How to fight resistance without fighting.


If you’ve ever wondered why it’s hard to do things that are good for you, or you struggle to keep habits that you know will improve your life, Steven Pressfield presents some good theories and methods in his book, The War of Art.

Pressfield used to be a marine, and his philosophy is still very much “conquer the enemy!” In this book, resistance is the enemy.

In this interview with Oprah, Pressfield has a softer approach. He talks about resistance as a force of nature, like weather, gravity, or the seasons. It’s natural to have resistance — when you experience it, there’s nothing to feel bad about. Every dream naturally casts a shadow, he says. The shadow is resistance. (Then he talks about slaying dragons, facing your darkest fear to destroy it, how to be like Luke Skywalker, etc.)

That good vs. evil storyline is unsatisfying to discerning readers because it lacks the nuance we need right now (sorry, Luke). As comforting as a “beat the bad guy” plot can be, it oversimplifies complex stories when we reduce them this way.

Besides, it’s unwise to think we can “conquer” a force of nature. That’s just madness.** And it doesn’t help us create a culture we want to live in.

However, I do like what Pressfield says about picturing resistance as the shadow that is cast by the dream.

If you can let go of winning vs. losing a fight with it, you can begin to understand your relationship to resistance. You can get to know that shadow.

And with practice, you can learn to enjoy the process of writing alongside it.

No war required.

** For more on decolonizing plot, listen to or read Thomas King’s Massey Lecture, The Truth About Stories.

Photo: Fabio Rose via Unsplash

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