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Heeding the Muse, Part IV - Resistance

photo: Nicolas Nova

By Joseph Nichols, Bluegrass Writers Studio

      “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands resistance.” - Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

            In this series I have spoken only of our attempt to find inspiration, and the places that inspiration can be found. I have noted that we can find that inspiration from without (push inspiration) and within (pull inspiration). I have encouraged you to heed the muse by showing up, by tuning in, and by keeping your eyes open for the subtle cues, the messages, whispered to you by the rolling waves of the Universe within your life.

            I have not yet spoken of the enemy—let us not be unaware that there is one.


            Steven Pressfield, in his treatise on art (entitled “The War of Art”) spends one of the book’s three chapters discussing Resistance. Resistance can be anything that arises in your life that comes between you and your ability to, time to, drive to, or inspiration to create art (or to do anything that rises above the humdrum, mediocre, self-centered tasks of life). Pressfield says: “Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease, or erectile dysfunction. To yield to Resistance deforms the spirit ... Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you might accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.”

            When we begin listening and looking for the voice of the muse, when we near the path that Joseph Campbell called our “Bliss,” that perfectly imperfect calling, to which we are persistently led and which provides the “sweet spot” for our happiness and the happiness of others, it is as if we are flicking the switch that shoots electricity to a massive, neon sign of our life. It says, “Here I am. I’ve got something I must do. Try to stop me.” Pressfield further describes that “Bliss”, saying:

            “In other words, any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity. Or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower. Any of these will elicit Resistance.”

            Have you ever gotten that Great Idea, lighted on that unique and vibrant project that has never been done before, you believe, or at least been done by you, in your voice, and then immediately felt that the Universe itself is descending upon you to keep it from happening? Sickness hits your kiddos. Your car breaks down. Your spouse breaks down. God’s forbid, your computer breaks down.


            Have you completed a first draft of a poem, a novel, a short story, only to find that, through the revision process, you are all but destroyed by your doubt, your perfectionist attitude, your physical weariness, your focus? Or perhaps, you never even break out of the blocks because of an unexpected divorce, a death in the family, a loss of motivation, a lack of sleep, or a coffee pot that just doesn’t produce the right caffeinated beverage anymore.


            Resistance, despite its best efforts, can actually be an indicator of inspiration, and the value of that inspiration. Pressfield, once more: “Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, Resistance will unfailingly point to true North—meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing. We can use this. We can use it as a compass. We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others. Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more                            Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it ... The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”  

            Where are you feeling Resistance? What piece of writing scares the hell out of you? What story feels it is begging to be written, but every time you sit down to write it, chaos ensues?           

            Therein lies your calling—your Bliss. Therein lies your muse.


Continued in Heeding the Muse, V: Dictation and Revision

Contact Information

Kristen Thompson

Published on May 28, 2014

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