Last week I encouraged each of you who are dedicated to daily writing to track your resistance. I am glad that the experience was an eye-opening one for many of you! No matter how much we think we know our resistance generally speaking, there’s nothing quite like collecting a week’s worth of data on the specific ways that our bodyguard works to stop us from writing each day. And as great as it is to become increasingly self aware, this week I want you to use the information you collected to create your very own, completely personalized resistance diagnostic.
What is a Resistance Diagnostic?
It’s very simple. Most daily writers experience some type of resistance to their writing on a regular basis, whether it's avoidance, procrastination, or denial. If you don’t, that’s great. If you do, you’re perfectly normal. Last week we worked towards noticing what’s going on when weshould be writing, but find ourselves actually engaged in behavior that has nothing to do with writing. It’s great to pause and identify what we’re doing. It’s even better to get yourself back to the task of writing. But if you’re like most writers I know, some days it's easier than others to get back to the writing! What I like to do is to keep my Resistance Diagnostic within reach, so that no matter how I’m feeling, no matter what is behind my NOT writing, I can quickly remember a strategy, skill, or technique to get me back on track and implement it.
For example, last week my resistance manifested in the following ways: feeling so overwhelmed I couldn’t get started, various perfectionist spasms, a variety of avoidance behaviors (email, Facebook, reading blogs), denial that anything I’m doing matters, low energy, terror in the presence of a blank page, and that vague feeling that I just don’t wanna write. I’ve faced each one of these before, and I’ve experimented with a variety of skills and strategies to move around each one. Some have worked great, some haven’t worked at all, and I’ve kept track of the difference. So whenever I experience a particular form of resistance, instead of stopping and trying to remember what I did the last time I had this experience (which would very likely take me down a whole new path of distraction), I just whip out my Resistance Diagnostic, locate my resistance-of-the-moment in the left hand column, and look next to it to see the most successful strategy I’ve employed to move around it. Having the solution right at my fingertips reminds me that: 1) I’ve faced this type of resistance before, 2) I’ve successfully moved around it in the past, and 3) I have as many tools to dance with my bodyguard as he has to derail me from writing.
My Resistance Diagnostic
RESISTANCE MANIFESTS AS:
STRATEGY TO MOVE AROUND IT
|Feeling overwhelmed by a task||Identify the task you're avoiding and use mind-mapping to break it down into even smaller component parts. Then start to work on the easiest part by promising yourself that it only has to last the smallest possible time you can stand (5 minutes is okay, but 15 minutes is best). Make sure you have a juicy treat for the break immediately thereafter.|
|Perfectionism||Lower your standards and be specific about what the criteria is for being "done” with the task in front of you for today. Remind yourself: perfect doesn’t happen in a day. Set the timer for 15 minutes and start writing.|
|Avoiding writing with irrelevant stuff||Try a trigger phrase that will bring your attention back to your writing. For example, when reading blogs during writing time ask yourself: does this matter? or is this moving me towards ________ (my long term goals?) If the answer is "no,” set the timer and return to writing.|
|Wondering if any of this hard work really matters?||Look at things that remind you of the value of your work, why it matters, or anything that makes you feel good about your work. Set the timer for 5 minutes, open your "thank you” file, and read some of the notes people have sent you about how your work has impacted their life. When the timer goes off, start writing.|
|Low motivation||Bribe yourself with the promise of a treat when the timer goes off. Then set the timer and start writing.|
|I just don’t wanna write today!||Remind yourself about all those who have come before you and/or all the sacrifices others have made to help you get to where are today. Affirm:|
|Low energy||Play a short blast of whatever music will lift your mood, motivate you, or make you feel energized. If all else fails, cue up MC Hammer's U Can't Touch This, get up and dance. Then set the timer for 15 minutes and start writing.|
|Frozen and terrified of a blank page||Go straight to Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die (set it for Kamikaze Mode).|
|Can’t write and don’t know why||Pick up the phone and call a trusted peer-mentor. Set the timer for 15 minutes. When it goes off, get off the phone, restart the timer for 15 minutes, and start writing.|
What you’ll notice about my success strategies is that none of them involve stopping to try and unravel the cause of my resistance. Your writing time is not the moment to work towards resolving deep seated perfectionism, disempowerment, hyperactive inner critics, unclear goals, and/or your fear of success. Your writing time is the time you want to spend writing, so the strategies for that moment are the ones that will move you into writing immediately. You can work on the bigger issues later, but remember that your writing time is just for writing.
You’ll also notice that my tried and true maneuvers around resistance are the ones that workfor me. In other words, while an MC Hammer dance party never fails to lift my energy, I'm quite certain that it won't work for most people -- and that's okay. What matters is identifying what works for YOU. Start by pulling up that list of the resistance YOU experienced last week. Use that to fill in the left hand column of your own diagnostic table. Then start filling in the success strategies that have worked for you in the right hand column. This may seem a little silly in the moment, but when you’re trying to squeeze the most out of that precious 30 minutes of writing in a busy teaching day, having your Resistance Diagnostic at hand will QUICKLY and EFFICIENTLY move you into your writing.
The Weekly Challenge
This week, I challenge you to:
- Write every day for at least 30 minutes
- Track your resistance if you were unable to do so last week. It’s simple, just notice what you are doing or thinking whenever you are not writing during your scheduled writing time.
- If you tracked your resistance, spend 10 minutes creating your own Resistance Diagnostic Table.
- Put it where you can quickly and easily get your hands on it during your daily writing (on your physical desk or computer desktop is best).
- When you experience resistance this week, try pulling it out, locating your resistance, and trying the strategy that’s been successful in the past.