Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Do You Want to Create? Then Prepare for Pain

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From Jeff: This is a guest post by Matt Ragland, who is a writer, speaker, and camp director at Camp Rockmont. You can read more from him on his blog and follow him on Twitter.

In our connected world, the tools available for people to create are plenty and affordable. You can start a blog for free, a beautiful website for under $100, Zenfolio will host your photography, Etsy will sell your crafts, and Behance will do pretty much anything.

Pain of Creativity

Photo credit: Joby Elliott (Creative Commons)

These are just a few of the options available. It’s incredible, encouraging, and means you’re out of excuses to hold back your art. But there is a cost to this opportunity.

“Stop hitting yourself”

Do you remember when you were younger, and a bigger kid would grab your own fist and hit you with it? All the while mocking: “Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself!”

That’s what writing is like. Your own mind will put up a fight, because it enjoys the status quo.

Understand this: The moment you decide to begin creating, you are under assault. Yes, “The Resistance” (to borrow Steven Pressfield’s term) will be in full force, shouting at you, keeping you up at night, trying every ruthless trick to keep you from creating.

Every day, I need to remind myself I can write, but it takes a conscious decision to actually do it. Even 150 posts later, I’m unable to sit down and honor my craft without a fight.

The Resistance casually rears its ugly head: Well, you’ve managed to get by another day. This article is all you had left, good luck tomorrow.

Once again, the assault begins.

You’re not alone in the fight

Anne Lamott writes about a similar problem in her book, Bird by Bird:

I know some very great writers, writers who people love, write beautifully, and make a great deal of money. But, not one of them routinely sits down feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident.

There is enough great material in the world now about the internal struggle of writers, and tactics for fighting through the pain (Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones is another great book).

This is certainly the first broadside shot to your creativity that you must face, because it’s done in secret, the wee hours of the morning or the velvety darkness of midnight.

But if we cannot triumph over ourselves, we cannot make it to the next level. Which brings more creativity — and more pain.

Sounds like fun, right?

Going public with your art

Eventually, it’s time to go public.

When I say this, I’m not talking about your first post (although, that’s a big step). I’m talking about the first essay you write that is going to strike a nerve with the people you love. The kind of writing that shines a light on pain, passivity, and fear.

You will get sideways glances at the dinner table, passive-agressive statements about your superiority and knowledge. You may have to remind others you are no better than anyone else, but there is value in creating, in naming struggles.

If you survive, then you’ll do what most of us are afraid to do: keep creating.

For sale

This is the final step, and if you’ve gotten this far, take heart! This is where every artist wants to end up: to be at a place where you’re creating stuff people value so much, they’re willing to pay for it.

I did this recently and have received some good feedback. But I’ve also received some surprising feedback, as well, most notably from people I know. The words are well-intentioned, cautionary, and dangerous to my art:

I think it’s great you made this book, but are you sure you’re qualified to be giving people this advice?

It’s pretty bold to ask people these questions… why do you have to cause a fuss?

It’s a nice product, but I don’t think people will pay money for it.

Before you crumble in worry and self doubt, know I did receive good feedback and constructive criticism, which is helping the process. But, it’s painful to hear these words, and difficult to digest.

The Resistance gleefully picks these words up from the scattered remains of your psyche, and carefully places them in his ammo belt for future attacks.

My advice? Get used to it.

Good news

Do you love creating? I mean, really love it? You need to; otherwise, it’s not worth the trouble. Because the pain makes it hard to survive.

If you do love this, these attacks become easier to deal with. You’ll know what’s possible on the other side, and can confidently say, “I’m doing what I was made to do.”

And start fresh.

What’s been your experience with pain and creativity? Share in the comments.

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About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. To get updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • http://twitter.com/TheAndyGilmore Andrew Gilmore

    On just about everything I write, at some point I reach a place where I encounter something similar to the runner’s “wall.” Except instead of a wall, it feels more like a mountain that I must climb.

    Part of me is always telling me to quit, but when I persist and finally reach the peak I get a sense of euphoria that all but erases the “pain” I felt earlier.

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      What a great insight Andrew. With all of the internal resistance which comes with going to run, writing, or eating healthy, I agree heartily with the feeling of euphoria when you’re in the act!

  • http://www.toodarnhappy.com/ Kim Hall

    Oh, my gosh, did you strike a chord here! I laughed out loud at the image of me successfully writing a piece in spite of my mind beating me up. As I watch her saunter cockily away, she slowly turns her head to look back at me, a smirk spreading across her face and eyebrow raised, she says, “You know this isn’t over. I’ll be back.”

    Whew. 

    The commentary from family hit home as well. Here I thought they’d be celebrating with me: Yay! Kim has finally figured out what she wants to be when she grows up, and she’s good at it, too! Nope. “What do you do all day?” Do you really think you can make a living at that? People really read what you write? Why do they need you to tell them how to do stuff? Don’t they find that annoying? Don’t you think you ought to get a real job, you know, just in case?”

    Donning more armor now, and preparing for battle with a smile on my face, a song in my heart, and your post tucked into my encouragement folder. Thanks so much!

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      Kim, loved your affirmation on being slapped around by my own psyche! Another comment I’ve gotten is “Why are you taking time away from your real job to write?”

      Keep the armor on, and continue to encourage others! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/dan.erickson.14 Dan Erickson

    I’ve been writing in one way or another my entire adult life.  I was a songwriter first.  I actually came to your town twice in the early 1990s to ry to get my songs published.  I gave up too quickly both times.  I’ve written journals, essays, a grad thesis, etc.  I tried to write a book in 2004 and shelved it.  

    It wasn’t until last year when I started my blog that things changed.  And I’ve even changed my blog a couple of times before I’ve settled on something specific.  For me, it’s less the art of creating or going public than it is second guessing myself that can hold me back.  

    Now I have written a book, “A Train Called Forgiveness” about my childhood as the victim of a cult.  I wrote it first “live” online.  I’ve written hundreds of poems and songs.  And now hundreds of blog posts.  My second book “At the Crossing of Justice and Mercy” will be out by next Spring.  Right now I’m struggling writing the third book to my “Cult Trilogy” for two reasons.  I’m focusing on blogging and recording music, and I have a little fear of the third book’s theme, “The Track to Redemption.”  Redemption is a hard concept to write about.  I’ve got a start though and I know I’ll complete it in the next year.

    Thanks for this post.  It’s always good to have the support of other writers.

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      Hey Dan, thanks for commenting and sharing your story. I remember seeing you on the comments for my guest post at Michael Hyatt’s blog, thanks for reading here too! 

      I agree, the second guessing and mental game during the creative process is really challenging. A tactic I like to use is displacing the fear by realizing I can be my harshest critic! I have written several posts that I felt were total crap, but then I get an email or comment about how much it helped somebody! 

      In the end, I believe we need to trust the process, be intentional with our work, and above all, SHIP

  • Adrijus Guscia

    Nice article! I can relate as a designer and have seen it happen to writers, designers and musicians too. Not many people persevere tho…sadly.. 

    P.S. Offtopic, Jeff, are you still selling ads on this site? No answers from your person supposed to be responsible for it and BuySellAds doesn’t have anything there. Yet banner with ‘Advertise here’ is still on here. 

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      Yeah, I really like Jeff’s article on the difference between good writers and bad writers. What is it? Good writers persevere! http://goinswriter.com/the-difference-between-good-writers-and-bad-writers/

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      No, I’m fazing out all ads on the site. If you have a special request, shoot me an email at jeff@goinswriter.com.

      • Adrijus Guscia

        Ah.. cool, thanks for answer. It a bit sad but fine :)

        I’ll probably try out for a guestpost in coming month instead.

  • http://michaeldmassie.com/ Michael Massie

    Great article. The most welcome and unexpected advice I ever got from anyone was from a friend and magazine publisher I once worked with. “Mike, you’ve got a lot to say… you should write!” I’d always loved reading, loved stories, and occasionally would try my hand at writing (in secret, of course). But I’d never considered going public with my ideas until my respected colleague gave me that little push of confidence I needed.

    One thing I think we all need to remember (and in keeping with the spirit of the previous day’s post) is to encourage other writers. You may not realize it, but a kind word or a thoughtful note may make the difference in helping a fellow writer to keep on writing.

    I can also relate to Kim’s remarks on family support. While my wife is incredibly encouraging and supportive, early on in another career I met with quite a bit of negative feedback when I announced my intention to pursue my dream. One thing I discovered through that experience is that most people are horrible career counselors. So, write on. :)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Great advice, Michael!

  • Dale Carroll-Coleman

    You are so correct Jeff. I read Steven Pressfield and Ann Lamott. Both books left me challenged and excited.
    Reality hits me in the face each day, in how hard it is to write well.
    I have felt many of the emotions you described and I guess what it comes down to it is…. What fills your soul. What leaves you breathless and satisfied when you read the black font, that you have molded and shaped.
    When I write something that I feel deep in my soul, it flows. Even though it will need to be refined.
    Pain and creativity will always go hand in hand.
    I have come far .. And still have far to go.
    Truth is… Even if you are never a NY Times best seller, you may be doing exactly what you were created for. You never know who you influence along the way.
    Thanks for being a creative and positive influence to many.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Dale, but all the credit goes to @mattragland:disqus who wrote this post. 

      • http://www.majorinthegraceofgod.blogspot.com/ dale carroll-coleman

        Oops, my bad. Thanks and I did initially read that and by the end I forgot. What?! Sorry.
        Apologies to Matt! Awesome article Matt. Especially the going public with your art. Thick skin is a must and the ability to let some of it roll off, while other times having the insight to listen and grow.
        Love that you offer guest posts Jeff :)

  • Jerivertree1024

    Wow, very much the mountain that just refuses to budge for me. Trying to initiate a writing project plus creating our own non-profit that helps people rescue their lost hearts over the past 7 years now. Let’s just say, maybe the most painful 7 year period of my life. Just a huge paradox. Thanks for writing this. So identify with your words. Yes, there is breakthrough in the journey that lets me know that its not wasted pain! Just some great reminders embedded in your expressions here. Thanks for your transparency!  ;~{)}

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      Thank you very much for the work you are doing to assist people who are coming to terms with our shared brokenness! I’m glad you brought up the breakthroughs which allow a light to shine in the pain. 

  • http://wastelandwarrior.wordpress.com/ Heath Capps

    Great post, MATT. I enjoy creating but the struggle in the beginning is defining my niche and finding my “voice” or my style. As life happens to me more and more, this is becoming easier. Writing will improve with time…harder part for me is actually sharing the writing with other folks. I read somewhere (probably Lamott) that if it holds value for me, then odds are it holds value for lots of other people as well. The trick is to harness that message and communicate it…which is going to take a lot of time/effort/practice. 

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      Thanks Heath, and great point in the value piece. We all have a lot more common ground than we realize, and odds are there is a large group of people who empathize with the emotion! Steady writing is the key, even if you don’t show it off or go public just yet. Appreciate you checking in brother.

    • http://weekendblessings.com/ Vivi

       Very true, Heath, esp. re: Lamott’s statement about people and the value of what we have to say. But the reader’s readiness to receive our words is also a key ingredient. I’m reminded of an interaction with my 8th grade English teacher. I had decided to read PRIDE & PREJUDICE on my own, but I told her I thought the book was boring (unusual for me because I loved to read even then). She replied that I probably would appreciate it more when I was older. I was a bit miffed at her reply, but she was absolutely right. My criticism of Austen’s work was not a reflection on Austen’s greatness as a writer but on my immaturity as a reader. It’s simply where I was in life. Don’t you think that’s often true of our audiences? (I’m not saying our audiences are immature, just that they are at various spots in their life experiences.)

  • annepeterson

    Some of my most creative pieces emerge from my most painful experiences.

  • http://wordsofwilliams.com/ Eric Williams

    Great Post. For me, the resistance seems to be so strong that by the time a publish a post, I can’t look at it any longer. It’s taken too much of me. But then, when it does strike that chord with readers, it’s rejuvenating and gives me the energy for the next one. 

    While I love creating, the toughest times are when there is no love for something you’ve created. Getting back on that horse is difficult but most certainly worth it.

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      Yeah, I totally agree Eric. It’s funny though, some of the posts I thought were a total waste ended up being well-received, and others I thought were awesome didn’t make a dent. I need to just not be too judgmental of the work in either case, and keep pushing. Really appreciate you sharing!

      • http://twitter.com/JMZeiger Jennifer M Zeiger

        This always amazes me. Posts I think are great barely get looked at and ones I’m embarrassed to make public usually get great responses. Thanks for sharing this. The mental resistance part of writing, that knowledge that others can and will give an opinion, which is not always kind, can be one of the biggest deterrents to creativity. This post is encouraging. 

  • http://www.toddliles.com/ Todd Liles

    I have written several training courses in my career.  My goal is to always engage the student in a way that makes the program move.  I know when that is done, because at the end of 3 days the student will say, “I can’t believe it is over already.  That flew by so fast!  This class should be 5 days.”  Getting a person to say that is very hard!  The challenge of taking material and making it fun is the biggest pain I have to overcome.  But, the pain of creation is less than the pain of boredom.

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      Here here! Who wants complacency? Way to create and ship your work, very admirable of you.

      • http://www.toddliles.com/ Todd Liles

        Thanks Matt!

        ——– Original message ——–

  • http://www.joanhallwrites.com/ Joan

     As I read this, I’m thinking of the article that I need to finish. What keeps me from writing? Is it fear of rejection? Fear that it won’t be “good enough”? Fear that I won’t be able to create a compelling story? In other words, I’m often my own worst critic. I realize that part of being a writer is to face rejection and face pain. Yet, I write because I cannot not write.

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      Well, from your response you seem to be on the right path! Drip, drip, drip, your well fills

  • http://www.tinyurl.com/jaygordon Jay Gordon

    Today’s column was especially helpful, and I shared it with a friend. I should tell you, when I first discovered your column, my thought was, “This kid isn’t old enough to be of much help to me.”

    I have never been happier to be wrong, especially today.

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      Jay, thanks so much, I appreciate your honesty and willingness to move past your 1st instinct :) Glad you found the post helpful

  • http://www.positivelyalene.com/ Positively Alene

    It’s amazing how much longer those negative comments linger in our minds. They hurt. They sting. Then it becomes hard to create again. Love this piece!

    • Vivi

       So true, Alene. I’ve read that for every negative comment one receives in life that it takes a minimum of ten positive ones to balance it out. When I was teaching, I always had to wait until I was feeling particularly strong before sitting down to read my evaluations from students. I loved teaching and received recognition for my work, had good relations with students, and lived to teach. As a result, I had consistently good evaluations. However, I would carry that one negative comment with me for days. It was as if the other comments didn’t exist. I could read and re-read the evaluations, but the ones that loomed up at me repeatedly would be the one or two that were negative. It seems to me that this same mentality relates to our writing.

  • Keith

    What is the fear that grips us and squeezes us into paralysis?  I pose that question to myself every day I do not write.  Or is it pain avoidance and that makes it easier to just ‘watch television’?

  • Shar

    As a mother of five, I’m all too familiar with the pain of labor. But nothing, not even the intensity of naturally delivering a 9 lb. baby, could have prepared for the labor pains induced by the creative process of writing. There is no epidural or spinal block for the writer’s pains. There is just writing. 

    I’ve given up on writing many times because no one told me what you wrote in this post, Matt. Thanks for keepin’ it real. 

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      Thanks Shar! It’s funny, I’ve been talking with my Mom about writing, and she has used some of the same parallels. Of course that’s very REAL creating right there! Thanks for sharing

  • Thomas Linehan

    Pain, yes my writing has caused me pain.  When I was younger 30 some years ago I had to stop because the stress that it caused.  I thought that I could just write and that was it.  I got to dislike my “stuff” and just put it away.  Now much, much more mature I see how to avoid the initial pain, but I’m also getting ready to sell and that has told my inner voices to just keep at it.  The long and short of it no matter what you wish to do there’s going to be pain, heartache and (in writing) those that don’t like what you do.  Just keep at it because it’s in your genes.
    Thom Linehan, Denmark, ME

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      Thom, thanks for being honest and letting us know that while the pain doesn’t really ever leave, the reward will remain as well. Important lessons!

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

    The way I’ve been able to deal with pain and creativity is to think in the long-term. Think about life in 10 years. What would life be like if I kept creating? What would life be like if I stopped?
    That’s when I realize that, long-term, the pain of passivity is much worse than the pain of working through the tough times. You hate writing, in a way – but even worse you hate not writing.

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      Loren, love this comment. The long-view is so important for creators in a short-term society. I think you will like this post too http://storylineblog.com/2012/12/04/why-you-should-peak-at-65/

  • Justin Harmon

    It’s definitely hard to sit down and write at the times I’m not fully inspired to do so (which is most of the time). Even though once I get going, I can get locked in and just roll with it, it takes pushing myself each and every day. 

    What works for me is to remind myself to look at my situation and remember that it is the writing that will ultimately get me to where I want to be for my family. I remember the emails I received from people whose lives were impacted by my words. I mean who can not sit down and keep writing, knowing that it is helping in others lives? 

    Cheers,
    Justin

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      Totally agree Justin. The selfish part of me wants to write as a means to provide for my family regardless of location, and whether or not my wife works, and we can be around our kids. I know that’s not really a selfish reason, but it does motivate me to try and write as a career, and not only a hobby. 

      However, I do believe that writing (good writing) must begin as something you feel you must do. It can’t simply start out as “I’m going to get rich by [blank]!”

      In essence, I feel ya bro

  • http://twitter.com/poeticjason Jason Cormier

     Great post.  So true about resistance never dying. Been writing poetry for 20+ years now and still battle with sharing it.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      So it never goes away, eh? Thanks for sharing, Jason.

      • http://twitter.com/poeticjason Jason Cormier

         I hope it never does for me, I think it makes me a better artist.

  • Cfsherrow

    It’s always a battle to believe you have something people will read and enjoy. Someone said my novel’s plot was too hard to discern and that I simply added characters to move the plot when it was convenient. Then another person compared it to Frank Peretti’s work and said she loved that the conflicts weren’t neatly tied up but the book did end on a note of hope. So, I do my best, ask God what He thinks, and go from there.

  • T Ramirez Writer

    The most painful moment for me is hitting “post” or “send.” Yes, the process of writing is hard. But it is equally painful to share. Maybe more so. The Big Paradox is that the whole point of writing and creating (for me, at least) is to shake up the status quo and yet, in doing so, painful feedback is a guarantee. Every day, I work on retraining my brain to accept this as a good thing, a sure sign that I’m doing my job well. 

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      “The Big Paradox is that the whole point of writing and creating (for me, at least) is to shake up the status quo and yet, in doing so, painful feedback is a guarantee.” – You hit the nail on the head there T!

  • http://weekendblessings.com/ Vivi

         Although I’d taught English for decades–with an emphasis on writing–and had written and shared in class with my students in writing workshops, it was still mortifying to create my blog, to write an actual post, and then to hit “send.” I felt SO vulnerable. I could imagine every student who’d ever received a low grade and lots of my comments (intended as constructive criticism) pouncing on my every word, dissecting my post, scoffing at my statements, laughing at my blog’s design. (It’s still in its emerging stages as I learn by doing.)
          Another agonizing experience has been telling people–even close friends–that I have a blog. I’ve felt like such a novice, apologetic that I would presume to step into these waters.
         These have been bizarre experiences since I am doing something smack-dab in the middle of my area of professional work and since I am usually a rather confident and outgoing person.
         It’s good to read this post and find that reminder of others who struggle with creativity too. Now on to read the other comments because I’m sure to find more companions in this vulnerable fraternity I’m dubbing “Theta Epsilon”–“The Exposed.” 
     

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      Vivi, take heart! Many continue to tread the road you are on, you’ll find lots of encouragement from other writers. Jeff’s community is very encouraging, and I recommend checking out Joe Bunting’s work as well at http://thewritepractice.com

      • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

        Thanks, Matt. Love what Joe’s doing over there.

  • Melanie Wilson

    It’s been so helpful to me to create without concern for how many people will read it, like it, or share it. It also helped seeing the nasty things that were written to Abraham Lincoln at his presidential museum. Wow! And did he ever handle it with grace and humility. Would that I be the same.

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      I haven’t seen that section of the Lincoln Museum, definitely will check it out next time! Anytime the status quo is being tested, people will rise up in defense.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cyd.madsen Cyd Madsen

    I’ve given birth.  I’ve had a severe back and neck injury.  I’ve split my tibia plateau when I slid on black ice.  I’ve lost too many parents too quickly.  I’ve written a lot of junk and painted wretched paintings with ease.

    Sitting down to write beyond my abilities or paint from the gut is tougher and more painful than any of the above.  And yet I come back. 

    Nothing of value comes without a price.  The price paid in full yields a staggering return on investment.

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      Good words Cyd, definitely worth the price! I have many more years to catch up to you though!

    • Mitch Staunton-Moore

      Hi Cyd! I have given
      birth to three children, lost my Mum (she was 58) so I totally get you. Your
      comment has made me laugh and has made me glad. I will also come back… return
      time and time again to what I desire to do…… write and write some more.

      Mrs Mitch
      Staunton-Moore…. (People normally think I’m a guy etc.)

       

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    There’s always been a lot of pain Matt. Sometimes it’s from the criticism of others but mostly from myself. The resistance tells me my work isn’t good enough. That I’m not wise enough. That I’ll only hurt people with the advice I give.

    It hurts more than I’d like to admit. But without pain there is no growth.

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      Thanks Joe, its interesting to hear from so many experienced writers that the pain and anxiety never goes away, but the resolve from so many years of shipping is strong enough to press on. Appreciate you sharing.

  • Mitch Staunton-Moore

    I want to write
    so very badly. Every time I sit down and start writing, I feel like I am going
    to fail… I feel like the ideas will stop coming… My heart laughs and cry’s
    at the same time. I TRY VERY HARD to ignore this desire, I try to make it go
    away – it does not. I’m a writer, and that’s that. Ok, I’m only writing a year,
    not very long! But I have started to tell people that I’m a writer. Initially I
    thought I was being arrogant, but no, I’m not! I feel I have to declare what I
    am. It’s what I have been created to do! Yikes! Talk about growing pains :)

    Mitch
    Staunton-Moore

     

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      I hear you Mitch! I remember when I first began naming myself as a writer, even to people I just met, the declaration was difficult! You gain strength from it though, keep on.

      • Mitch Staunton-Moore

        Thanks Matt. Mitch.

  • http://josephiregbu.com/ Joseph Iregbu

    Great encouragement here, Matt!

  • http://www.ryanhanley.com/ Ryan Hanley

    Jeff,

    First the Resistance affects every type of business not just writers… Pressfield is a great read.

    When we begin to ask ourselves if we are worthy of giving advice… That’s when the trouble begins.  That’s when doubt sets in, the fear of failure and worse yet the fear of success.

    Great stuff dude…

    Overcoming the Resistance is of the utmost importance.

    Hanley

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      Thanks Ryan, great point about the Resistance affecting all kinds of businesses and creators, not just writers!

  • JanetHertogh

    I am brand spanking new here, and your post really hit home for me! 
    Having an older brother who actually did the “why are you hitting yourself” thing to me was a great visual to what ( I call  the Committee vs the Resistance) does to me daily! Watching “A Beautiful Mind” helped me to sort of deal with he Committee when I saw John Nash (played by Russell Crowe) deal with his imaginary friends. I figure, like John Nash’s imaginary friends, the Committee will always be there ready to add something negative, self-doubting, and I acknowledge that they are there; however, I reeeeally try to ignore them and write on.Thank you soooo, sooo much for your encouragement- and for helping me to feel less crazy!

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      Hey Janet – So glad this spoke to you, a bunch of people have empathized with the “hitting yourself” metaphor! Thanks for bringing up “A Beautiful Mind”, I’ll have to re-watch it with an eye for what you have said.

  • Angela

    My experience with pain and creativity? Where do I begin? (smile)  Thank you so very much, Jeff. Your thoughts are always spot on and courage-bolstering!

  • Emilia

    First time commentor, long time lurker.

    I’m lucky that mum’s always supported me (get a day job, just incase) and I believe my dad would’ve. The friends I’ve told have also been supportive, the ‘worst’ comment I’ve gotten has been “it’s hard to make a living writing’.

    My fears get in the way sometimes, I have a bad habit of cycling wories and fears in my mind. My biggest fear with writing is accidentally using hurtful tropes, doing research to avoid them.

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      Thanks for sharing Emilia, appreciate you stepping out!

  • http://www.facebook.com/LindseyMHartz Lindsey Hartz

    I’m going to add that sometimes that resistance is caused by others’ pain – because we are all  broken people in need of grace, some can feel threatened by the message you are giving.  Sometimes they run, fast and furious away from the truth.  Sometimes they attack as quickly as they can because they don’t want to face the truth. I both grieve and hope for these types of people. 

    I grieve because I understand their pain – I used to be a runner :-) and I’ve been under serious attack just about every time I write publicly.  It’s a hard place to be, desperately needing freedom and truth but not able to accept it just quite yet. 

    I hope because I view my writing and creating and connecting others as planting seeds.  One day, hopefully they will come back to that post or article or book or conversation and find small steps to freedom in it. That singular purpose alone gives me the courage to publish anything at all. 

    Blessings,
    Lindsey

  • http://www.economicliferecovery.com/ Nicholas Brack

    Right now I am teetering between the pain of creating (the discipline of writing) and the pain of not creating (the disquieted inner self that won’t let go until I put something on the page) … not unlike the toying in my head before I wrote this comment.  

    Ahh … now I feel better. (As the the corners of his mouth curve slightly upward with a sense of calm and mild relief.)

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      Right on Nicholas, have you settled the imbalance in the past few days?

      • http://www.economicliferecovery.com/ Nicholas Brack

        If  I’m honest … no.  Not completely anyway. 

        I’ve found it difficult to carve out time for my own personal writing/creating ….  But again if I’m honest, the real battle is in my head where my creative voice has been locked up under prior pretense and fear.

        This is what I love about Jeff and this site–encouragement with a swift kick in rear!I signed up for the first Tribe Writers but didn’t have (make) the time to fully commit due to work obligations.  My hope is that this next round of the course will be Jeff’s “15habits” on steroids.  Just what I need to open a can of whoopass on some pretense and fear.

  • Beth Werner Lee

    Self doubt, criticism from the editor with whom I live (who has improved, thankfully!) and simply doing other things stopped me from writing. But hey, no one is going to read and enjoy what I don’t write, and no one else is going to write what I write, although sometimes they come close.

    Finally, this fall I had a very good friend whose word I trust say to me, “you can do it Beth, you’re a pretty good writer; just write from your heart.” I realized and confessed my fault: I was fooling around wanting to be a great writer (style? It can get in the way of message) when all I needed to do was write my heart out. Also, I needed to be asked. I’m making some changes in the new year to have writing time in larger chunks.

  • http://hugmomma.blogspot.com/ Hugmomma

    Thanks for sharing, especially the critical remarks. I can honestly feel like I’m in good company. I’ve received all of those same remarks, and in most cases, it came from the people I would have most liked to have the approval of. Funny how that works, isn’t it?  

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      Sure is. I believe that’s when we have to circle back around to the real reason we write or create, or really do anything! Is it for other’s approval, or ourselves?

      • http://hugmomma.blogspot.com/ Hugmomma

        Indeed :)

  • prophetsandpopstars

    Great post again, Matt. 
    Wasn’t it Hemingway that said, “Writing is nothing. All you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ?

    • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

      It was him! Great quote isn’t it? Thanks for reading again

  • http://www.wwjw.com/ Shopping Directory

    The way I’ve been able to deal with pain and creativity is to think in the long-term. Think about life in 10 years. What would life be like if I kept creating? What would life be like if I stopped?
    That’s when I realize that, long-term, the pain of passivity is much worse than the pain of working through the tough times. You hate writing, in a way – but even worse you hate not writing.

  • Kandacegrather

    Writing for me is both worship and warfare.  Meaning, there are times I am led to worship this God who I have surrendered to and my writing brings that out….OR, there are other times, I am led to a brutal battle of facing my own demons, lack of faith, lack of trust and insecurity.  Either way, I feel compelled to write.

  • http://www.carolyneaarsen.com/ Carolyne Aarsen

    I’ve been writing for twenty years, columns and books and the resistance and criticism are regulars in my office. Each day as I sit down to the computer I do battle with my internal editor who tells me I’m wasting my time. Each day I fight my own resistance to doing the work. I’ve learned over the course of my career to acknowledge their presence and accept it as part of the creative process. But the only way they go away is when I put my fingers to the keyboard and simply start putting words down no matter how boring or mundane they may be. Once I’m in my character’s world, the need to tell their story helps me overcome both criticism and resistance. For that moment. It’s an ebb and flow and part of the tension of discovery and creating.

  • http://printfirm.com/ Katherine Tattersfield

    Interesting. I am a writer by trade, but I don’t really deal with this issue. I’ve always had confidence in my writing. Now I do get pretty nervous about design, but the negative thoughts usually don’t appear until I’m sharing my work with the world. To me, great writing is fairly universal. Design, on the other hand, is highly subjective by nature. That’s why I struggle more on that end, I believe.

  • Vicki Boyd

    I used to write internal documentation in my late husband’s programs, user manuals for those same programs, technical reports, and technical proposals. The common vein was that it all dealt with dry factual information.

    Now I am beginning over and atempting to move from technical writing into cretive wtiting. I have encountered, for the first time, that inner voice of doubt. I find myself being hyper-critical of every mark I put on a page. My gyrating voice gives me whiplash. Sometimes that voice is my logical technical self, then it spins off into the ethos, becoming a wild eyed, savage, sexual beast. How do I marry these two effectively? Or IS that my voice; a bi-polar entity doomed to a split personality?

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