Career & Tools

Do you often feel resistance when trying to write? Read on for tips from the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD), an independent professional development, training, and mentoring community. Membership (free for UCSB students!) provides several forms of professional support to help combat common problems academics face - find out more here.

By Daina Tagavi, Professional Development Peer
Thursday, August 8th, 2019 - 1:30pm

Do you often feel resistance when trying to write? Read on for tips from the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD), an independent professional development, training, and mentoring community of over 71,000 graduate students, postdocs, and faculty members​.

To take advantage of this amazing resource (free for UCSB students!), you must register with your UCSB account (see how to register here). Once you ​register, you are automatically subscribed to the Monday Motivator -- your weekly dose of ​positive energy ​and actionable steps to increase your productivity and motivation. This week's Monday motivator focuses on tracking your writing resistance.

When trying to make strides in writing, it can often be helpful to track your resistance. ​You can also use ​this information to create your very own, completely personalized resistance diagnostic.

What is a Resistance Diagnostic?
It's very simple. Most daily writers experience some type of resistance to their writing on a regular basis, whether it's avoidance, procrastination, or denial. If you don't, that's great! And if you do, you're perfectly normal! ​You can work towards noticing what's going on when ​you should be writing but find yourself engaged in behavior that has nothing to do with writing.

In those moments, it's great to pause and identify what ​you're doing. It's even better to get yourself back to the task of writing. But if you're like most writers, some days it's easier than others to get back to the task at hand. ​Keeping ​your Resistance Diagnostic within reach helps so that no matter how ​you're feeling -- and no matter what is behind ​your NOT writing -- ​you can quickly remember a strategy, skill, or technique to get ​you back on track and implement it immediately.

Whenever you experience a particular form of resistance, instead of stopping and trying to remember what you did the last time you had this experience, you can just whip out ​your Resistance Diagnostic, locate ​your resistance-of-the-moment in the left hand column, and look next to it to see the most successful strategy you've employed to move around it. Having the solution right at your fingertips can remind you that: 1) You've faced this type of resistance before, 2) You've successfully navigated around it in the past, and 3) You have many tools.

A Resistance Diagnostic

  • Resistance: Feeling overwhelmed by a task
    • Workaround: Identify the task you're avoiding, and use mind-mapping to break it down into even smaller component parts. Then start to work on the easiest part by promising yourself that it only has to last the smallest possible time you can stand (5 minutes is okay, but 15 minutes is best). Make sure you have a treat for the break immediately thereafter.
  • Resistance: Perfectionism
    • Workaround: Lower your standards, and be specific about what the criteria is for being "done" with the task in front of you for today. Remind yourself: perfect doesn't happen in a day. Set the timer for 15 minutes and write.
  • Resistance: Avoiding writing with irrelevant stuff
    • Workaround: Try a trigger phrase that will bring your attention back to your writing. For example, when reading blogs during writing time ask yourself: Does this matter? Is this moving me towards ________ (my long-term goals)? If the answer is "no," set the timer, and return to writing.
  • Resistance: Wondering if any of this hard work really matters?
    • Workaround: Look at things that remind you of the value of your work, why it matters, or anything that makes you feel good about your work. Set the timer for 5 minutes, open your "thank you" file, and read some of the notes people have sent you about how your work has impacted their life. When the timer goes off, start writing.
  • Resistance: Low motivation
    • Workaround: Bribe yourself with the promise of a treat when the timer goes off. Then set the timer for 15 minutes and write.
  • Resistance: I just don't wanna write today!
    • Workaround: Remind yourself about all those who have come before you and/or all the sacrifices others have made to help you get to where are today. Affirm:
      • I come from strength.
      • I come from a line of strong and resourceful people.
      • The energy of all those who came before me is supporting me as I move forward today.
    • Then set the timer for 15 minutes and write
  • Resistance: Low energy
    • Workaround: Play a short blast of whatever music will lift your mood, motivate you, or make you feel energized. If all else fails, cue up MC Hammer's U Can't Touch This, get up, and dance. Then set the timer for 15 minutes and write.
  • Resistance: Frozen and terrified of a blank page
    • Workaround: Go straight to Dr. Wicked's Write or Die. Set the consequences for Kamikaze and the Grace Period on Evil.
  • Resistance: Can't write and don't know why
    • Workaround: Pick up the phone and call a trusted peer-mentor. Set the timer for 15 minutes. When it goes off, get off the phone, restart the timer for 15 minutes, and write.

The Weekly Challenge

This week, challenge yourself to do the following:

  • Write every day for at least 30 minutes.
  • Track your resistance if you were unable to do so last week. It's simple, just notice what you are doing or thinking whenever you are not writing during your scheduled writing time.
  • If you tracked your resistance, spend 10 minutes creating your Resistance Diagnostic.
  • Put it where you can quickly and easily get your hands on it during your daily writing (on your desktop is best).
  • When you experience resistance this week, try pulling it out, locating your resistance, and implementing the strategy that's been successful in the past.