You have cleared your desk, you have finished all your chores, you have turned your mobile phone on silent, and you have disconnected from the internet.
For the next hour, you are now going to write the article you have been planning to write all day.
You open the document and POOF!
Your mind has gone blank.
The articles that you drafted a few days earlier, you try to take them further, but nothing comes to mind.
It is as if your mind doesn’t want to focus on the writing at hand. It wants to do everything else but write.
Writing is elusive. Some days you are so good and other days you can’t seem to get even a few words out doesn’t matter how hard you try.
At times like these, you do the biggest time-wasting activity.
You open the browser and start looking for ideas.
You need something to get you started. A little clue. A little hint. A tiny idea will be enough. You promise yourself that you will read for just a few minutes, and then stop.
But it never happens that way.
You start reading one article, then another, and before you know it, the hour that you had dedicated to writing had flown past, and you haven’t written a single word.
It happens to me every time.
This is what Steven Pressfield Called “Resistance.”
Before reading Steven Pressfield’s classic book The War of Art, I thought the fault was just with me. I was the only one with a restless mind that can’t concentrate on the task at hand and want to do everything but what it should be doing.
I learned pretty soon, that there are certain activities that elicit resistance and writing is one of them.
“Resistance” is a repelling force, that is generated from inside and it doesn’t discriminate. Even the experienced writers, artists, athletes, poets, singers, and spiritual masters constantly battle with it. It is an “evil force” that is there to prevent anyone who wants to do any good with their lives.
Resistance will do anything to achieve its goal — which is to stop you from achieving yours.
It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole. Resistance is protean. It will assume any form, if that is what it takes to deceive you. — Steven Pressfield.
The more important is your goal, the more resistance you will feel.
I tried everything to beat ‘Resistance.’
- I freed myself of all the distractions. I even disconnected Wi-Fi so that I don’t fall into the trap of getting ideas from the internet. Soon I discovered the distractions are not just external, they could be internal too.
- I set a time and place to write. It worked for a few days and then the same thing happened. The boredom of routine set in and my mind would want to do something exciting rather than write the article.
- I started stopping in mid-sentence as Stephen King suggests, so that I could pick up it the next day and finish the article. But my mind couldn’t pick up the threads and finish the tapestry. It wanted to check the fridge and see what treat it can have.
- I outlined so that I knew where the article was going. But on those fateful days, I couldn’t write even a few paragraphs to fill each point. No stories will come to mind — personal or general. Quotes that are usually on the tip of my tongue would elude me. I couldn’t come up with convincing arguments about the points I was making.
- I started doing meditation before writing. Rather than having a calming effect, it started giving me panic attacks. I would feel that I was wasting the only free time I have for writing.
There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. — Steven Pressfield
But in my case, I was sitting down to write and doing everything I knew to write, and still, wasn’t able to write.
I felt like an imposter.
All of the previous writing meant nothing if I couldn’t write every day. A writer should be able to write on demand.
If at this stage someone had given me a contract for a book I would have declined.
Who was I kidding?
I would never be able to write professionally.
I will never become a prolific writer.
The Imposter in me was working overtime. He is waiting for me to call it quits and go back to shopping online. It doesn’t even want to know that I need to earn money before I go spending.
You will know what I mean if you have watched the movie ‘The Word.’
In the movie, Rory Jansen (played by Bradly Cooper), a struggling writer, finds a handwritten manuscript in an old briefcase he bought from an antique shop. The manuscript is so well written that Rory starts typing it on his computer, word for word.
He wants to feel the words pass through his fingers.
He wants to know how does it feel to type well-written words.
Rory Jansen submits that manuscript to an agent. His novel gets published and becomes a huge success.https://neeramahajan.com/media/f8961eac5f4192795c18743f78014e33
Don’t worry I am not taking on the path of plagiarism.
Even before watching that movie, I figured out if I pick up a book, a good book, and start typing a few paragraphs from it, I get in the rhythm of typing, which somehow awakens the narrator in me.
The words would start flowing effortlessly.
It was my little secret, and I was so ashamed of it.
I didn’t want to tell anyone what I was doing.
But imagine my surprise when my writing teacher, a well-known editor with three decades of experience in the industry, prescribed the same exercise in a recent novel-writing workshop.
There is a science behind it.
When you are typing looking at a text, it focuses your mind on just one activity. You are not thinking about what to cook for dinner and whether to take out clothes from the line because it might start raining soon.
When you are reading the text line by line, something in the text triggers a thought or brings out memory, and before you know it, your own story appears before you.
This is when you should stop copying and start typing the story you just got reminded of.
Our brain wanders off at the slightest of provocation. You are putting this “wandering” ability to use.
Let’s do a little experiment.
Read the following paragraph. It is from a book called The Memory Code, which I opened randomly and started typing.
A mother of a five-year-old told me this story: Her son had been wanting to learn to ride his bike without his training wheels, but whenever she took them off, he would give up after a couple of minutes. She finally asked him, “What do you think will happen if you fall off the bike?” He immediately answered (while wearing his helmet), “I’ll die.”
Does it remind you of your own bike riding story?
Or any of your unfounded fears. There it is. Start writing your story.
It reminded me of my three heart-felt-wishes when I was in primary school.
For years I wanted nothing more but those three things, and one of them was learning to ride a bike. All my friends knew how to ride a bike. We were soon going to high school, and they were all getting new bikes, except me.
Memories that followed have given me material for a full-fledged article that I will write — Three Wishes Of A Thirteen-Years Old (One that will never come true.)
There you go. You have one of my deepest secrets that I was so ashamed to share.
It is, in fact, a writing exercise suggested by writing teachers.
Give it a go and see whether it works for you too.