Saturday, October 17, 2009


So here's the puzzle. In the evening, before I go to sleep, all I can think about is how eager I am to leap out of bed the first thing the next morning, fix myself my Swiss Miss chocolate, and sit down to WRITE! And yet, when the next morning comes, all desire to do this has suddenly disappeared. How can this be?

As so often happens, my beloved Barbara Sher has an explanation. In Live the Life you Love, she calls this "resistance." She says it's in our genes, a holdover from our Cave People days: "If there was one thing Stone Age people didn't like, it was adventures into the unknown." She says we're genetically programmed to stay inside the cave, safe and fat. Resistance gets nervous when we dare to take creative risks, follow our dreams, creep out of the cave toward the light.

But Sher says we can trick resistance. The only thing stronger than fear, Sher says, is love. So our trick has to be to "find the smallest unit" of this thing that we love, "a unit of activity so modest that it doesn't trigger resistance." If you're a runner, this means putting on your running shoes and just walking around the block. If you're a writer, this means reading over what you wrote yesterday and writing just one more sentence. Then, love for this "smallest unit" will "pull you right out of your inertia dream." You'll remember: but wait, I love running! I love writing! And the next thing you know, you'll be three miles into your jog, halfway through a new chapter.

Of course, then you have to do the whole game of cheating resistance the next day, and the day after that. But it does get easier each day, I think. At least a little bit easier.

Writing this blog entry this morning has been my "smallest unit." Now I remember: oh, I do love to write! Now I'm going to go read over that chapter I wrote last week, the one that was a whole new direction on my failed manuscript, and I'm going to think up some hilariously funny things that can happen in chapter two. No, too scary! Okay, I'm going to spend just thirty minutes thinking of anything at all that can happen in chapter two. Sher says that the goal is just to "sit by the side of the lake and dangle your feet in the water for a while." And then, she promises, "At some point that delicious little bit of water around your feet might make you want to swim more than you want to be warm."

Off to dangle....


  1. Just what I needed to read. Thank you!

  2. Alas, I still haven't found that smallest unit for making myself want to do my tax work today.