War of Art: Overcoming Resistance and Doing the Work

Not all days are the same. This is as true in life as it is in any area of expertise or craft you choose to dedicate yourself to. Some days, you’re in the flow—you jump into it just like that. On others, it’s like going against an upstream river. The push can be unforgiving.

Last week was more of the latter for me. 

I found myself (again) in this metaphorical cramped-up room I call the back-and-forth—that place of limbo where you’re not paralyzed, but you can’t move forward either. 

So you run in circles, trying to get things done. When you finally cross one thing off your list, another task comes along. It’s a tedious cycle, jumping the same hurdles over and over. 

In this limbo, you stare at the drywall until it grows a pair of eyes and stares back at you. 

It is days like these when we feel the least productive. Or not at all productive. Technically, it’s not a slump. But it’s a place void of inspiration and meaning. 

What do we do on days like these? 

The Great Literary Toad of Chamfort

In the 1790s, the collected works of one Nicolas Chamfort were published. It would be more than a century before Mark Twain enters the world a loud wailing thing and longer than that to trace the quote mistakenly credited to Mr. Twain but was actually coined by monsieur Chamfort . 

“We should swallow a toad every morning, in order to fortify ourselves against the disgust of the rest of the day.”

If you have to eat a toad (or a frog), it is best to get it over and done with first thing in the morning. 

What’s your toad? 

What’s the one thing you can’t stick with long enough to get done?

The War of Art

American author Steven Pressfield talks about Resistance in his book, War of Art

He personifies Resistance as the evil counterpart of Santa Claus, whose sole agenda is to keep you from answering the call of Purpose. The more important the purpose is to a person, the stronger the force of Resistance.

For this, he writes: 

“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance… 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.

To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be. If you believe in God (and I do) you must declare Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life God intended when He endowed each of us with our own unique genius.

What do you do when you can’t get into the flow? 

When it’s hardest to get work done?

We do the work anyway.

What is work? 

I’m talking about the worthwhile pursuits, the investment in long-term good habits—anything and everything that derives from our higher nature, that demands us to be an overall better person. 

I wish it wasn’t as simple as ‘just do it, and you’ll find what you’re missing along the way.’ But it really is somewhat as simple as that. 

Put your gym shoes on. Pour the alcohol down the drain. Fix your bed. Go back to college. Start that business. Upload the video. Preach the Word. Grab the mic. Text your crush (Okay, no. Maybe I’m kidding with this one). 

The point is just get started. 

If you want to build something, you must lay the first brick down. 

You find meaning and inspiration on the other side of that resistance to do the work. 

The more you push back, the more you overcome, the more you find value in the things you do.