How I Got Over Writer's Block #1: Resistance + Touch the Keys

Image Credit: Amir Doreh on Unsplash

How I Got Over Writer's Block is a series of posts where I share the ways I changed my approach to the writing process in order to make it easier to actually sit down and do the work.

By re-framing key elements in the creative process, I was able to start writing and publishing consistently.

The first and most important step for me in overcoming writer's block was learning about RESISTANCE, and then using that to TOUCH THE KEYS.

First, what is RESISTANCE?

Resistance is what Steven Pressfield's book The War of Art is all about; if you're an aspiring creative, I highly recommend it.

"There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: 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...

Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance...

Look in your own heart. Unless I’m crazy, right now a still, small voice is piping up, telling you as it has ten thousand times before, the calling that is yours and yours alone. You know it. No one has to tell you. And unless I’m crazy, you’re no closer to taking action on it than you were yesterday or will be tomorrow. You think Resistance isn’t real? Resistance will bury you."

If you've ever tried to create anything, then you understand Resistance. It's all of the distractions, addictions, and time-wasting activities that keep you from sitting your ass down and just doing the work.

I'm assuming that you're a creator who's experienced this which is why you're here, and I won't go into more details about Resistance because you already understand. (Although if you need details, read this post, or Pressfield's book.)

In order to sit my ass down and do the work - to overcome RESISTANCE every day (because Resistance shows up every single time we want to sit down and do our work), I had to learn to TTK - TOUCH THE KEYS.

A productivity coach that I worked with last year taught me the concept of TTK - Touch the Keys. The goal of TTK is to lower the expectations for your work in order to create the habit of doing it daily. 

The metaphor of TTK is one of learning to play the piano; in order for a student to get over their resistance to sitting down to practice, the student is only asked to sit down at the keyboard daily and touch the keys. Not to actually play, or commit to a certain amount of practice time, or commit to perfecting a certain piece of music. Success is only measured by the student's ability to sit down at the keyboard and touch the keys.

The reason this works is because actually sitting down at the keyboard, even if only to touch the keys, means the student overcame their Resistance. 

It's the sitting your ass down and starting that's hard.

Once your ass is sat, and the keys are touched, everything else is gravy.

I've implemented that with myself. Success is not based on output, it's only measured by whether or not I'm able to overcome Resistance, and for me that means opening Blogger and looking at my draft blog posts. If I access Blogger, I've overcome Resistance; I've succeeded. 

Some days this means I sit down and write for three hours. Other days it means I open and close one or two posts and do no actual writing. But I still overcame Resistance because I TTK'd - I touched those keys dammit, so I win!

Score: Me = 1, Resistance =  0.

Sometimes all I do is 10-minutes of sifting through ideas for potential future posts, or cleaning up an existing post. It doesn't matter; success is defined as overcoming Resistance.

Removing my expectations of any specific output means it's easier to just TTK; to open Blogger and possibly write. If I don't open Blogger, I won't write. If I open Blogger, I might write.

So Step 1 is understanding Resistance.

Step 1.1 is identifying your TTK - the tiniest little task that for you, signifies to your muse that you're ready, and that you've kicked Resistance's ass. Does it mean opening a draft post? Does it mean taking out your favourite pen and notepad? What is that thing for you?

Remember to remove expectations for amount or quality of output. Just commit to TTK. If you sit down to Touch the Keys daily, you will end up with something. For some writers, it works to commit to a certain amount of words or pages, but I find this kills both my creativity and my commitment to the process.

The only way to overcome Resistance is to make it super easy to overcome, and you can do that by simply committing every day to TTK - Touch the Keys.

Momentum will build and you will produce, but the most important thing is just sitting down to do something, even if what you produce is total garbage. Commitment to process, in the long term, will always trump commitment to specific outputs.

Any day you overcome Resistance is a good day, and Touching the Keys is a good enough measure of daily success.

To recap:

Step 1 is overcoming Resistance by learning to Touch the Keys.

Until next time, write on!

Image Credit: Andrew Neel on Unsplash


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