Does procrastination = resistance?

January 19, 2012 § 3 Comments

BoulderFlatSome call it procrastination.  Author Steven Pressfield (Gates of Fire, The Legend of Begger Vance, Tides of War) calls it “Resistance.”  Yes, I’m reading his book “The War of Art” and it’s very insightful on how to break through the blocks and win your inner creative battles.  As writers we always find reasons not to write.  As I wrote in an earlier article, the house has never been so clean when I’ve had to sit down and face the blank page.

Once you become a professional and a producer is paying you to write a script under a deadline, your dream suddenly becomes real and now you are in the thick of it.  The voices of fear can scream loudly and at times can even be deafening. You may worry about doing your best on the project or maybe keep asking yourself, “can I really execute this like they think I can?  Can I really pull this off?”

Pressfield writes: “A professional acts in the face of fear.  The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear;  then he can do his work.  The professional knows that fear can never be overcome.  He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.  What Henry Fonda does, after puking into the toilet in his dressing room, is to clean up and march out onstage.  He’s still terrified, but he forces himself forward in spite of his terror.  He knows that once he gets out into the action, his fear will recede and he’ll be okay.”

How many times as writers did we face the dread of working on a new project.  I mean the idea of a new project is dandy, it’s something we all want and dream about, right?   Ah, but there’s that pesky execution part where you really must deliver the goods.  It’s not just in your head anymore;  it needs to be on the page.

I’m always a bundle of nerves before I start on a new script, as it’s unchartered territory and perhaps it will challenge me to the very essence of my ability.  Even after 26 feature screenplays, it’s still a new experience every time out.  I ask myself, “When I go back to the well this time, will there be something there?”  I think all artists fear the loss of their creative edge and fear that maybe THIS time, it’s really over.  You’ve escaped being discovered as a fraud for years — until now!   They have you in their sights and will pull the trigger.

Pressfield goes on to write, “The amateur, underestimating Resistance’s cunning, permits the flu to keep him from chapters; he believes the serpent’s voice in his head that says mailing off the manuscript is more important than doing the day’s work.  The professional has learned better.  He respected Resistance.  He knows that if he caves in today, no matter how plausible the pretext, he’ll be twice likely to cave in tomorrow.  The professional knows that Resistance is like a telemarketer;  if you so much as say hello, you’re finished.  The pro doesn’t even pick up the phone. He stays at work.”

Indeed.  If you’re not doing it after reading this post — sit down and write something.  I did last week and wrote 31 pages in two days.  It can happen.  Just do it!

“The easiest thing to do on earth is not write.” — William Goldman

“Don’t get it right, just get it written.” — James Thurber

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§ 3 Responses to Does procrastination = resistance?

  • Alejandra Clardy says:

    Loving the information on this web site , you have done outstanding job on the articles .

  • As an amateur professional or even a professional amateur starting out at the tender age of three score and a few, as a writer of stories/books instead of continuing as a wordy word-smithing hack … I’m at last seeing ‘Procrastination’ stripped of its camouflage and my need to define it in any terms that provide timorous delay: walking the kettle, boiling the dog, hoovering the laundry, washing the flat, taking another leak… whichever, whenever and however long for or longed-for …the dreaded delay and delayed dread is still there lurking in plain sight!

    So thank you for naming something now so glaringly obvious and unmistakably unavoidable… RESISTANCE… yep… I’ve hidden in it up to my neck, until one day the level of time and tide rose high enough to choke on’t …finally recognising the taste of terror which a dear friend’s tough lovingness named it for me: “Resistance” in all it’s stubborn glory!

    And I’ve been dealing with the big ‘R’ ever since… the score to-date is
    40 -15 to me in every other sphere of my life… except now as a sois-disant, would-be, aspiring writer.

    So, as I finally sit down across the desk from my erstwhile resistent shadow-self, he seems strangely less tenebrous, more graspable and not quite so intimidating now that his true nature – unobscured by the cloaked motley masquerading as ‘Procrastination’ – is at last in full view of this audience-of-one as the dilly-dallying but ultimately vanquishable rascal ‘Resistance’!!

    Well, now that I know what’s really been getting in my way… I can “move forward into broad sunlit uplands” ….and to think I’ve spent all this time procrastinating over a time-wasting villain who I know I can overcome! Phew… Thank heavens for that! …Mark…I’m most grateful for you shining the Light of Lucid Language on the metaphoric impostor in my mind!
    I look forward to reading more of your bons mots and paragraphs of Paramount wisdom!

    A greatly cheered and relieved anglo-wordsmith!

    Best wishes

    8th March, Molkom Sweden

    PS I’ve greatly enjoyed browsing your website… very nicely done, clean layout, concise, informative, great fonts/typeface and fascinating content!

    PPS I’ve just finished reading Robert McKee’s ‘Story’ for the second time…if I feel brave/foolheady (I do mean foolheady!) enough to attempt to turn two stories I’m writing at the moment into film scripts, I’ll be sure to say say hi again! BTW please feel free to check out my website.
    Cheers :-))

    • scriptcat says:

      So glad to make your acquaintance! Thanks for finding me in the massive space of the cyber world. You certainly have a fascinating life and backstory! You need to get on Twitter to further your “brand.” Trust me, it helps. All the kids are doing it! I enjoyed your website as well and have bookmarked it. Great stories. Be seeing you! Cheers.

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