Strange forces at work!
Every time you think about working on your creative project - and then vacuum instead; every time you feel the urge to go to your studio or craft table - and then take a nap intead; every time you plan to make some progress on your screenplay - and then find yourself at brunch with friends instead... RESISTANCE IS AFOOT!
Resistance is a big and fascinating topic, and we'll be talking more about its sources and dynamics in this week's online workshop Crossing the Threshold: How to Skip the Inner Battles and Step with Ease into the Space of Creating - which I hope you'll come check out!
The Blancmange of Resistance
But right off the bat, the key thing to know is that resistance is like a slightly malevolent (but well intentioned) blancmange. An everywhere-and-nowhere mass of gelatinous goo that guards the gates of your creative space. A pudding of repellent energies able to take whatever form is necessary to press you back from the experience of creative flow.
Sure, it looks innocent, even laughably bland and jiggly. But that's its power! It barely registers as anything, right up until it sucks you in and surrounds you. Remember that old Monty Python sketch with the alien tennis-player-eating blancmange? It's like that. Seems utterly crazy, but then you find yourself trying to fight it and before you know it, you are GONE.
You: Bubkus, zip, zero. You are vaccuming, napping and brunching and the blancmange wins again.
So, How Do You Get Past the Blancmange at the Gates?
Though most of us try valiantly to fight the blancmange, the sad truth is that fighting never works. If we are directly engaging the blancmange, we are already inside of it. Our inner battles between "will power" and "won't power" might feel like an effort to fight our way in - and bless us all for trying - but the effect is that we are fighting with ourselves INSTEAD of creating. Game Point to Blancmange.
(By the way, reasoning also doesn't work. How can you reason with a Blancmange? That's just absurd.)
Your best bet is to get sneaky
Here are 5 tried and true devious strategies that can work to help you bypass the gelatinous forcefield and sneak over the threshold of your creative space and into the creative flow you crave
sneak walk animation by Ralph Rosa
1. Ignore your brain.
I'm sorry to break it to you, but your logical brain is kind of a patsy for the blancmange. It thinks it's all smart, but that's exactly what makes it vulnerable to being sucked into collusion. It will (wittingly or unwittlingly) happily use it's cleverness to generate an endless supply of very logical-sounding rationalizations for why now just isn't the time. DO NOT trust these voices - they are the propaganda arm of the blancmange.
2. Disguise yourself in pajamas.
The blancmange has no power when you are sleeping or (if you play it cool) sleep-adjacent. So, if you glide into your creative project first thing in the morning, wearing your jammies and fuzzy slippers, you can sometimes get in there before the blancmange has its wits about it.
Not taking time to get dressed is key here for two reasons: 1. each minute you spend selecting your clothes is a minute you'll be thinking about all the stuff your day is going to hold. These kinds of thoughts will tend to arouse the blancmange - questions about whether to wear your comfy jeans for a fourth straight day require you to remember that you have that meeting that you haven't finished preparing for, and now your social-self is all geared up for reactivity instead of creativity.
And 2. With your pajamas and slippers on, your true intentions are camoflauged, and the blancmange does not recognize you as someone who might be engaged in something that might have any impact on your social standing... you can pull out the old "who me? creating something that matters to me and that I kind of hope someday is appreciated by others? nope, I'm just hanging about in my PJs. You must have me confused with someone else. Nothing to see here!"
3. Speak in code.
Turns out that the blancmange is particularly designed to keep you from a serious, ambitious, results-oriented engagement with the potential of your creative project. (Indeed, the purpose for which the blancmange was expressly molded is to keep you from getting hurt by the kinds of failure, control-loss, and public humiliation that - it believes - are likely to accompany effortful, serious creative work.)
This means that non-serious, playful, low-intensity engagement can slip past the blancmange's sensors... So instead of saying "I'm going to go work on my novel" you might say, "I'm just going to go putter around with that second paragraph of chapter two;" or instead of saying "I'm going to go finally finish that painting!" you might say "I'm just going to play around in the studio for a bit..."
And, if "Play" and "putter" don't hit the right note for you, I present the advanced blancmange-beater's code book with an array of options you can try (turns out we human's need a LOT of ways to say "just messing around!"):
having a lark
trying on for size
mucking about with
doing by halves
I promise, the blancmange does NOT have a decoder ring for the vast language of messsing around! You can sneak right under it's radar.
4. Keep a butterfly net handy.
Behind the gates that are so well-guarded by your resistance, your creative work is sitting there, just waiting and hoping that you'll come play. It loves you and doesn't want you to forget about it, so in hopes of bringing you back soon, it sends you little love notes and secret messages. These might come to you as inklings, phrases, images, ideas that flicker by the corner of your eye...light, floaty little things, like butterflies, that are just small and flighty enough to sneak between the cracks of the door and flutter past the blancmange.
If you make a point to listen and watch for them, and capture them as they come to you (in a notepad or sketchbook or notes on your phone...) they tend to lower the guard of resistance and give you a way in: "Don't mind me, I'm just following these little guys back to their home, making sure they're home safe - back in a sec!"
5. Leave yourself a cliff-hanger
There is one psychological mechanism that can sometimes beat out even the force of our creative resistance, and that is our strong desire for "cognitive closure." If you watch the cooking show Chopped, you've already got a master-class in how this works - picture the close up of Ted Allen's hand on the handle of the silver lid covering the dish of the person who's been chopped. The reveal is coming! Remember the little frission of excitement you feel? How you just need to know whether it's the over-churned licorice ice cream or the half-raw bread pudding studded with inexplicable pink peppercorns? Now picture how they cut to commercial right then and leave you hanging. Admit it, it gets you every time, right?
(If you aren't a Chopped fan, just think of any season finale of your favorite show, or try singing the star spangled banner "o'er the laaaand of the free, and the home of the....." and make yourself stop there. Or, dig up the episode of Big Bang Theory in which Amy Farrah Fowler torments Sheldon with this principle - so you know it's grounded in science...)
Anyhoo, the point here is NOT that I watch too much tv (I don't know what you're talking about), the point is that you can use this deep need for resolution to overwhelm the blancmange.
Here's what you do: if you are a writer, you stop each session's work in the middle of a sentence. Like "Polly dropped her sword, stepped into the throbbing ball of light and" That's right, just leave it hanging. If you are a painter, find a spot that you are dying to resolve and DON'T. Just end your painting time right there. Walk away from your screenplay right after one character says "but Johnny, what will we DO?????" Leave your sculpture with rough edges you are dying to smooth. Etc.
Make the tension strong enough that when it's time to go back to your work, even your blancmange will say "Dang girl, aren't you going to finish that?"
Aaaaand, you're in.
Want more blancmange-beating wisdom? Join me tomorrow!
If you want a passle of additional tips and tricks and helpful ways of easing into your creative work (or play) do join me tomorrow at 10 am Pacific or on Thursday at 5 pm Pacific for the online workshop (which I now wish I'd called "Beating the Blancmange") Crossing the Threshold: How to Skip the Inner Battles and Step with Ease into the Space of Creating
Here's how the online workshops go down: We meet online (all you do is click a link and you're there), I talk a bit and share some frameworks, we all compare notes on how these dynamics work for us and share wisdom from our experience, you get inspired and re-energized and feel less alone...it's a whole wonderful thing you don't want to miss.
REGISTER HERE to join us!