Resistance is Futile!

Resistance is Futile!

This article was originally published on the Christian Writers’ Downunder Blogspot on 8 November, 2021.

When I was about fourteen, I discovered Star Trek. I loved it. We only had the original series back then – on rerun, by the way – I’m not that old. I remember going with friends to mini conventions which basically involved dressing up (you didn’t call it cosplay back then) and binge-watching series episodes on the big screen. I was in true geek heaven. When other kids had posters of KISS, ABBA, or The Bay City Rollers (yes, really) on their wall, I had pictures of Kirk, Spock and the starship Enterprise.  

Yep. Geek. How amazing is it that William Shatner recently travelled to space at 90-years-old? 

There have been several iterations of the Star Trek universe since then and while I’ll always love Shatner, Nimoy and DeForest Kelley, in the original series, my favourite Star Trek series is The Next Generation (TNG). Set a hundred years after the original series, Sir Patrick Stewart, as Jean-Luc Picard, gave a new dignity, and eloquence, to the role of Starfleet Captain. 

The Borg!

The TNG crew also featured in my all-time favourite Trek movie, Star Trek: First Contact. This movie was a lot of fun and it showcased one of the most sinister villains of the Star Trek Universe, The Borg. The Borg are black-leather-clad cyborgs. Their starship is a huge cube with weaponry that can overpower almost all other ships. They operate as a hive mind – The Collective – and are controlled by the Borg Queen. Their goal is perfection, and they operate by assimilating other races into their own by injecting nano-bots into their victims. 

They are a powerful enemy of all civilisations and their demoralising warning to all is: Resistance is futile. The Borg are too strong. Give up now.

Image showing the poster for the movie, Star Trek: First Contact By IMPAwards, Fair use. Coutresy of Wikipedia.

I won’t spoil First Contact for you ( if you haven’t seen it, where have you been?) but those words, resistance is futile, are used to great effect in the climax of the film.

By now you’re probably wondering what this has to do with writing. 

Well, this week I’ve had the Borg catch-cry in my head as I’ve pondered a different, but very futile kind of resistance: resistance to writing.

Resistance (to writing) is futile!

Resistance to writing is the psychological force that pushes back against us when we try to create.

I suffer from this resistance a lot – even though I love writing. Do you? I know I’m not alone.

To create a world and immerse yourself in the lives of your characters is a thing of joy. You get to know these make-believe people, torture them in some diabolically cathartic way, then cheer them on as they overcome the obstacles you throw before them. What’s not to like? Writing can be so much fun, so why do we resist sitting down and filling empty pages with our words. 

Resistance is weird. Why will we do almost anything other than write our first draft of a fiction novel? I’ll work on my website, write a blog post, take the dog for a walk. Anything. I have a friend who says her cupboards are never cleaner than when she’s drafting a novel.

I’m convinced resistance is different from writer’s block. While these two problems can be related, in my experience writer’s block is usually caused by a problem within our stories. If our plot isn’t working or if the goals, motivations and conflicts of our characters aren’t sound, we can easily stop writing and feel blocked. Resistance, on the other hand, is often experienced even before we sit down to type.

The resistance I’m talking about is also different from the inability to write that comes from serious life situations. I couldn’t write for six months after my brother died. That wasn’t resistance, it was grief.

Resistance in Physics

In the realm of physics, resistance reduces to the ability of a wire to conduct electricity. The larger the resistance, the less electricity passes. In the same way, resistance to writing holds back the creative flow.

Inertia is another physics term that says a mass will stay still or keep moving in a uniform way unless it’s acted upon by an opposing force. If you have a large SUV broken down in front of your driveway, it will stay there unless you are strong enough to push it out of the way. The good news is that once you get the SUV moving, inertia helps to keep it moving. The harder you push, the more the vehicle gathers momentum. But if you stop pushing, it will stop moving because of gravity and friction. Now if you are trying to push it uphill and you stop pushing…

A vector image of a man rolling a huge boulder uphill.

Image by Schäferle from Pixabay 

 Writing resistance is like that inertia. If we can overcome it, we gain momentum that keeps us moving forward, but if we don’t maintain our force and intention, our stories grind to a halt. 

Resistance to writing can lead to futility. It can stop us in our tracks, take us captive and rob us of the satisfaction of creating a body of work we are proud of. It can cripple our self-esteem, assimilate us into the mundane and crucify our joy.

But fighting resistance is not futile. It can be beaten even if you have a bad case of this malady – like me.

Some ways to combat resistance

Here are some things to try if resistance is a problem.

  • Start. It sounds simple but the best way to overcome resistance is to begin. Determine that you will write some part of your novel, however miniscule, each day.
  • Make your goal doable. If resistance is a strong force in your writing life, then start with a tiny goal. Forget NaNoWriMo with its 50K words in a month. Begin with 300 words a day. Or say you will spend half an hour a day writing new story. 
  • Give yourself permission for those 300 words to be the worst writing ever. Because words, even badly composed words, can be edited and built upon.
  • Experiment. Try a different approach. I recently discovered the dictation function in the Office 365 version of Word. I am woeful at dictation, but when I use it to get a distracted rabble of words down onto the page, I don’t have a blank page anymore. And the fear goes away.
  • Use a pen name. Sarah Painter in her book, Stop Worrying, Start Writing, suggests if fear of failure is holding you back, tell yourself you are going to publish your book under a secret pen name, and no one need ever know. Whether you use that name or your real name at the time of publication, doesn’t matter. What matters is that you trick your brain into thinking no one important to you need know these words are yours.
  • Believe in God? Then pray. After all, one of his titles is the Creator!

When we start, even with tiny goals, and give ourselves permission to write badly, a strange thing happens. The forces of inertia are overcome, and we begin to move forward. Our 300 words build momentum and become 500 words or 1000, until the story takes a life of its own.

I began this post by talking about Start Trek and the Borg. In this case the Borg were the opposing force speaking words designed to demoralise their victims. Resistance is futile. But resisting the Borg (sorry, spoiler after all 😆) wasn’t futile. 

Nor is resisting resistance. With writing, the power of resistance is itself futile. It can be beaten. 

And no alien cyborg is gonna stop us!

Have you wrestled with resistance? What tactics do you use to beat it? Let me know in the comments below.

Should the pandemic shape the settings of our novels?

Should the pandemic shape the settings of our novels?

* An earlier version of this article was published on the Christian Writers Downunder Blogspot on August 30, 2021.

One of the dilemmas authors face if we write contemporary fiction or begin our speculative stories in a present-day setting, is whether or not we should refer to the Covid-19 pandemic.

I’ve written one young adult (YA) novel and I’m currently developing  a contemporary, amateur sleuth mystery series. My problem is that both stories begin in the ‘present day’.

Do I acknowledge the pandemic or not?

There are different thoughts on this.

I read on one forum that Amazon was taking down books that were focused on Covid-19. I tried to find evidence of this on Amazon’s website but I couldn’t find any prohibitions. In the early days of the pandemic Amazon was flooded with a wide range of dubious products claiming to cure the virus, which they subsequently took down from sale. They have also removed some nonfiction books of dubious merit, some of which have been reinstated.

I honestly don’t see how they could object to the pandemic acting as a backdrop to contemporary fiction but their bots do odd things at times. Mind you, I recently had a seasoned reviewer friend say they had a review removed from Amazon and the only reason they could think of was that they mentioned the lockdown in the review.

Bottom line: If you have a book in mind and you are not sure if the theme is okay then I’d contact Amazon directly and check.

A stronger reason to avoid referencing the pandemic in our fiction is because people often want to escape life’s problems when they read. I think it would depend on the reader and the level of realism they crave, but lighter reads have done well since the pandemic began.

I think that my friends who write fantasy are in a good position as they don’t have to choose. Werewolves don’t get Covid… although they could conceivably get parvo. Hey, there’s a plot idea!

But I digress. After thinking this through I decided to leave out any mention of Covid from my books. It seemed much simpler to ignore the mess the world was in and have fun in my writing bubble.

But then I saw this two-star review posted on another forum.

It makes me giggle – and groan – every time I read it.

My favourite line:

The author apparently wrote the book before the pandemic and made the assumption that summer 2020 would be just like other summers…

I mean really, what a terrible author. I know many writers are brilliant creative people but this one missed it, right? If they wrote a book in 2018 or 2019 why wouldn’t they know life would be totally disrupted in 2020? Fancy not being able to predict that a global pandemic would disrupt the world at some future date. Epic fail!

In truth this is both hilarious and sad. Funny that someone would blame an author for not being able to predict the future, and disappointing that this two-star rating could affect the author’s ability to sell their book in the future.

Crazy, huh?

Did you see that 19 people thought the review was helpful?

All groans aside, it did make me realise that some people can’t see past the current world circumstances. The impact of Covid-19 on the psyche of some folk is so profound that they can’t embrace an imaginary world that doesn’t acknowledge the virus.

The question is, what do we do about this?

  • When we are writing new books
  • When we’ve already written a book that refers specifically to 2020
  • When we get an irrational review like this

If we have a work in progress we might:

  • Continue to set the book in the present but include a forward note explaining why we left Covid-19 out of the story
  • Set the book in a specific year – say 2019
  • Do nothing – refuse to waste our energy on the minority that might not ‘get’ our work

If we’ve already published a book that mentions 2020, we could try similar things:

  • Rewrite the whole book (Noooooo!)
  • Change the dates in the book to less contentious ones
  • Including a forward note as above
  • However most traditional publishers would be unlikely to re-format books and put out a second edition unless there was a very good reason
  • Do nothing

If we get a review that shows *cough* a lack of insight like this one, all the conventional wisdom says: Do. Not. Reply. I guess it’s an opportunity to further develop the thick skin we need as authors (as if we don’t have enough of those opportunities 😆).

So back to my novels. I think I’m going to stick with my original plan to exclude the pandemic from my stories. The forward note idea sounds good to me, but I’d love to hear what you think. Is this a good plan?

How are you approaching writing contemporary settings in 2020?

Have you ever received a crazy review like this? I’d love to hear what it said 😎. 

What would you do if you received a review like this? Let me know in the comments below!