Which Invisible Force is Guiding Your Creative Life?
Are you in a season of creative Rest or are you being blocked by Resistance? If you’re asking yourself this question, the truth is you might be in a bit of both. Probably not what you want to hear as a creative who’s trying to grow exponentially in today’s fast-paced, ever-evolving, content-consumerist world. But don’t worry! Even though Resistance can masquerade as Rest, they are radically opposite forces. In this article we will outline some clear boundaries that you can draw for yourself in order to:
1- define Resistance & identify if you’re stuck in it
2- embrace the uncomfortableness of Rest and
3- move forward into action without pushing yourself into burnout
In my previous blog post (Embracing Our Natural Cycles of Creativity) we established that creativity comes in cycles of abundance (high output) and rest (low output) and that this is normal and good:
Being in a season of low creative energy and output feels completely antithetical to the life path of an artist, but this is where a mindset reframe needs to come into play. We are not meant to always be "on" – while there's something to be said about being disciplined in your practice – I'd like to suggest that embracing your natural cycles of creative rest will only amplify and strengthen you and your work. [excerpt from my last blog post]
With that in mind, let’s dive into the knitty gritty of what Resistance is and how to know if you’re “stuck” in it.
Part 1: What is Resistance and how do I get out of it?
Steven Pressfield, author, thought leader, and authority on all things creativity, defines Resistance as an insidious force that wants to keep us from doing the thing our soul loves, and therefore, prevent us from fulfilling our purpose here on Earth.
“Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard, or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential. It’s a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work… The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.” – The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Side note: Steven capitalizes the word Resistance to personify and add meaning to this abstract concept and so it’s only fair I do the same for the concept of Rest.
OOOHHHKKAAAYYY. Does that sound overwhelming and scary, or what?! Don’t worry, let’s fast forward to the good news real quick:
“Resistance can be beaten. If Resistance couldn’t be beaten, there would be no Fifth Symphony, no Romeo and Juliet, no Golden Gate Bridge. Defeating Resistance is like giving birth. It seems absolutely impossible until you remember that women have been pulling it off successfully, with support and without, for fifty million years…
Resistance is fueled by fear, it has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it with power by our fear of it. Master that fear and we conquer Resistance.” – The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
See? Resistance is only as big and scary as we allow it to be. Repeat after me: Everyday I can defeat the force of Resistance in my life by taking action towards my dream and prioritizing the important above the urgent.
Maybe your dream is to get your work into a museum, or to write a book, or to be a film director, or food critic, or traveling photographer – consistently taking action, even in the form of baby steps, in that direction means you’re a conqueror of Resistance.
Throughout what has felt like my “drought” season of low creativity I’ve continued to paint, to be in-studio, to sketch and doodle and express myself artistically because I understood that Resistance was at my door and it wanted to use “rest” as a logical excuse to keep me from the work. I’ve made A LOT of shitty art this year. I’ve painted over the same canvas three times in the last week, and believe me my ego has wanted to partner with Resistance and spare me the self-doubt and inner *cringe*.
But true Rest means you are still actively engaging with your creativity, your passion, the thing your soul loves. Even if it’s just 15 minutes a day, staying committed to doing the work will keep Resistance at bay and invite the spark of Inspiration back into your life, slowly but surely.
So the answer to “how do I know if I’m battling Resistance?” is this: you probably are, you probably always will, but keep doing the work and it’ll leave you alone – and you’ll probably create something truly transformational that no one else but you could have offered to the world.
Remember Resistance is only as big and scary as we allow it to be.
Part 2: Embrace the uncomfortableness of Rest
Society has convinced you that your worth is only as high as your productivity. In reality, your capacity to hustle is only one facet of the beautifully complex human that you are. Your ability to perform does not define your worth. Your drive doesn’t make your soul any more or less valuable.
You are a reflection of the Divine, my dear.
There is so much more to you than what you can do.
“We have calcium in our bones, iron in our veins, carbon in our souls, and nitrogen in our brains. 93 percent stardust, with souls made of flames, we are all just stars that have people names.” – Nikita Gill
Life asks us to carry a lot of tensions:
Keep working toward your dream every day, but don’t hustle so hard you burnout.
Allow yourself to rest, but don’t actually take a break from your creative practice.
There is no one like you, and yet every other human is struggling in the same ways you are.
You’re a talented artist, but you'll also make bad art.
Don’t fear Resistance, but also the only way to conquer resistance is to master your fears.
Listen I get it, I’m aware of these tensions every second of the day. The cognitive dissonance is real and that’s why therapy exists <insert laughing emoji>. Seriously though, the key to holding all these tensions is mindset. And the key to understanding Rest vs. Resistance is also mindset:
Rest is a mindset of self-grace, self-nurturing, and embracing the slow rhythm of low output for a season. Resistance feels like paralyzing fear, self-doubt, shame, and guilt over not being or doing enough.
Pay attention to the emotions that your thoughts bring. Do you feel shame and guilt over your business or creative practice frequently? Then the answer is to adopt an attitude of Rest and extend to yourself the same grace you’d offer a friend.
Rest is uncomfortable. It asks you to be ok with watching everyone else around you gain the recognition and the metrics that you want. But by embracing your season of Rest and giving yourself permission to enjoy it, you set yourself up to gain some major momentum when your creative practice shifts back into abundance. Rest is uncomfortable, but so very productive.
Part 3: Move forward into action without
pushing yourself into burnout
You’ll have to find the delicate balance of what being in Rest looks like while also staying committed to doing the work. No one else can decide that for you. For me it looks like getting into the studio a few times every week, even if it's just a short session where I organize my supplies or focus on a creative project outside of painting.
Here are a few ideas I’ve jotted down over the past several months that keep me inspired, making it easier for me to find my way back into the studio:
Get back in touch with your why: Why do you love this? What is it you want to communicate to the world?
See local art: Go to a local gallery or art show. Go to the theater, or a concert. Go to the farmers market! Get your eyeballs on the creativity all around you (instead of finding inspiration through the screen of your phone).
Find an artist support group (in-person or online): Accountability is everything in life, and no one else gets you quite like someone else in your same field.
Step into more authority: Master imposter syndrome and give yourself permission to step into your authority as a creative. Give yourself some credit. You’ve been doing this for a while and you know A LOT about your craft. Stepping up as a leader in some capacity – even if it’s just making more education driven content – helps keep you in alignment with your dreams.
I hope this article has been insightful. I’d love to know if it resonated with you or what stuck with you the most. You can leave a comment below, email me at email@example.com, or DM me.
I leave you with this last epic quote from Steven:
“Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, Resistance will unfailingly point to true North — meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing. We can use this. We can use it as a compass. We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others. Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it. Always move towards Resistance.” – The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
All my love,
Skye Como Miller