DIY MFA Book Club: Learning from resistance

Today’s prompt for the DIY MFA Book Club is to share a story about a time when you felt resistance towards a writing project.

So in thinking about this, my mind went to two somewhat adjacent perspectives, neither of which really answer the prompt exactly.

Last week, when I wrote about honouring your reality, I talked about how I went through a period of not-writing that coincided with not wanting to look at myself and my identity too closely. It’s not a stretch to frame that as resistance as well. I avoided introspection and busied myself with more pragmatic activities, like gardening and knitting. But once I had accepted myself as I am, the resistance dissolved and I found myself able to write the stories I wanted to write. In fact, I was eager to do so.  Almost every main character I write these days is lesbian and that feels very validating to me. Although I am always striving to improve my process and actual writing, I am very satisfied with the path I have gone down. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

But the other way I have experienced resistance, in a more ongoing way, is during the process of writing particular stories. I’ll have a story, or at least the beginning of one, and it just stops. I work on it, I write, I outline. But a complete story doesn’t emerge from that process. I don’t get to a beginning, middle, end. And then I don’t want to work on it anymore. For me, this particular resistance has been less about fear and more about having only a partial idea, while struggling to identify the best angle to approach it from.

A recent example of this is a short story I have been working on for almost six months, on and off. My initial premise came easily (a diverse group has taken refuge from the effects of climate change in northern Ontario and are building a space ship to leave Earth), but the specifics of the story were slow to come. I have returned to it a few times, but I think it may be telling me that it’s a novella or novel and not a short story!

Other ideas remain half-formed and attempts to revisit them are met with a certain mental resistance. There may be fear or unease, there may be aspects of the story that you’re not ready to tell yet.

What I have come to realize is that when I feel this sort resistance to a story, when I can’t make myself work on it or it seems like the story won’t come, I need to put it aside, for a little time or longer, and move on. I have gone back to some of these stories, sometimes much later, and turned them into something rather different, once the proper pieces have come together in my head.

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