Creative Sparks

Overcoming Resistance to Creating

by | Aug 25, 2015 | Creative Sparks

Woman_painting_123rfI’m going to let you in on a big secret that always surprises my students: Every artist battles with resistance to creating. And every dreamer resists what their heart dreams of most.

You are not weird, deficient or lazy just because you resist doing what you love and what you say you want to be doing. You are not missing some vital creative gene that successful artists have. You are not doomed to failure.

I will say it again: Every artist feels resistance to creating their art—everyone.

Take a breath and really let that in, because I bet you have been beating yourself up and thinking it was some flaw with you.

The fact that you resist your art, or your big life dreams, does not make you bad, wrong or lacking. It makes you human. Welcome.

Steven Pressfield wrote a best-selling book that is entirely devoted to the subject of dealing with resistance to making art, The War of Art. That is how common it is.

Resistance Shows Up in Proportion to the Dream

Why is it so important for you to know this? Because when we take the stigma and charge out of the fact that we feel resistance, we can then begin to address it in meaningful ways.

DreamsFlags_123rfHere’s an even bigger surprise: The more important your art is to you, the more close to your heart any life dream is, the more resistance you will feel to it, at least at some points along the way—sometimes at the very beginning, often when the going gets tough.

Why? Resistance is fear. Usually we mis-name it. We call it laziness, procrastination and distraction or busyness. All of these are false names to cover something we would rather not feel or admit: We are afraid. Resistance is fear, and we do not want to feel fear.

We are afraid of failure, disappointment, our violent inner critic, our crippling self-doubt, the judgment of others, our pervasive sense of not being good enough.

Under the fear are even more difficult feelings: past hurts, wounds, times we were shut down, shamed, criticized, times we failed or did not get what we so badly wanted and needed, a host of skeletons in the closet. No wonder we resist creating or going for our dreams. What matters deeply to our heart is our path of growth and will put us up against all these inner demons.

Rather than face these, we check our email one more time, put another load of laundry in, schedule an appointment at the very time we had set aside for creativity, decide to watch a movie, or more insidiously subconsciously create drama in our lives that zaps our energy and steals our attention away from our heart’s dreams.

A 3-Step Process for Overcoming Resistance

But there is a way out of this maze of resistance and procrastination. Here is a three-step process to move past resistance and into doing what you love:

1) Be honest

The first step in dealing with resistance is to stop labeling it falsely as laziness, procrastination, distraction or busyness. These are ways of lying to yourself that simultaneously beat you up and let you off the hook in an unhelpful way. “Oh well, I’m just lazy. I can’t get anything done.” Not true.

The first step is to be honest with yourself and admit that you are afraid. Let yourself become conscious of the fears at play. Name them specifically. What are you afraid of? What old hurts are you carrying? Write them all out. They will begin to lose power this way when you bring them into the light of consciousness with love and compassion. Most importantly, let yourself feel the fears, feel the feelings, but don’t believe the stories they are telling you. You have to feel it to heal it.

2) Question the Fear

Next, make a conscious choice to question the fear, to doubt the stories it is telling you, to open up new possibilities for yourself.

Look at each fear that you wrote down, one by one, and begin to question it. Is that really true? Can I absolutely know that it is true? If I tune into my deepest wisdom and widest heart, what is actually more true or the deeper truth about what this fear is telling me? What do I know or sense to be more true?

You can also reason from the truth. Look at the story the fear is telling you. For instance, “I will be ridiculed if I share my art.” And look at your past experience. Yes, maybe there were some examples that support your fear, but where are there also examples that you are overlooking when your creativity was welcomed and appreciated? Or, can you really know this will happen again in the future? What could you do to create different conditions now from when you previously were wounded in your creativity? What more positive outlook would support you in moving forward toward your heart’s dreams now? Why not try that on and play with it?

letter-writing3) Take a Step

And finally, you have to choose to move past the fear, even though you are probably still feeling it. You have to actually do what you long to do—write, dance, paint, play music, go for your dreams. Take a step today—even if it is a very small step. Every step we take becomes a victory over the fear and resistance.

I highly recommend you schedule time for your creativity or your dreams in your calendar at a specific time, and do it at the time you scheduled. Sometimes the way to do this is by signing up for a class or being a part of a group. Other times what is helpful is to start with very small increments of time, say 15 minutes or 30 minutes. And to plan small steps you can take that take no more time than that.

When it is your scheduled time, notice the tendency to procrastinate, to do just one more thing before beginning to make art, and don’t be fooled by those temptations. Hold fast. If you do this, you will weaken the resistance. If you do this multiple times and keep making time for your art and showing up, pretty soon you will have formed a new habit, something that becomes automatic and no longer carries resistance (or at least much resistance). You’ll find yourself doing what you love regularly without the battle.

While you are creating or preparing to create, let yourself feel the fear and resistance, the sadness and anger and hurt, whatever is in there longing to be felt and acknowledged, but do not use this as a reason not to begin. These feelings will become fuel for your art, your growth, your humanity and your dreams, and they will ultimately set you free.

Sometimes You Need More Help

When there are deep wounds from the past, we need the help of an experienced guide to free ourselves from blocks and beliefs that may have become buried or too painful to look at alone, and to rekindle the courage, faith in ourselves and in life that was lost. If that is the case I highly recommend taking The Artist’s Way course with me. You can see radical changes in your life, your freedom to create what you choose, and your ability to live from your joy, passion, inspiration and gifts through this life-changing course. It has happened for hundreds of students I have worked with, and it can happen for you now. I look forward to walking with you on your heart path.

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