Jul 25, 2007 11

Hypn07, Day 19: Lord of the Dark Side

darth vader

This covers day 19 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I’m collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here.

If you haven’t already, go immediately to your favorite book purveyor (library, local independent bookseller, anywhere but even @m@zon) and get yourself a copy of Steven Pressfield‘s delightfully sly, slim and incisive look at creativity, The War of Art. Ounce for ounce, the smartest treatise on what keeps us measuring our lives in coffee spoons and not achievements of magnificent fulfillment. I enjoyed Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way for its similar insights into the creative process (and its particular demons) but this is way less woo-woo and just as practical in many ways, more so, in that you can read it in about an hour standing on your feet.


The chief slayer of creative output, according to Pressfield, is Resistance. It takes many shapes (procrastination is a favorite) but moves inexorably towards its chief goal, keeping your ass parked in front of the TV, eating Doritos and/or shooting heroin, depending.

I burst into Greg’s bungalow office full of excitement over this great new guide and its mythic depiction of a wiggly idea. But Greg decided to do old Steven one better: he called Resistance “The Resistor”, and, after putting me under, got it to talk a bit. Here’s what we learned…

#1: The Resistor is, um, a little scary

Unlike the other inhabitants of Kingdom Communicatrix (and much to Monkey Brain‘s dismay), the Resistor is not eager to make friends.

The Resistor needs no one and nothing, except something to push against, and everyone else does a damned fine job of providing fodder. The Resistor is very well developed, very smart and very, very strong, in fact…

#2: The Resistor is closest in temperament to The Edge

The Edge gets things done. It doesn’t differentiate between good or bad, dark or light, right or wrong. It has a task and does it. You might remember that when we met The Edge, it was in charge of procrastination. And it took its job seriously, not personally.

The Resistor is very much the same way. It is indifferent to pain, although it seems to find it interesting or even amusing. But it doesn’t derive pleasure from causing pain. Far from it. It enjoys pushing back, period. Hence, the Resistor’s particular gift at shape-shifting (and, perhaps, a wee bit of pride in its highly refined abilities in this area.)

#3: The Resistor cannot use its powers in the employ of anything but resisting

The Edge? Happy to serve in any other way we’d like to suggest.

The Resistor? Would have none of it. Greg tried every way he knew of to bring the Resistor to the side of Light, much to the amusement of the Resistor, who patiently, if a little condescendingly, kept insisting that was not a possibility.

#4: I am a Star Wars geek after all

These ideas all come from somewhere. I wish I were diving into some Jungian pool of collective unconscious, but the truth is, I learned everything I need to know about yin and yang from George Lucas. Such is the price of coming of age in the late 70s.

#5: There’s a lot of skill residing in the Resistor

So far, we’ve come up with six other subpersonalities that make up the crazy interior world of me. That’s six slices on the side of Light, some of whom are pretty strong (Monkey Brain, The Edge), all of whom are very smart.

There is one, only one, part of me that does nothing but push back. Oh, sure, the other ones screw up (or are screwed up), but they’re interested in changing.

The Resistor, on the other hand, is what a former acting teacher of mine used to call a “fixed given”: like time or furniture or other unopposable force/immovable object, it is fundamentally unchanging. It does what it does what it does; the only change is that it learns to do it better and more efficiently. Which means…

#6: It is pointless to try changing the Resistor

The only way to beat the Resistor is to become as good at your task, as single-mindedly driven in your goal at hand, as it is. And it never, ever stops, because the Resistor will respond to strength and cleverness with equal or better strength and cleverness.

Vigilance and a fierce pursuit of the Truth are the only useful weapons in one’s ongoing battle with the Resistor. That and…

#7: To start working against the Resistor, you must accept that it exists

It’s a bitch, but there it is: you cannot beat it; it is an essential part of you.

So look at the Resistor as the part that keeps you honest and striving. The part that keeps you creating, really, and makes each act of creation more interesting, rich and powerful than the last.

The Resistor won’t care, of course. It will just smile and come back at you another way, another day.

Admire its strength, say a brief prayer of gratitude if you have it in you.

And then, dear Artist, get back to work…


Image © Erin Watson, via Flickr.

Posted in: The Personal Ones

Wendy July 25, 2007 at 11:43 pm

Oh yeah, I recognize this one. That would be why you’ll find me at midnight, looking for the makings of a peanut butter sandwich at the local supermarket, when I have a deadline.

You have that? Its not just me? My commiserations to the similarly afflicted.

I’m finding this project a very fascinating and enjoyable read. Thanks for going where you going, and showing no fear.

Jeremy July 25, 2007 at 11:46 pm

Fascinating post in a fascinating series. I just wanted to take issue with the notion (yours or Pressfields? Can’t be sure) that procrastination is one shape The Resistor can take. Define it like that and, yeah, it seems that way. But …

Sometimes, what looks like procrastination, even to me when I’m not being particularly insightful, is actually a time of huge fomenting creativity somewhere deep inside my brain, and when it is ready, the “procrastination” stops.

Other times, the procrastination is indeed resistance, but because it puts me under pressure, and pressure can cause sparks to fly, it actually enhances creative thought.

I think.

dailytri July 26, 2007 at 5:59 am

I can’t wait another minute to agree with Jeremy on the procrastination point. Recently, I’d taken on a freelance assignment at a Minneapolis mag, the deadline was already looming when I took the assignment, but in true fashion I waited a day to let the topic percolate before scheduling interviews. A few more days passed, I did a phoner or two. Then it was July 4. The piece was due on July 9. I woke up on July 9 with the article written in my head only. 1500 words and two hours, later followed by an hour of editorial scrutinization and ta-da. The editor loved the piece. Ideal? No. But quite common in any artist’s field, I think.

communicatrix July 26, 2007 at 6:48 am

Wendy – You’re welcome! There is a relief in discovering you’re not the only one of anything, isn’t there? Even if the thing itself doesn’t change.

Jeremy – Interesting notion. Resistance as (sometimes) Procrastination is Pressfield’s, but I agree with him. Since he’s a writer of books – long form – there’s a slightly different set of signposts. I think Pressfield’s notion is spot on when working on looong projects or self-initiated (i.e., deadline-free) projects. Not just the novels & screenplays that never get written but the house that never gets cleaned, the trek up the mountain that never gets taken, the exercise program that never gets started.

I experience the same type of procrastination as you and dailytri every month with my column for LACasting.com. I’m not alone, either–all of the columnists get the same reminder every month two days before! My process with that has been to write down ideas as I get them, let them “cook”, and then, like both of you, the whole 750 words spills out in an hour or less, like Venus on the half shell.

But if I had no deadline? Oh, yeah–I’ll procrastinate like hell. That’s why IRL I use hacks like coaching, writing partners, class, accountability groups, etc.

Steven Pressfield July 27, 2007 at 9:20 am

Colleen, many thanks for the kind words (and the plug) re “War of Art.” I like that Resistor-thing that you did. Why didn’t I think of it? Keep up the great work and keep communicatrixing …

All my best,

Bon July 29, 2007 at 11:53 am


communicatrix July 29, 2007 at 6:55 pm

Steven – Thank YOU for the words of encouragement. Greg can attest to how schoolgirl-giddy I got seeing your comment. It made the day for both of us!

Bon – Thankee. I have a feeling you’ve seen this one in action.

Jean Browman July 30, 2007 at 9:33 pm

I inserted your comment and hopefully fixed my blog so people can do it in the future. Thanks for the clarification and feedback. The expression “achievements of magnificent fulfillment” was a direct quote of what you wrote in this post (in contrast to measuring our lives with coffee spoons). I was wondering what achievement looked like to you, so I really appreciated you explaining that part. I still don’t understand the Resistor, but will read more of your earlier blogs to try to get more of the subpersonalities straight. More tomorrow. This topic gets better and better. Thanks.

Jean Browman July 31, 2007 at 6:39 pm

I just figure that uncomfortable feeling, when I wish I could just sit down and finish the darned thing but am puttering around doing something else, is just part of the process. All we can do is keep a bit of pressure on so we don’t give up and not get too upset. At least that works best for me. There’s not much point in feeling guilty or pretending we could be doing it faster. Ideas percolating in our subconscious need time. I don’t even call it procrastination.

In fact, I seldom use the term. Sure, I put things off if I don’t want to do them or don’t know where to start or partly want to do them but am afraid of what I will have to give up to do it. So what? As we all know, if we have a deadline sooner or later the pain of the pressure will get us moving. I like Colleen’s observation that it’s a different thing when you don’t have to do it or that it’s a long project. Then we can set up artificial deadlines in the form of reporting to other people. Or, my preference, break the task down into parts so small that they’re easy to do and have fun (for the most part) going towards the goal. One of my favorite quotes is by Earnie Larsen: “There are few things more wonderful than knowing where you want to go and being on the path to getting there.”

communicatrix August 1, 2007 at 12:50 pm

Jean – thanks, and thanks for dropping back to comment, too. That Earnie Larsen quote is a good one.

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