Blog Overcoming obstacles

Resistance and the new year

Remember that time in primary school when you`d get a new, shiny notebook, preferably with a cute animal on the cover, all snowy white and unspoiled inside? Remember how, on the first page, you would write extra neat? Tried to not make any mistakes?
Then, after the second page that feeling would become less and less untill you just wrote like you alway did, messy?

I`m still the same with my notebooks and planners now. As well as with at the beginning of a new year.

new notebooksSo the first week of 2014 is over and I already failed at a lot of things. For once, I think that`s great! The “new” and “I`m going to do this right this time” ideas are now becoming less and less and that helps me put less pressure on myself. A bonus is, I`m learning.

In the first few days after all the festivities I was all over the place, like I usually am in the beginning of the new year. I wanted to improve my art in every way, I wanted to finish drawings, I wanted to learn, all at once. Which resulted in doing a lot but jumping from one thing to another without really doing anything. Frustration,

On top of that a lot of irrelevant and annoying things were begging for my attention. Things broke that needed replacement, I got emails about topics that needed to be dealt with, I needed to start working again after the holidays, I felt fatigue, discouragement and insecurity coming at me like thiefs, trying to steal away my energy, telling me it “would be better if I would spend this evening on Pinterest so I wouldn`t have to deal with the hard stuff.”

Here is where the Resistance comes in. I haven`t read the book “the War of Art” by Steven Pressfield, but I know about the point he makes about a force in the universe that`s trying to get you from doing whatever is most important to you.
Call it what you will; the Resistance, your Inner Critic, Evil, the Dark forces, (me being a Christian, I think this adversity comes from the forces trying to prevent you from following your calling, trying to block you from expressing something God put in you when He made you) Gremlins, or even just “that`s life,” fact is that you will experience obstacles whenever you try to do something that is important to you. And I was faced with quite a few obstacles this last week.

I then saw a video, posted by my friend Sanne Meijer (Dutch people, read her blog about empowerment: in which shame and vulnerability researcher BrenΓ© Brown talks about criticism and creativity. I really recommend everyone to watch this, because it`s so relevant to this topic.

This video and some personal art assignments from my art mentor made me realize that I should change tactics. No more listening to the negative voices, one step at a time, talking with friends about this, accepting failure and, very big, focus.

I don`t know what kind of a person you are, if you are very structured and need to have only a few things on your plate at once, or you are so structured that you can handle many new projects and problems all at once. Maybe you are a fairly unstructured person, which maybe means you can only keep track of a few things at the same time. Or maybe this means that you actually need to have more projects on your mind to shift your attention from one thing to another to keep your mind fed with new things, which makes you more productive.

I see that my interest for so many things at the same time, seeing new possibilities in everything, means for me that I have to choose more. Choose which books to read, which drawings (one or two at most) to focus on and what things I`m going to practice. (preferably issues that have to do with the problems in the drawings themselves) And what other things I need to do. Nothing more, nothing less. I only have 24 hours in the day. Focus. And, like my sister told me today: “Don`t forget to have fun in the process.”

What do you need to be able to do your best? Leave a comment below!

Question: are you a person who needs focusing on one or a few things, or who needs to work on multiple projects at once? What do you do to focus?
Action: pick one thing to focus on this week. Of course you have other things to do, but pick one thing that needs your special attention, whatever it is, and give it the time it needs. Whenever you experience resistance decide not to listen to the gremlins, don`t beat yourself up, and just get back to what you were planning on doing. See it as an experiment, and share with us what you discover.


  1. Petra van Berkum (@berkumpje) Reply

    This reminds me of when we moved back to Groningen. When I finally lived here again I had no idea what to do, though I did have ideas of course. A tip from a coach was: try to make a weekly structure from all the things you think need to be done. but also leave a bit space for things like ‘doing nothing’ so when the time comes you can just have some rest…because in those other times you are already busy. Give yourself permission to do what you do is, I think, the clue.
    I felt the same as you yesterday, so many things in my head, things I can and want to do. But you can’t do them all at the same time. Making a list or a plan works for me, so I just focus on the task for ‘that day’ and not for the whole-many-years-plan. To create a list like that it’s important to listen to yourself and ‘the voices’ that say I want to do this, and this and this and think about it, think about what’s important to you and then just do it :).

    • pencilsandstories/Henrike Reply

      Giving yourself permission, as you mentioned, is very important indeed. I try to be more intentional about what I do. Choose to work on this or that and NOT on the other things. Without guilt. It’s gard, but I’m learning. πŸ™‚
      How’s Groningen? Completely settled in already?

  2. Interesting! I recognize a lot from what you’re saying. A new year always feels very fresh and nice I’m messing things up very soon. πŸ˜‰ I also like a lot of things, but I’m trying to focus more on the things that really matter.

  3. Awww, you’re quoting me. β™₯
    As for me, I am a structured person, but I can work on different things at once and works perfectly fine. I don’t need that (i.e., working on several things), but it just happens because I like a lot of things. What I can’t do is reading multiple books at once. I can only read one book at the time. So then I’ll just do that. Sometimes it makes me a bit itchy, when I am looking forward to reading a new book I just bought, but I patiently finish my other book first. πŸ™‚
    I do notice that I am postponing some things lately, like replying on e-mails. I don’t know why. But then I just push myself forward, I’ll do it and I feel great afterwards. πŸ™‚

    • pencilsandstories/Henrike Reply

      I know, you are sooo neat! We must have inherited completely different genes in that respect.
      Are you that organized in your brain as well? Must be so relaxing, haha!

      • πŸ˜€ Hm, I am quite organized in my brain yes. But when too many things all come at me at once, it can be too much for me too. πŸ˜‰ My job really asks a lot of multitasting and I have to remember soooooo many things. And do sooooooo many things at the same time. But it works quite well. πŸ™‚

        • pencilsandstories/Henrike Reply

          I’m glad. How do you keep track of it all?

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