Creative Resistance

the war of art

Resistance is a concept created by American novelist Steven Pressfield to describe a universal force that he claims acts against human creativity. It was first mentioned in his nonfiction book ‘The War of Art’ and elaborated in the follow-up books ‘Do The Work’ and ‘Turning Pro.’ It is also a recurring theme in some of his novels such as ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’ and ‘The Virtues of War.’

Resistance is described in a mythical fashion as a universal force that has one sole mission: to keep things as they are. Pressfield claims that Resistance does not have a personal vendetta against anyone, rather it is simply trying to accomplish its only mission: maintenance of the status quo. It is the force that will stop an individual’s creative activity through any means necessary, such as rationalizing, inspiring fear and anxiety, emphasizing other distractions that require attention, or raising the voice of an inner critic.

Pressfield goes on to claim that Resistance is the most dangerous element to one’s life and dreams since its sole mission is to sabotage aspirations. He explains steps that human beings can take to overcome this force and keep it subdued so that they can create to their fullest potential, although Resistance is never fully gone. Specifically in ‘Do the Work,’ Pressfield argues that the creative process is not about better ideas, it’s about actually doing the work. He charts the predictable Resistance Points along the way of any project (‘No, you are not crazy. No, you are not alone. No, you are not the first person to ‘hit the wall”), and encourages creators to temporarily turn off their internal censors when facing a block and not try to produce a finished product on the first draft.

Psychologist Frederick Heide has questioned whether ‘fighting’ Resistance is always a helpful metaphor. He suggested that such agonistic (adversarial) metaphors could end up ‘ironically perpetuating the resistance it predicts.’ Nevertheless, he noted, such approaches remain widespread in psychotherapeutic thinking, and offers alternative nonagonistic strategies for working with resistance in relational psychoanalytic psychotherapy, personal construct therapy, narrative therapy, motivational interviewing, process-experiential therapy, and coherence therapy.

One Comment to “Creative Resistance”

  1. I remember reading this a while ago in Bagger Vance, but your piece so eloquently reminded that there is a force that does want to keep the status quo. Whether it is named Creative Resistance, or something else, it is the same thing that is in operation when people discourage others from any type of imaginative endeavor. In any way, shape, or form, as you stated; You Must Do The Work. Thank you for posting this. I needed the reminder to get beyond some of my own resistance. Cheers, Melinda

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