I spent 10 days traveling around Japan in early winter, just to take photographs, as part of a project between HardwareZone and Canon. I’ve written about the shooting experience over at HardwareZone, so I won’t go into that here.
But what I do want to talk a little more about is how I woke up over there everyday feeling like the luckiest man on earth, while feeling scared shitless at the same time.
For that, I thank the Resistance.
What is the Resistance? In his classic book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield introduces the Resistance this way:
Resistance is the voice in your head that stands between you and the life you dream of living. It is the voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough, that you’ll only humiliate yourself, or (my least favourite one of all) that you will make your dreams happen…tomorrow. So don’t even start trying.
And Resistance was in my head, every day when I arose in Japan to find beautiful photographs. This was what it was whispering in my ear:
“You’ll fail. You’ll fall. You won’t deliver.”
I’ve learned two important truths about Resistance.
The first is that it never goes away. Resistance has been a friend of mine since I can remember. And no matter how many times I’ve beat it down (or lost to it), it always comes back. When it comes to Resistance, you are never out of the fight.
The second important thing I’ve learned about Resistance? That I’m not alone in facing it.
Pressfield again, talking about the fear and self-doubts that all who walk out in search of their dreams face:
David duChemin, one of my favourite photography teachers, puts it this way:
Even Joe McNally, a photographer with National Geographic, wrestles with the Resistance. From his book Sketching Light:
Pressfield, duChemin and McNally faced the Resistance. And they’ve overcome it, publishing numerous books and photographs along the way.
So the Resistance can be beaten. You can feel the fear…and do the work anyway. I’ve learned that when facing a challenge, it’s good to feel a little afraid. Fear can drive you to prepare, to amp up to the situation, to take that extra step. Tended carefully, fear can be fuel, but feed it too much, and fear burns the house down.
I spent an entire day in Kyoto, Japan, shooting nothing but rubbish, and then nailed the one perfect shot right at the end of the day. I trekked through the Nakasendo trail for hours with a 13kg pack, getting nothing but soaked in rain, until I got the image you see above. And so it was, day after day, facing the Resistance as it kept whispering through every mediocre shot, and then finally getting the image that made it shut up for the day.
At the end of each day, I would perform the same ritual — eat an early dinner, review the day’s shots, flag my spirits by watching photography lessons, and wrestle with the self-doubt monster before going to bed.
The next morning, I would wake up again, with Resistance in my ear once again. With fear in my gut, but fire in my heart, determined to do my best to capture beauty in a frame, or die fighting the Resistance. And despite the clammy fist around my heart, feeling like the luckiest man on Earth to be doing what I love.