On acknowledging resistance


After spending an intense several days at Vortext, I arrived home from this writing salon filled with the words of my incredible teachers and a renewed sense of faith in the ideas at the heart of my book. I had the chance to share some of my work aloud within this intimate gathering, which I had not done since the last time I attended.

I didn’t have a piece ready like other writers who had taken time to print out work in progress or work that was forthcoming in a publication later in the year. While some sat down to cut their excerpts to the three-minute reading limit on Saturday afternoon, I jotted into a notepad, trying to put a tail on the thoughts I’d started to gather on the ferry ride over that morning. To pin down the questions I wanted my book to ask and to illustrate why they mattered by sketching out its opening scene.

I had resisted writing those words. As I let the questions take shape on Saturday, however, I realized that my resistance needed its own place on the page. That the struggle to frame the questions was an essential part of the story too.

I’ve started and restarted this book numerous times in the last decade because, as I described it during one workshop, I’ve been trying to peel an onion that keeps growing new layers — or walk a labyrinth whose concentric rings continue to multiply. The very process of moving toward the story’s heart, the thinking that can’t happen without my committing some words to paper, keeps rendering those words obsolete — or at least grossly inaccurate — as the next ring comes into view. I’ve tried to cheat this problem by writing scenes other than this one, just to have something tangible for all the circling. But without the frame, I just end up feeling directionless.

So I let my resistance be seen. And for now, the frame is holding.

What are you resisting in your creative process? Take a few minutes to free-write your answer to this question. How does describing the block or resistance feel as you try to capture its edges, its innards, its character? I invite you to
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Photo of the labyrinth at the Whidbey Institute (which I actually walked).