Can Resistance Lead to Good Writing?

The latest writing prompt from DIY MFA asks us to consider how we deal with resistance in our writing life and how it can sometimes lead to unexpectedly positive outcomes. Here’s my take.

Resistance, writer’s block, etc. These can be difficult subjects to tackle, as thinking about them too much can quickly become self-defeating. I have been writing fiction with some regularity for more than 15 years, and during that time I have gone through long periods where I gave up because I felt it was a losing battle. But something always kept nagging at me, telling me to get back it, to put fingers to keyboard and keep producing words – and not just the sort of PR and business writing I do at my day job.

When that inner voice keeps nagging at you to write, you better listen. I too have found that the resistance is rooted in fear. When I resist the urge to write, perhaps it’s because I’m afraid the idea I have will amount to nothing. Perhaps I think the concept is utterly unoriginal. Maybe because I’ve failed before, letting a potentially good novel peter out into nothingness, I’m afraid to try again.

But try again I must. I have always been intrigued by the writing advice I’ve seen in more than one place that if you feel resistance to an idea, or are afraid of exploring it, then that’s really the idea you should pursue. This may be particularly true when it comes to horror and weird fiction, where dark and disturbing subject matter is explored regularly.

In my case, I drafted a short story dealing with how one man is haunted by the loss of his wife and unborn child due to a complex, complicated pregnancy. The story goes to some very dark places that made it difficult to write. But I took that advice of confronting the uncomfortable and did what I consider some of my better work (alas no takers yet). I wrote the final scene in the story, where the protagonist must confront his past in a truly nightmarish situation, in a fever blur where words streamed onto the page in a way they rarely do.

If I had not fought that resistance, I never would have written this story. Whether it ever gets published or not, it is a very important story to me. I’m proud to have written it, and that certainly counts for something.

So don’t be afraid. Just write.