Five Ways to Break Through Creative Resistance

Okay, so I was thinking about it, and while last week’s post discussed my own desire to break through my own creative resistance and fear, I didn’t really address how others can do this, which is kind of like cheating. After all, if the post isn’t useful to you, what’s the point?

So, first, let’s look at how to identify resistance in yourself. Do you have the following (or have you felt) the following symptoms:

– an almost irresistable urge to suddenly go clean or organize something rather than write or create what you’re supposed to?

– a sudden spatial aversion to going anywhere near your area of work – as though by not seeing the workspace, you don’t have to feel guilty about not doing work?

– a desire to watch hours of mindless television?

– a long list of mindless necessities that MUST be done before you do anything you “want” to do, like actually create?

– a mind whirring on all cylinders, but like a sieve and focusing on nothing?

– a sudden need to do all sorts of things you’ve either suddenly remembered but which haven’t been important for the past year, like reading that latest book, learning the rules of cricket, or cleaning the grout in the shower?

– a lack of time for creativity because it’s all been used up somewhere else?

These symptoms and many others – since resistance is a master at customizing itself for each of us – are a sure sign you’re facing resistance. What you do about it is part of what defines you in part as a person, and certainly as an artist and professional.

How to overcome resistance:

1 – Don’t quit. This sounds ridiculously stupid, I know, but here’s the thing: if you keep fighting, keep chipping away at whatever is blocking you, eventually you will break through the resistance. Indeed, it may take a few drafts to correct the section or get it how you want it, but at least you’ve been working, even if the pace isn’t as you’d like.

2 – Recognize the resistance for what it is: fear (almost always). Why is it there? Is it valid? What are you going to do about it? There are lots of games where you encounter a monster or something, and your choices are to either face and try to beat it, go around, or run away. Which will you choose?

3 – Go around. Resistance is wily, but so are you – can you go around it? Beating your head against the brick wall won’t get you through – but there’s probably a door or window in the wall, so why not go that way? Allow yourself another option to get through or in.

4 – Work up to it. Perhaps it’s one particular aspect of your creation that is causing creation, because it’s so essential to the plot, it brings up issues from your past, it will be so visible, it isn’t something you’ve done before, etc, etc. So, lead yourself up to it, gently, like leading a child frightened of a dog up to the dog. Don’t jump or startle the dog, but make friends first, make it friendly, and move slowly forward. Eventually, the dog will be running along beside you.

5 – Release rigidity and the need for perfection – especially in a first draft or attempt. We may want things to be “just so,” but it’s amazing the places you can be taken if, instead of ordering and demanding your work go somewhere it clearly doesn’t want to, you follow and see where it may lead to. This is similar to brainstorming, when you don’t reject any possibility, and instead let form and imagination carry you.

For further reading and suggestions to overcome your own resistance, I highly recommend to any artist – writer or other – the following books (no big surprises here if you read the blog  – I’ve recommended these books before):

The Writing Warrior by Laraine Herring

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles


So, has this helped you out? Have you broken through resistance? Have you found other methods work for you? Please, share so they may help others. Otherwise, thanks for reading, and have a great week.