Blog with news, updates, reflections, and writing projects by Jessica Raven Littlestar.

Why Resistance is Essential to the Creative Process

How I Understand Creative Resistance

After years of testing different methods for overcoming creative block and writer's block, I developed an understanding of the creative process that framed this "block" as more of a resistance to natural creative flow.

The proverbial obstacle to my creative freedom didn't have a name, or a face – it was just a feeling. Through meditation and study, I had learned to receive and process my feelings as indicators of subconscious belief patterns that were influencing my ability to create my reality.

So the question is, how could I come to a total acceptance of the feeling of resistance, so that I could get back to being in flow?

When talking about the creative process, I use the word "resistance" to describe the feeling of doubt, hopelessness and fear that inhibit us from actually making stuff.

Resistance can manifest in different ways, depending on your personality and life experience, but here are some common signs:

  • Slipping into preoccupying habits, like endlessly scrolling social media

  • Distracting yourself from creative commitments with substances or entertainment

  • Thinking about, talking about, or looking excessively to other artists for inspiration

  • Withdrawing from social activity or seeking a lot of social activity to avoid creating

I recognized the behaviours in myself that indicated creative resistance, and when I finally gave up listening to other writers telling me about their process, and analyzed my own, I realize that I didn't actually understand what I was feeling resistant to.

I had all the pieces to the puzzle. Countless ideas, all the technology I'd ever need, a plethora of skills and tools, time, money, access to infinite resources and support, space to create in – like, seriously? 

I wanted to laugh at the absurdity of my fear.

I had everything an artist could ever need to be successful. I'd manifested, for most of my life, ideal conditions for my creativity to thrive and to produce work and spread it throughout the world. I could visualize myself, successful and producing work – but I appeared behind bars, or across a distance, and my efforts kept going wayward as I spent my time and energy looking for someone or something to carry me across that distance to the life I wanted as a truly successful, abundant, empowered creative.

But no one could tell me what I already knew. Again, through deep introspection and expanding my knowledge of creative potential, I realized what it was.

I was feeling blocked from myself.

From my own greatness.

Wait: I was blocking myself.

From myself.

I was blocking myself from my own greatness.

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

No wonder it didn't make sense that day after day, I would get up and sit and start on an idea and type and re-write and question and doubt and criticize and procrastinate, feeling my blossoming shakti energy slowly curl into a tight, hard ball inside my solar plexus. It got exhausting trying to figure it out. Why I was blocked, where my fears and criticisms were coming from. Why this inertia, inaction, had defined the past six months of my creative career, and why the fuck I wasn't actually DOING anything about it.

Based on my understanding of creativity, I was ultimately confused. Where was this infinite creative power I was realizing in other aspects of my life: relationships, health, connection to nature – when I couldn't access it doing my favourite thing in the whole world, making art?

I realized one day that it would never make sense, because the point is not what resistance IS.

Resistance isn't anything at all. It's just an illusion.

Feeling "blocked" is an experience designed by your higher consciousness to trick you into thinking you can't possibly create whatever it is you want to create. And it manifests in such a different way for everyone, because every human experience is so different. What makes us feel stuck or blocked depends a lot on our personality, experiences, and responses to triggers from our past.

That's why there's no physical formula to artist's block that works for every artist.

I realized that accepting this reality meant going beyond solutions for what creative block looks like (for example, a procrastination habit) and working with it from a different perspective, being honest about how much power you're giving resistance by feeding into the belief that someone or something else is responsible for showing you how to become the person who has completed the thing you're procrastinating on. Go ahead and read it again until it makes sense. 

Resistance, my dear, is you blocking yourself from your own greatness.

By refining my understanding of the creative process, I realized that this experience of resistance, which was horrifyingly close to becoming the defining characteristic of my creative career, was simply an essential stage in the cycle of creativity that I was just hanging out in for no particular reason. Why was I doing that?

Look at it this way. In the natural process of childbirth, a mother has to experience labour. Labour has pains.

But mum is not praying for her contractions to be harder, longer, and more excruciating. She's certainly not entering labour forgetting why the whole thing is happening. She's not going, "My GOD this pain is getting worse. Why am I here? Can't I just leave? Have I always had this wretched thing inside my stomach? I guess it's never coming out. I guess this is my life now. Good thing there are lots of other people in here suffering. At least I won't be alone." That train of thought would be absolutely ridiculous. "No thanks, I'll just be in labour forever. No child for me. This is good. This is actually all I'm good for, conceiving a child, but not delivering it. Labour is my life now."

Not gonna happen. Yes, pain sucks. No matter what kind. And the pain of keeping creations inside of you is one of the most subtle, yet devastating kinds of pain that can last for years.

Deliver yourself, baby.

Resistance is creative labour, because it is your mind saying "You are not creative. You cannot create this thing. You cannot manipulate this energy, turn this plot line into a novel. You do not have the skills, time, technology, money, ability, good looks, or support to write this book."

Labour pain says "You are not creative. You cannot bring this baby into the world. You cannot push this child out, allow this idea of a person, this collection of cells to manifest as a living, breathing being."

What's painful is not that any of this is true – what's painful is that we choose to believe it.

Mum doesn't need to research workshops on How To Deliver a Child while she's three hours deep and dilated. She knows how to create this experience of birth. Granted, when you're sitting at your computer staring at a blank screen, there (usually) isn't a human trying to force its way through your pelvic bones into the world to force you to focus past your patterns into real, concrete, creative action.

Mother says, fuck yes I can, and she screams like an animal or drops silent with focus and bears down, defying her own threshold of resistance because she knows she is made to create life and therefore, can push this baby out.

But the good news is, since resistance is natural, universal, and essential, there IS a way to transcend the painful experience of being blocked and enter a state of creative flow where resistance becomes a pleasurable and motivating experience in the creative process.

And while I can't tell you how to overcome resistance, I can tell you how to overcome the idea that resistance is your truth.

Creative freedom is your truth, and I can show you how I allowed that truth to become my reality: by turning resistant energy into persistent energy.

Jessica W. Noujeim