Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance.
This second, we can sit down and do our work.
~ Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art has been on my “must read” list for longer than I can remember. I’m not sure what took me so long to just buy the damn book and read it (Resistance, anyone?), but if, like me, you’ve been on the fence with this one, don’t wait. Just jump. Quick.
Far from the heavy tome I feared it would be, The War of Art is a little gem of a book. It’s short enough to be consumed in one long or a few not-so-long sittings, and divided into tiny, bite-sized “chapters” of no more than a couple of pages, and often as short as a couple of sentences.
In other words, totally non-intimidating.
It’s the kind of book you’ll want to keep within arm’s reach in your creative workspace, to flip open to a random page when you need a little boost. A little reminder of how freaking important your creative work is, and that you’re not alone, or crazy, for having maybe the teensiest bit of a hard time getting to said work.
That last phrase? Totally sarcastic.
The truth is, if you’re like 99.999% of us, you frequently have an excruciatingly painful feels-like-you’re-pushing-a-three-ton-boulder-up-a-hill hard time getting to said work.
Or getting said work to a state of done-ness.
And The War of Art? This deceptively brief, easy to approach little 165-page gift is a powerful tool to add to your arsenal (to borrow Pressfield’s war metaphor) against the stealthiest, sliest and most pernicious enemy to your creative life: Resistance.
The Truth About Resistance
Resistance, in its many shapes, is the focus of Book One, the first of three sections of The War of Art. Pressfield lifts the veil, exposing the ways Resistance keeps us from the work we’re meant to do, including some you may never have thought about.
Fear? Procrastination? It’s pretty easy to spot those manifestations of Resistance. But how about support and healing? How about the choice of a mate? These – and many other surprises – can be sneaky forms of Resistance too.
And have you ever thought about Resistance and love? Has it ever occurred to you that the more Resistance you feel, the more important your “unmanifested art / project / enterprise” is to you? Which means, of course, that when you feel the most Resistance, that’s precisely when you must fight the hardest against it.
You must play for keeps.
Which brings me to Book Two.
In Book Two, Pressfield offers his thinking and instructions on how best to combat Resistance: by “Turning Pro.”
“Pro” in this sense doesn’t have anything to do with producing income (though it certainly can include that). It means taking yourself and your dreams seriously.
It means dedicating your life to your art / your project / your enterprise.
It means accepting that it is hard and painful to keep at it… and doing it anyway.
“The artist must be like [a] Marine,” says Pressfield:
He has to know how to be miserable. He has to take pride in being more miserable than any other soldier or swabbie or jet jockey. Because this is war, baby. And war is hell.
Turning Pro means showing up, no matter what, just like you do to collect your paycheck at your 9-5.
It means a lot of other stuff, too, which Book Two beautifully enumerates.
Pressman has made Turning Pro into an art in and of itself. He shares stories from his own life, when Resistance had him broken and beaten down, and in glimmering vignettes describes how a shift in consciousness – from “amateur” to “pro” – was what finally turned things around.
A guy who goes from broken, can’t-get-his-work-done-to-save-his-life, to international best-selling author is someone worth paying attention to.
The Higher Realm
If the militaristic message of Book Two sounds daunting, deep breath – we’re now on to Book Three, where Pressman looks at Inspiration, the Muses, the Authentic Self, and the allies and angels that keep us pressing on against Resistance.
When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.
Whether you believe in angels or read Book Three as pure metaphor, I can’t see how any reader could not be moved by it.
Do your work, is the essence of Pressman’s message, because you must. The last page sums it up eloquently:
If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet….
Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.
If you’re ready to take your own creative life more seriously, and would like to use the power of a small group of like-minded, creative comrades-in-arms to push yourself forward, I’ve got one spot left in my upcoming daytime Creative Ignition Circle, which starts this Wednesday. What could YOU accomplish toward your big, creative dreams in the next two months, if you had other people to brainstorm, encourage, and (perhaps most importantly) hold your feet to the fire? I invite and challenge you to take that next step to bust past Resistance and find out. Click here for more information and to join.