On the Creative Self-Publishing Podcast, ALLi Director Orna Ross and News and Podcast Producer Howard Lovy discuss how to work with resistance to restart your creative flow. In their last show, they talked about the Seven Signs of Publishing Resistance. In this episode, Orna and Howard talk about how to connect once more with your creative side.
The Creative Self-Publishing podcast stream is sponsored by Orna Ross’s guidebook: Creative Self-Publishing. You can purchase the book at selfpublishingAdvice.org/creative. ALLI members receive the ebook edition, and all ALLi guidebooks, free.
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Listen to the Podcast: Restart Your Creative FlowOn the Creative Self-Publishing #Podcast, Orna Ross and @howard_lovy discuss how to work with resistance to reconnect with your creative side. Click To Tweet
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- Seven Kinds of Creative Rest
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About the Hosts
Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratizing, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com
Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 35 years, and now amplifies the voices of independent author-publishers and works with authors as a developmental editor. Find Howard at howardlovy.com, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Read the Transcripts: Restart Your Creative Flow
Howard Lovy: Joining me now is Orna Ross. Hello Orna, how are you?
Orna Ross: Hi Howard. I'm very well, thank you. How are you?
Howard Lovy: Oh, I'm great. I'm eager to look at the solutions you came up with, because last time we went through all kinds of problems when we talked about writing resistance, and like we say, it's an inevitable part of the process and not a sign of weakness or you should give up, and you broke down how to identify the different forms of resistance. Today we'll talk about how to overcome it.
First, maybe give us a brief definition of resistance before we launch into how to fight it.
Orna Ross: Yeah, exactly, for those who may not have heard the last one. So, essentially, whenever you engage upon a creative project of any kind, you are taking a leap. You're expanding yourself; you're going somewhere. You're not there already, otherwise you wouldn't need to create this thing. And as soon as you throw the ball out that way, then all the reasons why you're not there yet become stronger, and the whole point of creativity, and the whole point of the creative process is that you're meeting those challenges and difficulties and you're overcoming them. And the only way through them, or sorry, the only way beyond them is to actually go through them, and so the resistance that comes, it can manifest, and that's why we spent so long last time talking about the different ways in which resistance can manifest, because sometimes it's so subtle you don't even understand that there is a resistance going on.
All of us at all times can grow and expand more than we are already. Even if we consider ourselves to be highly creative, which most of us probably do, as authors and publishers, still there's always that room for more expansion. There's always that ability to flow better, grow more, and so on. It's a never-ending thing.
So, recognizing the ways in which we might be holding ourselves back. That what's our session was all about last time.
This time, as you so rightly said, we're hopefully going to come in and talk about some solutions to the resistance, and what I spoke about last time was very much not fighting, not engaging in a battle with resistance, but actually working with it.
When I was thinking about today's show, I was thinking about all the different tips and tools and tricks and things that I've read about, heard about, used myself, and seen over the years, and I thought, what am I going to do here with all of this? And I thought, you know what, I'm going to give the three most powerful creative practices that I know for engaging with resistance.
Howard Lovy: Wonderful. I know what works personally for me. So, let's see if any of these actually fall in these categories.
Orna Ross: Oh gosh, I'd be dying to hear about that. So, you can tell us all about that as we go or at the end. Great.
Howard Lovy: First, you have finding flow practice, so let's define what you mean by that.
Orna Ross: Yes, so I decided to start here. So, very often you can come in, I think it's important to say that you can come in at any point and you can come in any way. So, I've done these three things, and they're not in any order of one being better than the other. All of them will work and it depends on which one you feel like doing. So, this process practice is something that I developed a while back, because it rose out of the fact that a lot of people, when it comes to talking about conscious creation and manifestation, any of these kinds of ways of understanding engaged creativity, people talk about positive thinking and kind of act as if, and fake it till you make it, and all these kinds of slogans that go around the creative world.
And again, this idea that resistance, if you ignore it and pretend it's not there, and just discipline yourself enough and apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair, and it's 1% inspiration and 99% inspiration, and all of that.
Actually, no, not necessarily. In fact, probably not. In my opinion and in my experience, in my personal experience and in my observation in watching the experience of others, resistance has something to tell us. So, it's about engaging with it, and that's what the finding flow process is all about.
We've spoken before about freewriting, and freewriting is a very useful practice to use here. But essentially, what the finding flow process practice is about, is engaging with your resistance and actually listening to it.
So first of all, acknowledging that it's there. Feeling it, feeling it in yourself and identifying it, giving it permission to exist and then actually calling it forward, letting it strengthen in you and recognizing that it is a part of you, and how you feel about it is an important part.
Then asking it, literally, what's going on? What do you care about? Why are you here? What are you scared of? Why are you trying to prevent me from doing this other thing? What do you want to tell me? I'm sorry if I have been ignoring you, cutting you off, squashing you down, applying discipline, pretending you don't exist. Actually, I'm here now, I'm ready to listen, and I know you've got something worthwhile to tell me.
Howard Lovy: So, you're personifying the suppression.
Orna Ross: Absolutely and the more, it sounds silly as we talk about it, but actually it's great fun and it's a great experience. The more you can personify if, you can actually give the resistance a name even, you can allow it to really be and have a bit of fun with it if you want to, you might find that easy, you might find that challenging. The thing is to stay, and the most important thing is to listen. So, to open yourself up to actually being receptive, and that can take a bit of practice, especially if you're used to, I'm fine, I'm getting on with it, I'm doing my thing. Just allowing that to come forward.
Then when you've allowed resistance to speak, then bringing the attention back, and as I say, free writing this is really useful. So, you can actually ask the question, one part of you is asking the question and the resistant side of you is answering the question, and you just write it down. They're both parts of you, and I think what always jumps to my mind whenever I think about this process is that very famous quote by Walt Whitman, “we are large, we contain multitudes.” And there's this idea that voices in your head is a sign of madness, no, voices in our head is a sign of humanity. Everybody has that going on.
So, this is about really allowing that to be.
So, then you go back to the part of you that wants to create the thing and you get into dialogue with the resistance. So, there can be a forward and back kind of discussion at this point. Sometimes it can go on for a while and kind of ignite and take off, or it might just be a simple exchange, but usually what happens, always actually, what happens is once you get that connection between the resistance side and the side that wants something to happen, when that connection, when that dialogue really does open up, then everything feels different.
That's how you know. So, this isn't forcing something through, it's actually allowing it to rise by itself. So, it's real.
Howard Lovy: So, you're not doing battle with it. Now, when you say have a dialogue with it, are you speaking metaphorically or are you actually saying sit down and write to yourself, or write to that part of your brain that's blocked?
Orna Ross: You can do it with free writing. So, the different parts are having the discussion in writing with each other, and you can write it out as a play or film script, an actual dialogue. Or you can just do it in your head, you can actually have that switch back and forth, and the better you get at doing this the easier it becomes. It's a practice. It's like anything else, you get better at it, the more you do it.
So, the first time you do it, it can feel really awkward and naff and icky, maybe, and silly, foolish. A lot of creative practices feel foolish at first, but then you experience their power, and you go, oh, wow, and you see what is actually possible there. Then the more you practice it, the easier it gets. So, whenever you meet a bit of resistance, instead of ignoring it, or going to battle with it, you find yourself going, oh, that's interesting. So, what are you trying to say here? What's going on?
It can be a really quick thing then when you're used to it, and especially if it's something small and not a big deal. But if it's a big project, sometimes it takes more attention and that's where writing it out can become really helpful, but it has to be free writing. It can't be chewing the pen kind of writing. It has to be that you write so fast that you're having difficulty keeping up with yourself, letting the voices speak. So, encouraging them to talk to each other.
Howard Lovy: I'll have to try that. I'd never thought of it that way.
Orna Ross: Definitely worth a try, I promise.
Howard Lovy: Yeah, wonderful. As you know, I undertook this massive non-fiction project that I was blocked on for years, and I've written bits and pieces of it. So, I finally put it aside and I wrote fiction instead, and that came out of my pen, or out of my word processor, as fast as thought.
Orna Ross: I know, it's wonderful. I'm so looking forward to reading your draft, by the way. And the way in which that just flowed, it was incredible. Wasn't it wonderful?
Howard Lovy: Oh, yeah, and now I can go back to my non-fiction project with a new sense of mission, or at least better habits. I got into a better writing routine. I've stopped intimidating myself. I always thought of this non-fiction project as something that was so important and had such a serious subject that I was afraid to actually write it.
Orna Ross: It's completely understandable given the subject matter that you're writing about. I think that's really, I mean, I don't know if you want to share with the listeners what you're actually writing about, but I think that's a very common experience, and particularly because it's non-fiction and you've got this sense of duty to the ancestors and the story that you're trying to tell, because it's fact and there is a liberation in fiction that fact is harder.
But definitely, I would say to you, to dialogue with the resistance around it, and with those big feelings. That is that part of you trying to protect you, because you have taken on a big subject.
Howard Lovy: Right. Okay, let's move on. The second one sounds a little familiar, because we covered it in a previous show and that's creative rest.
Orna Ross: Yes. So, this is the opposite. So, the first one, as I said, you can come into these, I actually had this one is number one, and then I remembered that we did an extensive show on creative rest not that long ago, but also, as I said, you can come in anyway and sometimes allowing the voices first is the best thing to do.
But what happens with creative rest is it's all about going into silence and stillness. So, creative flow comes from the great void. There's the great void, then there's the big bang. That's how the earth was made, and that's how ideas are made, and that's how conscious creation happens.
So, consciously stilling the mind and letting thoughts dissolve. That's not suppression, it's not repression, it's not squashing it down. It's actually active practices that still the mind. So, there are many of them, and as I said, I'm not going to go into them here, because we did a whole show on this, but meditation is one, yoga is one, mindfulness practices of various kinds, anything that creates a gap in the run of thought is a moment of creative rest, and of course sleep I will throw in. Most of us are not sleeping enough and most of us need to sleep more. So, very often resistance, if you're tired, you will resist. If you are ill, physically not in a great place, resistance is much stronger. So, good creative habits of just self-care are really important.
So, as I said if somebody's interested in this second one, then tuning into that show, and maybe we'll put a link to that show in the show notes for this one.
Howard Lovy: Yeah, and that's really important. I know many writers have very busy lives doing other things because the writing doesn't necessarily support us 100%, but after getting at least eight hours of sleep I feel like I can write a lot better, just the sleep part of that.
Orna Ross: Absolutely. 100%. It's so important, and we're all under rested. We're all in our hyperactive society, and the other thing as well as busy lives is busy minds. The mind doesn't get a chance to rest because we're overstimulating. There's so many words going in, the news and the radio in the morning, and the internet, and so on, the doom scrolling, all of it. It's just relentless, the amount of input that's going in. So, this second way of overcoming or dissolving, or working with resistance, is to actually steal the mind. Just still the mind.
Howard Lovy: Right. Now, this might seem opposite, but for me it's creative rest, and that's exercise. I enjoy running. I've lost a bunch of weight just taking an hour or an hour and a half a day to run, and that also turns my mind off. I'm not doom scrolling, I'm not thinking about anything else, I'm just focusing on relaxing in my run, and to me that's the same as meditation.
Orna Ross: Yeah, absolutely. It's not quite the same. If you look at the brain and how the brain behaves, there is a great overlap. So, there's a sort of a bit in the middle where aerobic exercise induces the sort of brain waves that we see in meditation, and then there's a bit over on the left side that applies to the excise and a bit over on the right side, but where they overlap, yes, absolutely.
And resistance definitely drops, and you can feel it, ideas rise when the mind has stilled for a while. So, rhythmic, aerobic exercise like running, or swimming, or brisk walking, cycling, any of those, they will have that effect, absolutely.
Howard Lovy: Yeah, I feel like I get a lot of my best ideas while I'm running, the trick is to remember them later.
So, this next one sounds intriguing, and maybe that appeals to me. I'm in my late fifties thinking about, I'm not quite elderly yet, but I think about my legacy, and I think about what I'm going to leave behind, and you put this under the category of perspective practice.
Orna Ross: Yes. So, anything that enlarges the perspectives. So, when we get caught in resistance, perspective is narrow, it's small, and it's about opening that out and getting a perspective on it.
So, when I was a kid, my mother used to say to me, oh, you'll be better before you're married. So, time, timeframe is a great perspective.
So, this is an exercise that is very popular in business, it's about visualizing your funeral. So, you imagine yourself, you're dead, and you're lying in your box or whatever, and everybody that you have loved and who knows you well and who's connected with your writing, connected with your publishing, is in the room, and somebody gets up and they give a eulogy. What would you want them to say?
So, doing this exercise, again, it's a free writing exercise, where you just write out, without thinking too much about it, what you would actually like to be said about you and the impact that your writing and publishing had. This can be very powerful in terms of making resistance, particularly if you're resisting some particular small aspect of your writing or publishing, this can be a very effective way of melting that away.
So, the medieval ‘memento mori' idea, ‘remember, you will die'. Don't act as if you're going to live forever. This small thing, don't sweat the small stuff. Again, we'll get into all these kinds of cliches that are there. They're truisms, they're there for a reason. But remembering that you're going to die is actually terribly clarifying in terms of what you want to create. So, not wasting your time on things that don't take you in the direction that you want to go, and in a sense, measuring your life by what you are creating, and making sure that those two are aligning as much as possible.
So, it's another very powerful creative practice. It only takes about half an hour and it's worth doing periodically, maybe annually, for the perspective that it can give you on what's going on.
Howard Lovy: This might sound silly and frivolous, but I was thinking about that before I started on my fiction project.
I'm binging on TV shows and I'm thinking, okay, at the end of my life I can say I watched a lot of good television programs, or I could actually sit down and create something that comes from me.
Orna Ross: Which you've now done, and by watching a little bit less tv, I'm guessing, right?
Howard Lovy: Yeah, a little bit less.
Orna Ross: Great. You had mentioned at the beginning that you had a practice. Was that the exercise or is there something else you'd like to offer?
Howard Lovy: No, I mean, what I was going to say was what I said before, I put myself into the habit of writing every day, but not necessarily the big important, imposing thing. What I was writing about was the combination of my grandfather's experience in the Holocaust and my own experiences dealing with antisemitism in the Jewish community. It's a very big, heavy topic and I feel a sense of responsibility.
When I'm in the zone, it comes out fine, but it's getting there that's the problem. So, then I thought, okay, let's take on an entirely new project and just write a piece of fiction that's a nice little story. It's not going to necessarily change the world, but it's a story that comes from me and it helps me, I guess, kick the cobwebs out.
Orna Ross: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. It'll be very interesting now to see how it goes as you face back into the nonfiction, and maybe periodically come out. Joanna and I often talk about pallet cleansers, some projects are pallet cleansers, they allow you to do the next thing.
Howard Lovy: Exactly, yeah, and that's what this was. I enjoyed writing the fiction, I thought I came up with a pretty good story, and you'll tell me later whether I did or not, but the issue for me was just remembering the joy I used to have in writing.
Orna Ross: Yeah, I think that's a great note to end on, because that is what dissolving resistance is about. It's about reconnecting with that joy, because that's why we came here in the first place, but that's also what we're seeking, and that's also part of the Memento Mori thing. Once you remember you're going to die, then you're very joyful to be alive, and to be creating.
So, it's another way, and I think all of these practices are two things. They are connectors; they connect you to that bigger, deeper, wider, whatever you want to call it, spirit, the creative spirit, whatever you want term you want to put on it, the energy, the flow, whatever word you use, reconnecting with that is a joyful process.
You can't fool yourself. That's how you know whether you are in creative flow or not. You feel good and if you're not, resistance doesn't feel good, and that's how you actually know the difference. So, yeah, I think reconnecting with the joy.
The second thing is that all of these practices, they just remind you what you already know. We deeply know what it is to be connected to that because it created us, it's how we are here. Something ignited us into existence and flows through us for as long as we are alive. So, when we do these practices, we're just returning to what is actually a natural state. When we do look after ourselves to rest and exercise, when we are connected with that deeper dimension through, whether it's the finding flow or the memento mori, whatever way we use to get there, we're just reminding ourselves of something we already deeply know.
Howard Lovy: Wonderful. I think I've picked up a few tips on how to resist resistance. Although maybe that's not a good analogy because we're not resisting it, we're working with it, acknowledging it's there, and the whole battle analogy doesn't work.
Thank you, Orna. I appreciate your tips as always, and we'll be back in a couple of weeks for more.
Orna Ross: Thanks, Howard. Take care, bye.