It was Friday night.
As always, I welcomed the weekend. My job as a recruiter drained me and I relished two days off. No schedule, no pressure, no surprise phone calls from candidates bowing out or hiring managers changing their minds.
Forty-eight hours of freedom.
But the two days also posed a problem—loneliness. No outings with friends or shopping sprees awaited me. Money was tight. I dreaded being by myself.
Next to friends and shopping, I love reading. So I purchased a paperback at Barnes & Noble and nestled down in my bed pillows to read.
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles represented my favorite genre—self-help. The author, Steven Pressfield, described the many faces of resistance to creativity. Written from his experience with years of avoiding his talents, the book delivered one-page punches for combating our resistance to practicing our art.
The book both troubled and challenged me. I recognized myself in the pages—a wannabe writer who didn’t write.
Writing is my life-long passion. I’ve started writing a gazillion times. And stopped every time.
When life is easier.
I’ll write when I have more time.
Near midnight, I fell asleep but woke up 15 minutes later, my heart pounding loudly. I picked up the book and read further. Then I drifted off and woke up again. This pattern repeated itself for two more hours. Around 2:00 a.m. I grabbed a novel instead—a book that didn’t “hit home.” My ploy succeeded and I fell asleep.
At 5:15 a.m. a blazing headache yanked me out of deep slumber. I stumbled to the kitchen and downed four ibuprofens. Will they work? Usually with a headache this bad, only the prescription stuff helps.
My second problem loomed before me: no prescription medication.
Laid off from my job, I now worked as an independent contractor. No health insurance.
The prescription pills cost a pricey thirty dollars each. To get over this headache, I’d need to take two tablets today, two tonight, and perhaps one more in the morning.
One hundred and fifty bucks minimum.
While mulling over my dilemma, I plugged in the coffee pot. Words from The War of Art drifted into my consciousness. Didn’t Pressfield write something about headaches? I pushed the “on” button, returned to my bedroom and fished the book out of the covers. I found the paragraph I vaguely remembered in the introduction:
Resistance defeats us. If tomorrow morning by some stroke of magic every dazed and benighted soul woke up with the power to take the first step toward pursuing his or her dreams, every shrink in the directory would be out of business. Prisons would stand empty. The alcohol and tobacco industries would collapse, along with the junk food, cosmetic surgery, and infotainment businesses, not to mention pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and the medical profession from top to bottom. Domestic abuse would become extinct, as would addiction, obesity, migraine headaches, road rage, and dandruff.
I laid the book down.
Was this true?
Did this headache—and all the others I endured over the past few years—arise from resistance? Was putting off my desire to write making me sick?
My headache raged. With a thread of hope, I opened the storage room door. I removed my binders of stashed notes, quotes, scribbles, half-baked articles and book outlines and flipped through them. I read an old thirty-page draft. Surprise! The writing was pretty good!
What stopped me from finishing what I started?
My mind recreated scenes from my past: a cross-country move, job demands, and one crisis after another . . .
Perhaps my body signaled me via headaches that my true desires refused being set aside anymore. Deep down, postponing writing until ideal circumstances showed up wasn’t working for me.
I substituted reading books on creativity. If I didn’t write, at least I eased my anxiety by reading about writing. Time and time again, the authors advised that steady output—little by little—fit into the cracks of a regular life brought results. Consistent effort over time established a writer in her craft.
Sighing with regret, I gazed at the piles scattered around me. Perhaps it all came down to fear. Fear of being a terrible writer. Fear no one would ever read what I wrote.
Was I also afraid I’d actually do well and fall in love with writing?
Motivated by my throbbing head, I decided to push through my resistance.
What shall I write now? No answer came. Discouragement squelched any new ideas.
What if I started and quit again?
I threw out pages of longhand and printed articles that were redundant or no longer enthused me. Midmorning I drove to the office supply store and purchased a bright, lime-green file box. Inside went what remained—the core ideas still reflecting what I cared about. The reviewing, throwing away, and filing process took all day. I would start fresh in the morning.
Bedtime came. I noticed I was headache free.
Sunday morning. Day two of the weekend. Day two of my writing life.
Coffee in hand, I headed to my computer. Out of habit, I opened my e-mails and read a message from my sister. I began a reply and stopped myself. No. Writing is first. Write one hour, then you can e-mail her back.
I opened a new page. My mind reflected the screen. Blank.
I prayed: Jesus, please help me write. I remembered an artist-writer advised her blocked readers to start where they are.
I typed: It was Friday night…
©2009 Gloria Rose