“Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet.”
Last week, I picked up Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art” (actually, had it sent through the Interweb to my Kindle, because I got rid of my books a few years ago). The book has been praised for a long time as one of the best discussing the hardships of a modern day artist and creative. How do you actually start planning and start doing. How do you write (or photograph) every day. How do you take your career another step higher.
Even though it’s been re-printed and slightly updated several times, it was originally released in 2002 - two years before the birth and rise of Facebook and all the other social media outlets that’s apparently supposed to occupy a good chunk of the professional and amateur photographers work day ever since. You hear someone say every day that we are spending to much time every day on social media, instead of actually doing what we are supposed to.
Funny enough, when “The War of Art” was released - people had just as many things that kept them from doing what they were supposed to - we've just forgotten what they were. From what I can remember, I was pretty good at making the dishes, watch just another hour of TV and having a fifth cup of coffee in town the days before a school exam. Social media is not making us any more distracted than before - if we “want” to become distracted we will - it’s just yet another way. The “The War of Art” is just as current now as it was more than a decade ago.
In the first chapter of the book, Pressfield talks about one of the biggest enemies of the creative - Resistance. He describes it as an invisible force, with one sole mission that he is ruthlessly trying to carry out - prevent you from creating and reaching your goal.
“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.
What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance."
This goes for us photographers as well. Taking a picture is easy, we already know how to do it. And even finding ideas in our head for possible projects isn’t that hard either. The actual problem - where it really gets tough - is to get it all started and following through. Resistance is the force that places itself between the idea of something and the finalizing of that very project. Resistance is what will do everything in it’s power to prevent you from getting over the finish line.
Humans have some big trouble seeing the big picture, seeing that a small thing that we (do not) do right now, will have great impact on us a year from now. It is hard to realize that these two hours in front of the TV could be used for something that will take a little more effort now, but will give a huge amount of happiness in the future.
As a photographer - and artist - today, you will run into Resistance every day. Inspired by "The War of Art", here’s a list of truths that will help you fight Resistance in your photography career.
You are responsible for everything you do and do not do.
You did not contact that magazine today to sell the article idea because you had to update the website with some new photos before? You didn’t edit those 100 first photos so that you could start editing your book because you took a meeting with that guy that could help you market the book?
So, the reason why you did not do what was planned is probably to blame the website servers, because they had you sit for hours because they did not work properly. Or the guy that was going to help you with marketing because he could not meet at a later date.
“Resistance is always lying and always full of shit”
That’s not the truth, unfortunately. Resistance comes from within. You are creating it yourself, you are nurturing it. In one year, when the guys that owns the website server is still cashing in money and the marketing guy is getting paid to market someone's book that actually got edited and published, the only one left is you. Resistance will feed you lies that will make you think that something else is much more important. You need to take responsibility for everything you do, and stop blaming others. You alone are responsible for your success. That is step one.
Doing the exact opposite of whatever you feel like doing, will get you closer to your true goal.
A little more than a year ago, I went to cognitive behavioral therapy, a kind of therapy that basically aims to find the triggers for a specific problem or behavior and then find a way to act differently than you would naturally do.
“We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others”.
Pressfield writes that the amount of Resistance will rise, the more important a specific call or action is to us. The more we will gain and thrive from finishing a project, the more Resistance we will suffer.
One of the most common CBT techniques is to do the exact opposite of what you would usually do. Do you feel like fleeing when you have to take a photo of a stranger on the streets? Promise yourself to do the exact opposite the next time! Does it feel like you really need to update your Facebook page or login to your email again to check? Promise yourself to put it on hold until you do one big and important thing that will accelerate your project.
Learn how to catch sight of Resistance, learn what it looks like, and then choose how to act when it comes.
The closer to finishing a project you get, the harder it will become.
You might believe that being very close to finishing will actually make the rest a piece of cake. No. Whenever you relax, whenever you see the light at the end of the tunnel - Resistance will make one last great strike, to try to make you fail. You might feel bored with it, you have only the last pieces left - and they consist of zero percent creativity.
As stated in the beginning, a creative's most challenging task is to reach the 100%. Then put the very last piece in the puzzle to be able to press the launch-button. Resistance is waiting for you right before that push.
If you decide to photograph 50 people on the streets, after forthy five, it will feel like you’ll never make it. Maybe you don’t need those last five? Maybe you could use that time to check your email in a café? You know what? If your goal would’ve been to shoot 10 people, the last two would feel impossible. That is how Resistance works.
Save a piece of your energy for the last sprint, be aware that this might be the most challenging part.
Your friends might be your hidden enemies.
Even though someone won’t realize it, they might be a brake block for you and your career. Humans have a intriguing way of turning envy into pure sabotage. If one would encounter someone on the way to a beautiful goal, a frightening large part of us would try to sabotage the path rather than helping or finding a way to walk the same path himself. It is just so much easier to cut down the branch you are sitting on, than climbing up another tree to find your own.
“Once you make your break, you can’t turn around for your buddy who catches his trouser leg on the barbed wire.”
The most common manifestation of Resistance is procrastination
We don’t tell ourselves “I’m never going to write my symphony.” Instead we say, “I am going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.”
Read more about The War of Art HERE!
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