Resistance: The War of Art

war-of-art4I had in the past attempted to read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, but I’d been waylaid, I think due to the way he talks about mental illness in the book.

But this time I pressed through, and I really enjoyed it! I listened to the audio book on a long trip for work, and it only took about three hours from beginning to end. I probably could have read it even faster with the book in my hand.

The War of Art is about Resistance. It’s about anything that stops us from getting our creative work done– and about how to overcome it. Pressfield makes an extensive list of things that play into resistance: procrastination, of course, but also sex, trouble, drama, victimhood, self-doubt, fear, criticism, love, stardom. He’s not afraid to add things to the list that you and I would rather keep off it. This was pretty eye-opening for me.

war-of-art

In the second part of the book, he talks about “becoming a pro”– how to overcome Resistance. To be a professional, we need to show up, be prepared, be patient, ask for help, accept no excuses, among other things.

A quick excerpt:

In my younger days dodging the draft, I somehow wound up in the Marine Corps. There’s a myth that Marine training turns baby-faced recruits into bloodthirsty killers. Trust me, the Marine Crops is not that efficient. What it does teach, however, is a lot more useful.

The Marine Corps teaches you how to be miserable.

This is invaluable for an artist.

Wow. Pressfield goes on to say:

The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.

Tell us how you really feel, Steven. 😉

But, honestly, this resonated with me. Writing is a mix of joy and misery; publication too. But what am I supposed to do? Ignore my calling? No. I need to become a pro.

war-of-art3

In the last part of his book, Pressfield talks about muses and angels– he takes the book to a whole other plane, reflecting on how the artist isn’t really in charge anyway. I’m sure he loses a lot of readers here, but not this girl. As a person of faith, I already believe something similar.

All told, this was a fast read and well worth it. In the days since finishing it, I’ve been able to recognize areas of Resistance in my life and to deal with them accordingly. Great, thoughtful book.

trusting the creative process

Trusting the whatta?

The creative process.  I don’t know anyone (except for maybe Addie Zierman) who writes lovely first drafts, and that is just fine.  Freewrite, feedback, re-write, repeat: for me at least, this is the model of the creative process.  And every time I get to the “repeat” part, the draft is better.  If you can boil writing into a formula, that’s what mine looks like.  And then one magical day, the “feedback” part says, “Um, I like it as is,” and you’re done (until some agent tells you otherwise).

It’s bizarre.  Writing– this strange, mystical, spiritual experience– is somehow, for me, whittled into show up and write and then do it again.  After enough times, this clunky, staggering, unrealistic, forced, ridiculous draft turns into a piece of art.  I’m amazed by it.

I have not been writing fiction for long.  Fewer than five years actually.  So I am still in the dating stage with the creative process, still a little unsure that it will really work, uncertain that this formula really does add up.  I’ve spent the last four and half years watching it work (consistently!), and yet I still find myself doubting it.

Then I write another draft, and it is that much better than the last one, and I think in wonder, “It really is working!”

Just like any other relationship, I am learning to trust the creative process.  Show up, put in the effort, don’t get too attached, receive criticism, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit … and it will work.

I am posting this reminder TO MYSELF:

Jackie, KEEP GOING.  Write and keep an open dialogue with those who care about your project.  It will come together.  If it has come this far in 8 months, think of where it will be a year from now!  The creative process WORKS.  It can handle your doubt as long as you keep showing up.

Will you please leave me an encouraging comment?  I could sure use one right now.