Resistance in the Time of COVID

It’s no joke.  We’re in a time of crisis.  We’re in a strange time that none of us have ever experienced anything like in our lifetime.  It’s the first, but honestly, it probably won’t be the last.  The precedent has been set.  The viruses are only going to mutate as it evolves with us.  Now, I’m not looking for the doom and gloom scenario, but it’s hard not to be real about it anymore.  It IS real.

About three weeks ago, for most of us, our lives were upended.  They closed the schools.  Our kids were sent home.  Many of our jobs were flipped upside down.  Some were laid off, some were furloughed.  Others were just plain let go.  And yet even more, discovered that their day job industry was considered “essential” and they are working long hours while others stay home.  Economically, we’re in distress, and not just in terms of monetary.  This is frightening.  How long can we sustain ourselves on the changes to our income?  How will we function going forward if this lasts three more months, six more months, and so on.  It’s a question that is literally keeping almost everyone out there awake at night.

We’re focused on so much right now, that it is difficult to keep those creative juices flowing.  the Resistance is as real as the threat of COVID.  For those not familiar, Resistance is a concept of the Universe working against us, to keep our creative selves down and hamper our creative output.  The concept comes from Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art. Let me tell you.  Resistance is our enemy.  Resistance is damn real.

I have had difficult times creatively in the past, but focusing on The Resistance has (ever since I learned the concept) helped me overcome those situations. This time around, it has been a much more difficult journey.  For most of March, I was stuck.  My brain was completely shut down creatively.  There were concepts there, that were floating, but I couldn’t under any circumstance, bring them to reality.  The threat of the unknown only bolstered the enemy’s presence.

In late February and early March, I was having honest to goodness budgeting meetings on a screenplay I had written.  There are/were executive producers interested who can find the money for a relatively high budget script.  There’s a producer attached.  I personally created 1,500 plus storyboards to visually demonstrate my vision.

Then, the corona virus state of being happened.  EVERYTHING was locked down.  EVERY production halted.  EVERYTHING was done.  Just *poof*.  Gone.

Creativity halted.  Mine included.  I was home from work.  I now had ALL the time in the world.  I could start the next book in the series.  I could write one of the three screenplays I have floating around.  I have a novella I could dive back into that slipped away while my focus was on the movie.  Yet, I was motivated to do NONE of it.  Resistance took over… as it did for most people out there.

The only way to fight The Resistance, is to actually fight it, both mentally and physically.  As March went on, I found myself WANTING to get back to the creativity, but not actually doing it.  I couldn’t lift myself off from the couch.  April was approaching and I had gone weeks without doing anything creative.

As I wandered aimlessly for about ten days, I decided I needed to combat this enemy.  Here’s what I did to battle the Resistance that was consuming me.

How to fight RESISTANCE in the time of COVID:

  • Make a creative to-do list.  Living in the time we’re in right now, it’s really hard to actually DO anything.  We can’t go out to dinner.  We can’t go to the movies.  We can’t do anything.  It’s difficult to even find the motivation sweep the kitchen floor.  We make a to-do list for our chores.  Add writing/singing/art, whatever it is you do creatively to your to-do list.  Adding it to a list, and STICKING TO THE LIST, makes it real.  The list makes a priority of your creative output.  Prioritize what you want to accomplish and do your list in order.  I did it today.  This article is my creative output today.   It was the second thing on my list to get done today, right after the tedious work of updating the amazon advertising for my books.
  • Start small and build from there.  We’ve all heard the variation on it, but Stephen King perhaps said it best, “Writing equals ass in chair.”  Getting to that chair is the hard part.  The Resistance was pushing so hard for those first two weeks of lockdown.  I couldn’t move from the couch.  My wife couldn’t.  No one could.  I wasn’t ready to dive headlong back into the great american novel number four.  I wasn’t ready to dive into that screenplay idea that had been floating around for a while.    But… If I could start small… maybe I can get somewhere with it later.  Starting small really helped me dig myself out.  I started with some screenplay tweaking and editing.  The next day, I wrote a 1,700 word treatment for a screenplay idea that I’ve had floating for a while.  Another day, I wrote story notes and mapped out a few chapters of my next novel.  Then, it turns into a day like today… and this article.
    By starting small it gets those juices pumping and each day, I have realized that my creative output is growing more and more.  The resistance is fading.
  • Find yourself a challenge.  Right now, hundreds of sites are putting out creative challenges in order to help fight Resistance.   Some of them have some really great prizes as well!  This really helped dig me out of my rut.  I stumbled across Film Riot’s Stay at Home Challenge of creating a 60 second feel good short to shed some happy moments on these dreary days.  (sidebar: is it going to stop raining soon???)  I dedicated almost two full days to coming up with and shooting my entry into the contest.  The first day, I wrote a single page screenplay involving my dogs.  The next day I threw away the screenplay as it was far too ambitious and the dogs were far less cooperative, shot what I could get and edited what turned into a nice touching piece.  You can view it here, if you like.
  • Avoid social media like the plague.  It is LITERALLY all about the plague right now, so just avoid it.  It’s endless scrolling feeds the Resistance and makes you search for what’s next.  It’s so hard wired into our systems that there might be something good to read/funny/feel good/triggering at the bottom of that scroll.  Just force yourself to NOT do it.  Stay off from social media.  (Hypocrite… that’s how you found this article)
  • Use Twitter as a creative output.  Yes, it seems contradictory, but it’s not.  Avoid READING Twitter.  Use Twitter as a creative output.  As you go about your day and your brain gets that spark of something funny, or poignant, post it and then close the app.  This all ties in to what I said about starting small.  These little ideas, once they’re written down and posted, they leave your mind, but you hacked away a tiny piece of Resistance.  The more you chip away, the easier it is to get back to your creative routine.  (Sidebar:  Always have a routine.)
  •  Avoid television and video games.  These things all tie in together.  What do you do while you’re watching TV?  You scroll on your phone.  It’s a mindless time suck that gets us nowhere.  Plus, I’m tired of seeing all the negativity in the news.  And video games… man, that’s just the Resistance toying with you and draining your precious creative time away from you.  Hey, if you want to do it as a release, sure, that’s fine… but only after you’ve done The WORK.  The creative work you set upon that day.
  • Read a book.  I can’t stress this enough.  As much as television and video games drain your creativity and push the Resistance to the forefront, books do the opposite.  Books simply open our mind up.  We flex those creative muscles and imagine the worlds we’re reading.  Our brain kicks into overdrive and we magically paint the words we see on the page.   Once we work the kinks out of those muscles, it makes it so much easier for us to push our own creations into the world.

I am sure I will come up with more, as I often do and I will be sure to post them.  This has been a difficult time for all of us, but we shouldn’t let it take away our inherent right to be creative.  It’s so EASY to sit back and do nothing… but that’s SO BORING.  After sitting at home for three weeks, I’m DONE being idle.  I can’t do it anymore.

Our creativity makes us feel like we have accomplished something.  Go out there… correction, stay indoors, and DO IT.  Stay home.  Be creative.  paint.  Write.  Sing.  Play an instrument.  Blog.  Tweet.  Shoot a short film.  Learn computer programming and let your digits soar.  Do anyting but be idle.  Don’t let Resistance consume you.  Perhaps… just maybe, if we accomplish something creatively during the day, it will be easier to sleep at night.

Stay Home.  Be Safe.  And, for the love of all that’s holy, stop going to Walmart in PACKS.  That’s how the virus wins.

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