Sh*t doesn’t just happen

My friend Tony has a theory about accidents, i.e. fender-benders, sprained ankles, etc. He believes they’re the body’s way of grounding us when we get too far into our own heads.

An accident, Tony would say, should make us ask, “What’s going on in my life? Have I floated too far away into airy-fairy land?”

My own theory is parallel in that, like Tony, I don’t believe accidents are “accidental.”

I think accidents are a form of Resistance.

(I include minor maladies like colds or sore throats or mild fevers, particularly when they come on the heels of other mishaps and random impairments.)

I think accidents are our Inner Saboteur’s way of throwing us off our game, of presenting us with excuses to slack off or even stop entirely our pursuit of our current project or vision.

An example from my life right now: I recently hurt myself at the gym. Nothing serious—a tweaked shoulder—but enough to put me in pain and make me change the way I worked out. Then I got sick. Again nothing life-threatening … a virus or something that hung around for a week or ten days. Meanwhile my sleep was off. You get the picture.

I labored under this low-level stress/pain-in-the-ass for a couple of weeks before the thought hit me, “I wonder if this is Resistance.”

My conclusion? It was.

I thought, “I’m at a really tough part of a piece of fiction I’m working on now … two-thirds of the way through a fourth draft, where the thing is starting to wobble off the tracks. Enough that it worries me. I may have screwed the pooch on this section. I’m getting scared.” 

Then I thought further, “Shit happens like this when you’re about to break through to something good.”

I decided to go with that self-diagnosis. This constellation of ills, I concluded, is Resistance. And since Resistance is infallible in the sense that it ramps up its power specifically when it senses that you or I are about to break through to a higher level … I took heart.

I told myself, “This is a good thing.” And I tore apart the section I was working on and re-did it in a new and (hopefully) better way.

My shoulder still hurts but I’m sleeping well again … and I’m definitely happier with the new version of that hard part at the end of Act Two.

Our psyches communicate with us in many odd languages. Shit doesn’t just happen.


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


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.



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.



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?"



  1. Nickolas Sherman on August 30, 2023 at 1:54 am

    I’m 7 drafts into a novel I really care about. I switch between the elation of
    THIS COULD BE THE BIG ONE and, this is corny no-one is going to care about this.

    Don’t matter, I’m doing the work I know I should do, gonna getter done anyway. Feels great. THANKS STEVE!

  2. Elaine on August 30, 2023 at 2:21 am

    I love this. It resonates with me so well. I’m an artist who has reinvented myself and applied my skills in 4 different careers. Next week I start the 5th iteration and have been dragging. I know why. Resistance. Thanks for yet another great post.

    • Barbara Joy Hansen on August 30, 2023 at 7:36 am

      Thanks for your article. You’re right about things that happen to us if we aren’t careful! I was sleeping in the loft at our Summer cottage on our first day of vacation & missed the first step! I

      I fell down the hard wooden narrow stairs & bumped my head at the bottom on a wooden beam from my dad’s farm. I got a concussion ending in the hospital the first day of vacation!

      I was released from my fourth hospital on Wednesday. I will be more careful from now on!

  3. Laurie on August 30, 2023 at 2:28 am

    Constellation of Ills – love that! Feels like it’s part of Homer’s Odyssey.
    Your War of Art has been on my mind lately – I have recommending it to friends and somehow this post just made so many stars align…
    Thanks Steve!

  4. Nikhil Kashyap on August 30, 2023 at 2:32 am

    Reading this made me remember a line from Dr. Viktor Frankl’s interview when he met a man who was paralyzed up to the neck due to an accident who said : “It broke my neck but it didn’t break me.”

  5. J J Hicks on August 30, 2023 at 3:32 am

    It’s a simple post it I keep near my desk. Mind Resistance.
    Oddly, I tweaked my shoulder celebrating my completed book. Its a story too embarrassing to share. Created the apt distraction from working on the second. Resistance is protean in nature. Celebrating too much is Resistance. We have a right to the labor. Nothing more.

  6. jodypaynesays on August 30, 2023 at 3:55 am

    Well, when you’re right, you’re right. I have some real thinking to do.

  7. Rachele on August 30, 2023 at 4:16 am

    As usual, love this post! What you wrote always resonates with me! Thank you Steven!

  8. Lynda Emmett on August 30, 2023 at 4:28 am

    Love this . Thanks for sharing . It really resonated with me on a day I needed to hear it .

  9. Nancy on August 30, 2023 at 4:51 am

    This hit home, thank you. I’ve noticed for years in my own life that if a bunch of unpleasant (not necessarily bad) things happen in a bunch, then I need to sit back and figure out what’s going on. Once I think about it, the answer is obvious. It’s fixing it that’s the challenge.

  10. Joe Badalamente on August 30, 2023 at 5:01 am

    One thousand percent agree with this!

  11. Jesse Passmore on August 30, 2023 at 5:15 am

    Thank you, as ever, Mr. Pressfield!

  12. Faith Watson on August 30, 2023 at 6:09 am

    Yes. “As within, so without, as above, so below, as the universe, so the soul.” Gosh I’m glad I read this today. Perspective is everything! Thank you and hope you heal up that shoulder soon, maybe a little elastic band work, then alternate ice and heat. 🙂

    • Ron Simurdiak on August 31, 2023 at 8:58 pm

      Or like Fr. Richard Rohr so likes to say: How you do anything is how you do everything.

  13. Tom Scarda on August 30, 2023 at 6:19 am

    This type of resistance is so clear to me. Sometimes it’s called fear of success., too. I know a guy who was a promising college football player in college. He was NFL Pro material. Wouldn’t ya know it, just as the scouts were in town he blew out his knee so badly, he never played again. There are a million stories like this. Everyone chalks it up to an unfortunate incident. I peg it as unconscious self sabotage.

  14. Penn Moody, OD on August 30, 2023 at 6:24 am

    Great story of your experience, Steven. I have learned that the closer I get to my goal, the more difficulties and roadblocks I will face. While it can be daunting to get started, many times it’s even harder to finish strong. Thank you for the reminder.

  15. Paullette MacDougal on August 30, 2023 at 6:25 am

    You are so right, Steve, as usual.
    However, can my six months of lost writing be explained by my powerful resistance when our highrise building was flooded by a broken main water pipe above us (elevators inoperable, walls and floors needing repair in the whole building, our 47th floor condo damaged beyond livibility, ) and having to move out in segments to temporary housing? If so, my psychic powers of resistance are even more potent than I thought.
    P.S. I’m back to writing now, thanks for the encouragement.

  16. Susan Werner on August 30, 2023 at 7:30 am

    So interesting. My back went badly askew the day after I hung my first solo art show. The show was a culmination of one years work and I looked forward to catching up on other life tasks for awhile. AND the show also signaled the beginning of coming out as an older artist, which was a challenge for me. Lots to think of here. This back problem has been occasionally present in my adult life, but has never been so painful nor lasted so long. So….

  17. Karen on August 30, 2023 at 8:01 am

    I believe this and I can understand that your attitude is a huge contributing factor to resistance and shit that happens (hence doesn’t just happen) but it makes me question… then why do things happen to children?
    Just a thought. I am a big fan and have to fight resistance everyday.

    • Nom de Plume on August 31, 2023 at 7:04 pm

      Karen, I’m not going to try to say why bad things happen to children, but perhaps this is relevant. If you’re a parent you know that each major development milestone (walking, teething, etc.) is preceded by difficulty — trouble sleeping, eating, outbursts, whatever. I don’t know why that is, but it seems to be a fairly ironclad rule for children. Does it happen to adults too? I don’t know — but why not?

  18. Martin on August 30, 2023 at 8:30 am

    I needed to read this right about now. Several physical manifestations have presented themselves this summer as I have struggled to get a business off the ground and generate income. I’m at a point right now where it is make or break. It’s the resistance, right?

  19. Nain on August 30, 2023 at 8:31 am

    Oh yes I feel thesame way ,no ,I know from myself ,that is absolutly right.Whenever I hit my body by accident ,even if it is soft I immeadeatly have an inner dialogue with myself and check out which part of my body it makes me feel more and how my feelings are. Often I m distracted ,with my head in another reality( I m dancer and choteographer and invent a hell of 100 stories) dancing in the clouds and often not grounded and then when this things happen I have to smile because it s really the universe speaking to me ,so since a very young age I honor this voice ,in fact I m super greatful for the universe speaking through my body to me and even in sad times when my heart hurts ,I felt privileg to be able to feel it ,I mean being alive is something normal,isn t it ,until we feel intensively one part of our body and all of a sudden we become aware of specifically that part of our body as it calls for us to stop and to listen.

  20. Peter Brockwell on August 30, 2023 at 8:35 am

    An interesting post from Steve, which leads me to take the view that anything that takes me away from writing is either Resistance or is best viewed as if it were Resistance. If I’m in doubt then it behoves me to consider that my lack of certainty that it is Resistance is probably itself Resistance.

    At risk of seeming over self-referential, this is probably the best course to take in practice.

    But then I can start second-guessing myself, thinking “I want to step back from the keyboard and brainstorm ideas, to see what comes to mind without scribbling it down immediately. But perhaps that is a form of Resistance?”

    It’s easy to overthink this. Maybe just get the ass in the seat and spend the time, whether it’s typing or thinking?


  21. Gerald C Brown Jr on August 30, 2023 at 10:01 am

    Wow, didn’t know I needed this until reading it today. I going through my own resistance and it’s clear as day now why it’s happening. Thank u for those wise words.

  22. Julie Hartig on August 30, 2023 at 10:02 am

    While I agree with the basic sentiment of the post, the concept that accidents aren’t accidental feels flawed. Twice I’ve been in a car, stopped in traffic, and had some maniac barrel into me. For these people it was not accidental, but for me it was.

  23. Kate Stanton on August 30, 2023 at 10:06 am

    October 16th, 2022 I went blind in my left eye. I had been having headaches and episodic blindness for months leading up to it, but I believe I was “lost” in fairy-airy land where gravity doesn’t exist. LOL. Oct. 26th I had major surgery to remove a 2.2 cm tumor that was pressing against my optic nerve. Resistance had me curled in a ball begging for mercy. It taught me to slow down, do the work, and be grateful for what I DO have! And am I ever so grateful–it was benign and my vision is nearly 100% back (aside from some permanent peripheral vision). Life is fleeting. We must do what we are meant to do in the short amount of time we have here.

  24. Brian Nelson on August 30, 2023 at 1:29 pm

    I have a fixed mindset. I don’t know when I adopted this view of myself and the world, but I suspect it was early, five or six years old. This fixed mindset leads me to think from a victim perspective quite often–in fact, sadly, it is usually my immediate response/mindset to most things.

    Not my fault, someone/something/some Cosmic force is out to get me.

    I fight against this daily–often minute by minute–and then there are days/weeks that I have fallen prey to this mindset and lose a vast chunk of time.

    This preface is to set up how I initially reacted to this post.

    Accidents are also my fault? How cruel Steve!

    And yet.

    And yet accepting that I’m likely responsible for EVERYTHING is my life–to include that damnable virus–is the only mindset with the possibility of changing my situation.

    • Jackie on August 30, 2023 at 2:00 pm

      Recognizing the victim mindset is the first step needed to defeat this enemy.

      • Brian Nelson on August 30, 2023 at 4:47 pm

        You’re absolutely right Jackie. Thanks.

        • Nom de Plume on August 31, 2023 at 7:38 pm

          Hey Brian, I’ve thought about all this myself ever since first reading about Resistance. Sensei would say that it is everything that keeps you from pursuing your goal: self-doubt obviously, but even the flu that flattens you, or getting laid up with a broken leg. I think he even said it might be something completely external like a new love interest or a great job offer — Resistance is that devious when it wants to distract you. Which is truly bizarre to consider: the self-doubt is in one’s own mind, the flu is within the body, breaking a leg might have been self-sabotage — but the new lover and job offer are not within one’s own body. How can self-doubt go outside our skull to manipulate other people into distracting us?

          The implications are enormous.

          When I first thought about it it seemed a serious flaw in the Theory of Resistance: sorry, but a person’s internal fears cannot cause other people to offer them a job! And, if it could, what does that make an event like World War 2? Nothing but the combined angst of several hundred million people afraid to finish their manuscripts?

          Still trying to square that circle….

          I’m late to read this week’s installment. Hope some of you return to read late comments!


          • Brian Nelson on September 4, 2023 at 11:24 am

            Love your comments. There are very real phenomena in our world that we cannot detect directly nor measure. From ‘I was just thinking of you…’ when you call someone, to a job offer that is poison to your passion disguised as ‘just the right thing’.

            ‘Drunk Tank Pink’ by Adam Alter or ‘Nudge’ by Thaler & Sunstein both highlight how little we actually control about how we behave or our impulses to behave. Pink walls make criminals less violent? CRAZY…right?

            I think this is why 12-step programs begin with, “Hi, I’m Brian, and I’m _______alcoholic, addict…” because we must be reminded that left to our own devices–we will drive off into a ditch.

            Enjoy the holiday.

    • Maureen Anderson on August 30, 2023 at 5:43 pm

      I find it refreshing you realize this, Brian, and fight it. Kudos.

      I take the opposite to the extreme. If I so much as stub my toe I’ll try to figure out what I’ve been doing wrong before I’m finished writhing in pain, which I just typed as “writing” in pain :). I’m sure I’m being punished for something.

      It’s both freeing and terrifying to realize we’re the one writing our stories, isn’t it?

      • Brian Nelson on September 4, 2023 at 11:25 am

        It is probably not freedom without terror!

  25. Jackie on August 30, 2023 at 2:15 pm

    Can resistance manifest physically in your body? I asked my doctor this question when tests revealed no cause for knee pain. He said,”Absolutely.” The day after I dealt with something that should’ve been addressed weeks before,my symptoms vanished. Deal with the shit. Move on. Don’t hide from life. Live it.
    Speedy recovery Steve.

    • Jackie on August 30, 2023 at 5:26 pm

      I’m reading The Lion’s Gate and just came across this sentence.
      In war soldiers perform feats of valor of which they never, before they do them, believed themselves capable.
      Something to think about.

  26. Renita C Wellman on August 30, 2023 at 3:07 pm

    One of the most encouraging things I have heard is that, just before a breakthrough to the next level, we feel confused, uncertain, perhaps lost, even failures. This is a good sign. We are growing.

    • Elaine on August 31, 2023 at 2:33 am

      So true. I am there right now.

    • Nom de Plume on August 31, 2023 at 7:07 pm

      Renita, scroll up a little bit and see what I just said to Karen!

  27. Arthur Drake on August 30, 2023 at 4:26 pm

    Whenever things are particularly frustrating I try to come to the same conclusion, that the frustration means progress is close at hand. It may just be a mind trick but I know it’s more productive then many easier mindsets to fall into.

  28. Me on August 30, 2023 at 4:38 pm

    I have been stuck in the constellation of ills for nearly a year……brain fog, tendonitis and it’s put me miles away the most critical step in a researchers life.. writing and publishing my research…..getting labelled as incompetent yet again…….. Never…..thanks so much ….this is an eye opener .

  29. Rychie Floyd on August 30, 2023 at 6:36 pm

    Working on writing some songs for an upcoming album. Realizing…yeah. That late night movie watching and couch sleep . And knowing I gotta get up in the morning to put pen to pad and fingers to guitar strings is a form of resistance. Sneaky!

    Thanks, Steve.

  30. Ben on August 31, 2023 at 12:27 am

    Thank you. Now back to work.

  31. Elaine on August 31, 2023 at 2:44 am

    Is burnout from a project another form of resistance? I’m working on something that needs the final push. I feel like it’s mile 23 of a marathon and have hit the wall. The digging deep to move forward is draining.

  32. Ty on August 31, 2023 at 6:56 am

    Sort of a stoic reaction

  33. harrriet thomas on August 31, 2023 at 1:20 pm

    Accidents…and housework. I decluttered my shed and my studio today. Finally sat at my computer to write at 6pm! I’m hheartened to know that this means I’m close to a breakthrough 🙂

  34. Doug Setter on August 31, 2023 at 6:55 pm

    Delays and setbacks always happen when I am near completing anything of importance.

    Thanks, again, Steve.

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