By Steven Pressfield | Published: January 20, 2010
A friend asked me the other day how I experienced Resistance. What did the phenomenon feel like to me? I told him it was like wrestling an alligator.
That’s not always bad. Sometimes the beast is a cute little cayman. I can clamp his jaws shut with my left hand, grab him by the tail with my right. It’s no problem to wrap him up and get him into the trunk of the car.
But sometimes that gator gets a little bigger. Right now, in the project I’m working on, he outweighs me by eighty pounds and he’s kicking my ass.
How Bob Dylan does it
Have you read Bob Dylan’s book, Chronicles? A significant section covers his struggles trying to put together one specific album. I don’t know if Mr. Dylan would say he was dueling Resistance or just the challenges of the work, but his style of combat, if memory serves, included impulsive cross-country airline flights, massive music listening, employment of controlled substances, midnight forays into weird parts of town, crazy phone calls, collaboration with strangers and a general instinct-driven voodoo-thrashing that somehow all came together and produced the answer he was looking for.
Resistance: 100 million years B.C.
My own struggles are a lot more reptilian. Maybe it’s because the medium I labor in is an essentially-solitary enterprise that requires hours of focused concentration daily (or nearly daily) over a sustained period of time. It’s not aerial combat, it’s foot-slogging. It’s infantry work. But back to that alligator.
Here’s why the gator-wrestling metaphor rings true to my experience as a writer battling Resistance:
1) The enemy is as big as I am. Bigger sometimes. And he’s all muscle. By no means is it a foregone conclusion that I’m gonna beat him.
2) He’s sneaky-fast. The bastard is cunning; he’ll sneak up on you underwater and strike out of nowhere. And he can cover ground like a racehorse.
3) He’s invulnerable. His hide is two inches thick–and I don’t even have a pen knife.
4) I have to grapple with him belly-to-belly. There’s no other way. This is not a rapier duel or an archery match; it’s up close and personal–two bodies, head-to-head, tail-to-tail, rassling in the mud.
5) The gator can get you from both ends. One blow from that tail will break your leg. And those jaws? If he gets them around you, fuggedaboutit.
6) The bastard is prehistoric. He’s got scales, man! And look at those eyes. He doesn’t even have warm blood. Seth Godin calls Resistance the “lizard brain.” There’s a lot to that. This foe is primordial; he was walking the earth with the dinosaurs. To him, I’m lunch–and he’s got a predator’s pedigree that goes back 100 million years.
7) There’s no negotiating with this sonofabitch. I can’t holler uncle or make a deal. And this sucker doesn’t just want to kill me, he wants to eat me.
The only way to win is outlast him. I can’t shoot him; I can’t drown him; I can’t punch him in the nose and make him quit. The only hope is to stay so close to him that he can’t get those jaws around me, while using my body weight to wear him down. His only weakness is those stubby little arms. If I can keep him off-balance long enough and keep him thrashing trying to get to me, I can tire him out. The fight will go out of him–at least till tomorrow, when he’ll be back.
An invitation to comment
That’s how I experience Resistance. How about you? How does this monster come after you? I’d like to know. Write in below under “Comments.” If we get some good stuff, we’ll run it in this space–and we can all compare notes.
Bob Dylan, we’ll be glad to hear from you too.