When my friend Chris gave me a copy of Steve Pressfield's non fiction book, The War of Art (Amazon affiliate link) in the kindle version (publishers, take note, please) as a gift, I put off reading it.
I told myself that I was saving it for my upcoming trip to WOMMA in Las Vegas.
Of course, part of me knew that I was only buying time.
I'm quite good at finding all kinds of things to do right before I sit down to write. Especially when my goal is to work on something really important.
I laughed out loud when I read the book's foreword by Robert McKee. One day, I reordered my whole closet and dresser -- I set out to try on, and rearrange everything I own because that was easier than sitting down and doing the work.
You may be familiar with Steven Pressfield from books like The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, or Tides of War. I read a lot of fiction, and I can tell you these are books worth picking up and reading. They will make you think.
When you're ready for a book that will make you do, buy The War of Art.
And if you already have and use this book, consider getting the author's manifesto, which was published as part of the Domino Project, Do the Work, which brings a practical component to how we move forward from our creative block(s).
Doing the work
We would rather learn a little bit more, or OVERthink something in place of constructing an action plan and then sticking to it. Even when we have an action plan, we don't really commit to it fully day in and day out.
Doing the work is hard. Often we need to steel ourselves through a poor draft of something for long enough to zero in on the form that is on the inside.
Michelangelo thought he had mastered his art. He had the ability to feel the form trapped inside a block of marble and chip away at the superfluous. Then, the Pope asked him to pain the Sistine Chapel. Doing the work now meant feeling from the inside out, from nothing to a form. It nearly took his life.
Resistance never rests
Which is why there is such a thriving self help industry.
It takes all kinds of shapes in our mind, and is invited in our world by fear and insecurity. It takes the form of self-sabotage and self-deception. The mere thought of achieving a worthy goal that will push us to next level stirs the slumbering beast.
Resistance shows up in our selves as procrastination, for example. It's also served up as the product of envy by others.
Pressfield reminds us that turning pro is a good antidote to the second guessing. The step-by-step method he outlines for going professional is preparation, order, patience, endurance, and acting in the face of fear and failure.
Mastering technique, and above all, making the commitment to doing the work, enrolls our talent or Muse on our behalf.
If talks of angels and Muses turns you off, think "my talent" when the author mentions them. I have not met a person yet who would deny the existence of an innate gift in themselves.
Time to get that out and express it.
Does this book then contradict the fact that we should be strategic in our approach? Is Pressfield saying we shouldn't think and just do? Quite the opposite. This book is in fact about adopting a new model of thinking about what you do.
This applies to businesses as well, by the way. I work with organizations and teams that have decided they are willing to do the work often starting with some hard thinking for themselves.
It's not for everybody.
As I sat down to write this post, I looked over the reviews on Amazon. You will see there are some that are quite dismissive.
I could see Resistance at work in those reviews and comments. After spending more than a dozen years online and writing more than 1 million and two hundred thousand words here and elsewhere, I have become quite good at spotting a post that will attract Resistance.
This book helped me see how I need to remain vigilant, so I can spot it where it really matters: in me.