Profiles In Resistance: You Don’t Have to Love It as Long as You Do It by Andromeda Romano-Lax

I’m sitting in the parking lot of the local public pool, reading and drinking lukewarm coffee, knowing my bladder won’t let me fully relax, watching the clock and feeling the pain in my lower back from this unhealthy sitting position. The lap lanes close at 2:00. I need precisely one hour to do my workout and about twenty minutes to change and wash. Thank goodness I am forced by deadlines, both internal and external, or I might never get out of this car.  

I spent the last several pandemic months learning to swim better. For the first time in my life, I recently completed a full mile. I swim freestyle so slowly that I can’t even find my times on most serious swimmers’ charts. (Darn you for confirming this day after day, Google!) But no matter. I leave that pool feeling like a superhero. 

Even so, at the start of every single pool session, I RESIST. I don’t mean sometimes. I mean every time, as if my stupid brain can’t even recall how happy swimming made me last time. If not for the 2:00 lap-closing time, I’d put off entering those double doors all day. 

I expected the resistance to lessen after a dozen pool sessions. It hasn’t. I still don’t enjoy squeezing into a swimsuit, or taking that first plunge into cold water, or negotiating with other swimmers for my rightful place in the lane. 

You’d think my brain would get the message—this is good for you! It is as predictably euphoria-producing as a drug!—but it doesn’t. 

Is your writer’s brain the same way?

“I don’t like writing, I like having written,” my mom—author of one chapter in one book—used to say with perverse pride, unknowingly repeating a line that has been attributed to George R. R. Martin, Dorothy Parker, Gloria Steinem, and countless others.

I used to think that if a person consistently dreaded getting to the keyboard and had more complaints than moments of satisfaction overall, then they weren’t meant to write and should possibly just stop

Swimming laps this year has amended my simplistic view. You can resist starting something—every darn time—and struggle and squirm your way through it to the very end. You can remain the slowest, the grumbliest, the most self-doubting. That doesn’t mean you aren’t meant to do it. It doesn’t mean you won’t get something out of it, whether that means long-term satisfaction, learning or health. 

At lap 31 of 32, I’m not thinking, “Hey, now that I’m warmed up, I’d like to swim twice as long.” Nope, I’m thinking, “The second this is done I’m getting in the hot tub and then leaving to reward myself with a snack.”

And yet, my body is changing. My shoulders are stronger. My metabolism has picked up. My 100-meter times have improved, thanks to watching hundreds of videos and trying to apply a few tiny improvements each session. I actually know what 100 meters means, and what a decent time would be. I’m not a complete lap-swimming idiot anymore, even if I’m still a relative turtle who hates that first minute of putting on a Speedo. 

If you’re a resistant writer—happy only at the end of a session—here are a few tips for overcoming that initial resistance. 

Start a timer when you begin to work. That way, if you immediately turn to a distraction, you will have to (in good conscience) re-set the timer. Record your start and finish times.

Restrict your writing time. Schedule a hard stop, forcing yourself to end even if you could write more. Experiment with super-short sessions, but make them more frequent. Leave some ink (or water) in the well, as Hemingway prescribed. 

Have a ritual for beginning. Whether it’s lighting a candle, hitting “play” on a playlist you regularly use for writing, or reading your last session’s work, come up with a standard start-up sequence to ease the ignition process.

Find an online co-working/co-writing session to join. Use this gentle form of peer pressure to commit to writing once or more per week, with witnesses. 

Email your wordcount to a friend (or a coach) once per week. All the better if it’s a mutual pledge.

Try not to break the chain—an old Jerry Seinfeld trick. Maybe your chain is every-day writing. Maybe it’s only once-every-Sunday writing. Mark an X on your calendar and keep the pattern going. 

Remind yourself that the math is always in your favor. 1000 words times 52 weeks is about half of a novel. Even one sentence per day can become an essay in mere months. You’d think we’d all have written a gazillion books by now! 

Count hours if counting words doesn’t help. Color in a square in your daybook or calendar for every hour (or even quarter-hour) you spend writing. 

Reward yourself. Buy yourself flowers, chocolates, a new bathing suit that looks better than that tragic old Speedo. Whatever it takes. 

Also: Call yourself a writer. Not when you’ve published a book or many books. Not when you’ve gotten rave reviews. If you’re writing, even a little, and you are accumulating hours and words and ideas and skills, you are a writer. Don’t let anyone else define you. 

So does that mean I’m a swimmer? Oh shoot. I guess I am. And some pretty new bathing suits—no kidding—are on the way. 


Andromeda Romano-Lax is a book coach and the author of five novels including Annie and the Wolves (available in paperback), chosen by Library Journal as a Best Book of the Year and by Booklist as a Top Ten Historical Book of the Year. In 2022, she plans to finish a new novel draft and compete in a half-Ironman, which requires swimming 1.2 miles in a lake. (Brrr. Horrible.) Follow her at @romanolax or visit her at

1 thought on “Profiles In Resistance: You Don’t Have to Love It as Long as You Do It by Andromeda Romano-Lax”

  1. I love the author’s use of swimming to help us think of ways to overcome resistance to writing. Only problem is … Andromeda also inspired me to want to start swimming like she does.

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