Identifying Your Creative Resistance

I started writing a musical last month.

I have written songs off and on for most of my life. Through a random set of circumstances, I had an opportunity to play a couple of songs from a rock opera I wrote a few years ago for a large musical theatre audience. A number of people talked to me afterwards, told me they loved the songs and the idea for the story, and encouraged me to turn it into a musical.

I came home energized and wrote a number of new songs over the last two weeks.

Then the predictable doubts starting flooding my mind.

Photo by James Fitzgerald on Unsplash

“What are you doing? You don’t know how to write a musical.”

“This is going to be yet another side project that turns into a huge waste of time.”

“Leave this work to the professionals. Stick to what you know how to do.”

These doubts seem to accompany almost every creative project I engage in, whether it be a writing project, a new ministry idea, or my weekly sermon. 

Author Steven Pressfield offers insight on where these doubts come from. He suggests that every time we attempt a creative act, a powerful force fights against us. He names this force “resistance” and calls it “the most toxic force on the planet.” Resistance conspires against us any and every time we attempt to create.

Recognizing the presence of resistance is half the battle. When you know that fighting through resistance is a part of the creative journey, you won’t be as surprised by it when it rears its head. If you expect resistance you won’t be quite as easily derailed by it.

Identifying your own personal brand of resistance is another important step. What are the ways resistance manifests itself in your life? If you know the strategy resistance attempts in your life, you will be more prepared for your creative battles.

Here is a quick list of the most common forms of resistance:

Self-Doubt. This form of resistance questions your talent, ability, and even self-worth. Almost every creative I know, even the uber-successful ones, struggle mightily with this particular form of resistance.  “You are any good at this,” “You don’t have what it takes,” or “You aren’t going to make a difference,” are all forms of resistance manifested as self-doubt.

Perfectionism. Sometimes, our worst enemy is our obsession to make it better. One author I know said there comes a time to resist the temptation to keep editing. I love the idea that done is better than perfect. “It isn’t good enough. Keep working,” whispers perfectionism.

Laziness. Sometimes, just plain old laziness keeps us from doing the creative work we are called to do. Creative work can be incredibly exhausting work, and it’s just easier to sit on the coach and watch Netflix. Or take a nap. Or do anything other than the work God created you to do. “I’ll get to it tomorrow” or “I’m too tired today” is the voice of laziness in our lives.

When you recognize that resistance is a normal part of the creative process, it helps you know how to battle it. Identifying your particular brand of resistance gives you even more ammunition in your battle to do the creative work God has called you to do.

How have you experienced resistance in your creative life?