Jocosa’s Outline of Resistance

2002the WAR of ART: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield hits bookshelves— Steven Who? Yes, I saw The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000), multiple times. Loved it. Still do. How could I not? The story speaks to lost souls; I was so lost I didn’t even know I had a soul. And yes, I read the credits. Theatre people always read credits. But I’d never heard of Pressfield before, and so, he went into the one-of-these-days-I-should-read-his-work file.

2010— I attend my third Surrey International Writers Conference, where thrill writer James Scott Bell praises the book in his workshops and while we chat about this addictive writing thing over dinner. the WAR of ART moves into the neural pathway of my brainstem and the book lands on my Wish List.

2016— My submission package for Kaitlyn’s story gets rebuffed by the editor I hired. Whores of Negativity rise. I quit writing. Consider reading Pressfield’s book, but McConnell— my youngest— said, “It’s a good read, but you don’t need it. You don’t have the problem he’s talking about.”

2018— The book pops into view like the zit that wasn’t on my face yesterday and I accept the challenge. It’s a delightful read. Inspirational. Energizing. I understand why every artist needs to read it. I recommend it to others in the creative trenches. And, McConnell is right. In the same way Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette says, “The spring is not for me,” the WAR of ART is not my issue.

It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.

Resistance to writing? Not. My. Problem. I have three completed manuscripts, sixteen-going-on-seventeen drafts and the butt rot to prove it. Not even 2020’s bleedin Covid kept me from the page.

Jump back to July 16th’s rude awakening that Kaitlyn’s downward trajectory wasn’t the end of the novel, only the M-I-D-D-L-E; the place where I really needed to tell the story; where Kaitlyn needed to open her heart and reveal one unbearable truth at a time and deal with it.

Enter Pressfield’s List of Activities that most commonly elicit Resistance:

#10- Any act that entails commitment of the heart.

Yeppir, the last four weeks have been heavenly hell because every time I read through the last revised scene in Kaitlyn’s life, I uncovered another moment when she either wasn’t fully truthful, or skirted around the action her heart needed her to take. Which meant, it was impossible to move the story forward until I let go of the writing reins, so Kaitlyn could tangle with the unbearable. The new unbearable would then lead me to the unknown of the next scene.  That unknown is also a frightening place.

What about the outline I slaved over for five weeks to strengthen Kaitlyn’s real story arc?— Yeah, well, it turns out an outline is head-fodder. In order to keep the story moving from the heart, I needed to let go of the outline and trust Kaitlyn completely.

And so, each day after dunking back into Kaitlyn’s world, I found myself, once again, in the frightening unknown, where the empty space of the next scene dared me to run like the Gingerbread Man. Run, run as fast as you can to avoid the next level of Kaitlyn’s emotional turmoil.

But I didn’t. Not because of the going-on-seventeen drafts and the butt rot thing. But for the same reason I’ve never been able to agree to my writing pals’ advice and shove this story into a drawer and write something else— perhaps, something more marketable. I didn’t run because I needed to face the monster at the center of Kaitlyn’s story.

Do I really believe that my work is crucial to the planet’s survival? Of course not. But it’s as important to me as catching that mouse is to the hawk circling outside my window. He’s hungry. He needs a kill. So do I.

Kaitlyn’s story has led me into battle with my own Resistance to Forgiveness. This war has been raging since 2002, but I didn’t have a clue because my Resistance is so strong, he deserves an Oscar, a Tony and a Golden Globe Award for keeping me on the tip of the iceberg through twelve drafts of the story.

Slide into today where I’m happy to report, the revision process is still hell, but a heavenly one because even though I do have the problem Pressfield writes about in the WAR of ART, now that I see him, he’s no longer in control. The new scenes still rattle my bones, but once I accept the rattle it becomes a soundtrack of support.

And that my dear friends, readers and voyeurs is Victory.