and shooting himself in the balls.”
    Yesterday I was a bloody mess with my art. I prayed and meditated mostly focusing on that I was a precious son of God who loves and adores me, that gave me artistic talent and wants to bless me beyond my wildest dreams. I then sat down and did a ink drawing till midnight. I woke up this morning, looked at it and said, “did I do that?” I loved it.

  24. Maureen Anderson on April 6, 2022 at 9:50 am

    In the “who do you think you are” department: I bet a lot of us have heard that voice from not only ourselves, but others. In my case, it made Resistance more powerful — it had found a mouthpiece in some of the people I’d looked up to (and thought I loved) the most.

    • Brian Nelson on April 6, 2022 at 2:37 pm

      Maureen,
      I’m beginning to think that most of what comes out of most people’s mouths is nothing more than projection. I’m certainly guilty of it myself at times–but we project our own fears/insecurities/shames onto others.
      bsn

  25. Michael B on April 6, 2022 at 10:01 am

    Thanks for shining a spotlight on our arch-enemy.

    I shared your words with my three college-age kids hoping they choose to include your thoughts in their arsenal to use against negativity for any venture or project or writing or choice they make. Mainly to let them know that they are not alone; that it’s not personal; it’s just what the evil genius, as you rightly called resistance, does—try’s to mess us up by resisting all that is light.

  26. Charlie Ernst on April 6, 2022 at 10:42 am

    Thanks for the reminder. I was about to enter the Dark Side –

  27. Victoria Labalme on April 6, 2022 at 4:50 pm

    Brilliant as always.

  28. Tolis Alexopoulos on April 6, 2022 at 10:21 pm

    Thank you dear Steve, the notion of Resistance lurking in the dark and being afraid of the light is very beautiful too. It gives hope and it reminds us the war between logic and the dark side of the instinct too.

  29. Jurgen Strack on April 19, 2022 at 2:45 am

    Well said, Steve!

    I feel too that besides resistance, other more sinister forces, including individuls who are bullies and abuse others, thrive on secrecy and keeping it in the darkness. My first book is about shining a light.

    We’re also not our feelings. When it’s bad thoughts/feelings you’re having, and you don’t want them, they’re not you, they’re resistance. Sometimes this realisation helps you to push through with whatever it is you’re doing, goal or direction you’ve set yourself.

    Keep going! Keep doing what you’re doing!

  30. Ricky on April 27, 2022 at 9:42 pm

    This article is really very interesting and efecktive

  31. Weds on April 29, 2022 at 9:48 am

    Its good for me : Nuke

  32. matt di marco on June 4, 2022 at 9:27 am

    Im from argentina, so my english is not top notch, but every day i wake up take my black coffe and say to ressitance go fuck yourself, i know it will come back harder but man im ready for war..

  33. Truck Tarp on June 24, 2022 at 2:58 am

    Nice Article!

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