The dragon ate my week. It’s gone, along with my left sock. There’s not a trace of artwork and very little actual writing to be found; nothing was left behind but a few crumbs of productivity scattered around my office.
In the very first chapter of The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron details two indispensable tools for creative recovery: morning pages and the artist date. I am happy to report that together with my daughter, Emily, we have managed to integrate both practices into our daily lives over the last couple weeks. That’s how I discovered the dragon.
Every morning I’ve gotten up, poured my coffee and sat down with pen and paper to produce the assigned three pages of “stream of consciousness writing.” The theory is that by doing so, you drain off the daily debris of life, thereby clearing the pipeline into the deep resources of your creativity, even spirituality. (There’s also the added benefit of improving your penmanship.)
My morning pages have been nothing short of life changing. From them have emerged the critical missing element in a book I’ve been developing for years. With several major projects nipping at my heals, I’ve been productively immobilized–the literary version of a deer-caught-in-the-headlights. Over a three-day spread of pages, the answer and clear direction surfaced.
Most shocking however, was the unexpected creature that also came crawling out into the light and found its way onto my pages –the aforementioned dragon living in my house. Skeptical? Evil is real.
This dragon follows me. The creature obscures my vision, eats my time and steals my productivity. In the War of Art Steven Pressfield calls him “Resistance.”
“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”
Although I can’t kill him, as he is reborn with every sunrise, I did learn how to render him toothless.
Pressfield gave him his name. I gave him a body. Characterizing him in my mind rendered him harmless. After all, evil only has as much power we give it. Don’t be fooled; the spiritual force that steps between you and the work you are called to do, is evil.
As Pressfield points out, Resistance will never stop you from doing something wicked or immoral. But it will make sure you don’t write that book, go on a mission trip or take that watercolor class. Resistance is the enemy of creation and all that is good. It is the evil that prevents us from becoming, and living the life we long for within. The life we know we were born to live.
My dragon may be toothless, but he is huge and considerably fat. I’ve fed him well over the years as he gobbled up so many of the dreams I left lying on the ground.
Anyone who works from within, albeit art of any form knows that there is a difference between working under inspiration, and laboring on your own. The problem is, someone that makes their living as a writer or an artist will starve if they wait on inspiration alone. We have to show up at the page, the canvas or the screen with or without the help of inspiration.
However, we all have our peak hours of production. Yours might be late at night while mine is early morning. That time frame is the window of opportunity to work at your best, your “Einstein Hour.” By figuring out exactly what time of day this is for me, then protecting that time fiercely from interruptions and the impulse to recover lost socks rather than draw, I pulled most of his teeth. Now he just sits in the hallway gnawing on my doorknob.
The thing is, once you stop feeding the dragon, inspiration can find you–you don’t have to go looking for her. She walks right past the dragon and laughs. She’s found me in the shower so often I’ve had to place a notepad on the dresser just to get to it fast.
My most valuable discovery this week is that even though the Dragon of Resistance must be fought every single day, especially when you work from home, the more you win the weaker and less powerful he becomes. Ultimately, we take his power and own the power of resistance ourselves.
Look around. Can you see him now? Look for your own dragon hiding in an area of your life you’ve wanted to fulfill but haven’t quite been able to reach for it–that’s him.