In Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, the antagonist who sabotages many a creative undertaking goes by the name Resistance. Resistance wears many disguises. It might show up as the deadlines and demands of your day job, the apparent indifference of the people around you, or your own apathy toward the “industry” of making art. Or sometimes it looks like vegging on the couch with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and seven seasons of Parks and Rec on Hulu. (At least… um… that’s what I’ve heard…) For many unfinished manuscripts, stagnating blogs, blank canvases, and forgotten songs, Resistance is at least one of the cuprits.
“Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it. Resistance is experienced as fear… If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.”
When it comes to turning my work loose in the world, lately, the Resistance is me.
For a long time, I’ve wanted to publish a book of poetry. I spent 7 or 8 years collecting little poems here and there, observing life as it is or exploring life as it should be. I gathered them up in a Scrivener document (ask me about why I love this program sometime), and arranged them into a folder titled, brilliantly, First Poetry Book. Just keeping the dream alive.
Wrote more. Submitted to a few online poetry journals. Got rejected. Wrote more. Explored self-publishing options.
By summer 2013, I’d gathered up enough for a decent collection, and I emailed the manuscript to Chris for a second opinion because dangit, this would be the summer! We got engaged. Wedding planning put everything else on hold.
In summer 2014, I added a few newer pieces. The wedding happened, and I moved a thousand miles. The book was pushed to furthest back corner of my mind, because who has time to edit when you’re changing your name and decorating a house and trying to learn how to survive the New England highways without a GPS?
So summer is here again. On good days, the manuscript, the little book with no name, feels like a pebble in my shoe. When I’m busy, I think about how I really should work on it. Sometimes I’ll open that little document and play with fonts.
A few poems appeared in The Molehill Vol. 3, for which I am grateful. Feeling the weight of a book in my hands and seeing my long-hidden words beside art by some of my favorite people on earth somehow makes me feel like maybe I have something to say after all. (I am also thankful for Pete Peterson’s immense kindness and honest editing process, which made all of them better and spurred me to revise the book AGAIN.)
Which brings me back to Resistance.
I have second thoughts sometimes. “These poems are so OLD! Do I really want my first book to be OLD things?” Granted, “so OLD” is relative. The book spans 40 odd poems I wrote between 2008 and 2013, really not that long ago, but long enough to feel like a lifetime away when you’ve been through so many changes — marriage, moving, and a new job all at once. In a year of rediscovering my identity, Jen Rose seems like a separate person sometimes.
And yet, maybe that’s why it’s time to let them go? It’s so easy to slowly forget where you came from, the concerns and dreams that used to be everything. That your past, present, and future selves are all one you, all ages, all experiences woven into your greater story.
So Rabbit Room friends, this is how I’m fighting the Resistance. I am working on a book, and I am determined to finish it before year’s end. It’s from another era of life, true. But I still want to hold it in my hands, slip it into my poetry shelf between writers I love, and let these little stories mark my place so I don’t forget where I’ve come from.
I’m inviting you into this process, hoping to give updates now and then, so I’m less tempted to procrastinate. But most of all, I’m excited for you to meet this book.
With fear and trembling, of course. But that’s all part of the adventure.
Jen Rose Yokel is a poet, freelance writer, and spiritual director. Her words have appeared at She Reads Truth, CCM Magazine, and other publications, and she released her first poetry collection Ruins & Kingdoms in 2015. Originally from Central Florida, she now makes her home in Fall River, Massachusetts with her husband Chris, where you can find her enjoying used bookstores and good coffee.