This is the second part of my investigation into Blame vs. Responsibility.

Steven Pressfield is a man to whom many writers and so-called ‘creatives’ doff their hats. He wrote The Legend of Bagger Vance, and he’s one of the stoics; an old-schooler; a stickler for Going the Distance and knowing when you’re facing a writer’s deadliest antagonist—Resistance.

Pressfield’s book The War of Art articulates beautifully the relationships we have with Resistance, and the guises in which Resistance shows up.

One of my fave quotes:

Pressfield offers many more instances where Resistance is showing up, and blame is one of these. It shows up in fundamentalism, in rationalisation … in so many ways.

Let’s take the examples below to look at some ways we can release blame. (I’m using a writer’s lens, but you could easily use your own.)

What are the solutions?

When we decide to opt for responsibility, we immediately claim empowerment, freedom … and options.

SELF:

  • “I should have taken a break for lunch instead of pushing through. Now I have a killer headache. I’m such an idiot.”
  • Solution: Decide to ignore the voice. It’s not going to help the headache.

OTHERS:

  • “My editor is so brutal, she made me lose all my self-confidence …”
  • Solution: Notice you’re feeling a bit ‘poor me’, decide to put your editor’s hat on and look at the text and perhaps also the context objectively. (Do you know your genre well enough? Have you run a diagnostic on your manuscript?)

THE CIRCUMSTANCES:

  • “But I couldn’t write more. The kids were yelling outside my door and I couldn’t concentrate … “
  • Note to self: I decided to have those kids. I decided to become a writer. Do I want to change the latter? Because I can’t change the former … No? So … decide to suck it up. Maybe now is not the time to be writing.

Yeah. So let’s take a look at that last one.

Here’s where I find the Kübler-Ross emotional change journey a good one to refer to. (Factoid: Elisabeth K-R was a Swiss psychiatrist who wrote the book On Death and Dying).

Kübler-Ross

Important to note is that the points in this journey aren’t always in this order, and there may be a bit of backwards-and-forwards dance along the way.

This is a tool that many writers, especially, use to track the emotional journey of a character, in order to be sure they’re hitting the right emotional notes for that character’s inner story (growth) arc.

Because if there’s no change, there’s no story. 

A good question to ask yourself is: Where am I on this journey? 

Sometimes simply the awareness that we’re not there yet—not ready to be acceptant of our own circumstances—is the change in awareness that we need in order to start taking steps.

Once we realise we’re on a path—that this isn’t our end-point—it is much easier to be kinder to ourselves. Which helps us let go of self-blame.

Interestingly, when we can’t move forwards, it’s often simply because a decision needs to be made and we just haven’t made it yet. 

More thoughts on decision-making in another post!

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And here’s a great talk by Liz Gilbert, on ‘the drive to keep creating’: “So … you don’t want your shit sandwich? Cos if you don’t want it, I’ll take it.”