Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Action!: This means war!

I consider myself adventuresome and somewhat brave. Not in a death-defying-extreme-thrill-seeking way, but in a gee-that-sounds-like-fun way. I have tried (and enjoyed) white water river rafting (anything below a class 4 is a yawner to me); ziplining; snowshoeing; rock wall climbing (okay, I didn't get my wide load to the top, but I still felt like Spartacus afterwards); and dogsledding. I even took my first snow ski lesson last year (at age 54), and next month I plan to run a 5K muddy obstacle course.

I've faced challenging situations head on (although, I whimpered at times) such as driving a 26 foot Penske truck, filled with our household goods, across the country... alone (except for the cat under my seat); returning to school at age 51; and giving up sugar.

All of those things (except for the white water rafting) I achieved in the last ten years (thanks to coming out of my sugar coma). I try to live by the motto: Don't make decisions based on fear.

So why then, does a seemingly simple thing like writing a query letter drop me in my tracks? Thanks to  Steven Pressfield's The War of Art, I understand: It's Resistance.

Pressfield describes Resistance as an invisible force that blocks our path whenever we try to advance to a higher level of spirituality, or pursue our dreams or calling in life. If we're going downhill, or regressing, it gives us a free pass.

The fact that sitting down to face a query letter (and sometimes screenwriting) fills me with anxiety is actually a good sign, according to the author. He describes Resistance and fear:

     Are you paralyzed with fear? That's a good sign.
     Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.
     Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.
     Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that the enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That's why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there'd be no Resistance.  
     So if you're paralyzed with fear, it's a good sign. It shows you what you have to do.

I wish I had understood that concept sooner... before I spent over a year spinning my wheels, trying to find my passion, trying to understand why I felt such anxiety whenever I tried to work on my screenplays. (See my previous post: Self reflection: Passion for Work)

In my search I came to understand that I was experiencing something in common with other writers, and I came to accept that anxiety was part of my writing experience, but now after reading The War of Art, I understand better the reason behind it, and the very real force field that blocks me: Resistance. Now I understand better how to fight--and win--my inner creative battles. This means war!

Note: This book was highly recommended by a screenwriter/filmmaker I respect, so I was taken aback when I found vulgar language, (mainly in the latter half of the book). I abhor foul language. (See post: Why I dislike profanity.) Therefore, I give warning to anyone who, like me, is offended by vulgarity: read with caution... if you choose to read it.

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