I have a goal this year to balance out my fiction with non-fiction books that will inspire me – or give me “a kick in the ass,” as quoted on the front of The War of Art. I actually meant to reread Do the Work, also by Steven Pressfield, but mis-remembered which book I read previously.
While written for writers, Pressfield’s book is filled with creative ‘ass kicking’s’ for anyone who finds themselves putting off the work they should be doing. The War of Art is divided into three sections: Resistance, Combating Resistance, and Beyond Resistance. Each section has short, blunt vignettes.
Resistance takes many forms. Resistance is the enemy within. Sometimes called procrastination, laziness, or self-doubt – Resistance is the invisible force that stops us from becoming what we were meant to be. Pressfield explains the unlived life:
Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.
This first section, with the descriptions of Resistance and the many forms it takes, the many ways it presents itself, hit me hard. Several times I had to set the book aside and realize I have caved to Resistance. Resistance is what happened to several of my dreams.
As a young adult, I wanted to be a professional comic book artist. I thought I was pretty good too. But I let my fear, my insecurity, my Resistance stop me. I didn’t even try to pursue that possibility. A few years later, I thought I could open up a local comic book shop – share what I enjoyed with others. Resistance reared it’s ugly face once again. At one point I thought I could be a professional writer… guess what happened there.
How does one combat Resistance? By turning Pro. A pro writes – or creates – on a schedule, not only when inspiration strikes or feels the whim to. The Pro is playing for keeps and shows up everyday. The Pro doesn’t overidentify with their jobs. The Pro views their work as craft, not art, understanding that all creative endeavors are inspired. The Pro knows if they question or dwell on inspiration too much, they will become paralyzed. The Pro concentrates on the technique, the work, paying the bills, survival. The Pro doesn’t boast or over glorify the work – the Pro shuts up and does the work.
In my professional life, I am a Pro. But when it comes to the hobbies I enjoy, I can be filled with excuses. There is no reason to not pick up that paintbrush, pound words out on the keyboard, or grab my camera a find something to take a photo of. But Resistance seemed to take over a part of my life in 2020. I am working to recognize it, and tell it to Go Away.
The last section of The War of Art is titled Beyond Resistance, The Higher Realm. Pressfield describes muses and angels, the invisible forces that sustain and support us on our journey. While Pressfield gave “permission to think of angels in the abstract,” I did struggle with this last section. I identify as a “none” but also recognize that nature exists and has her way of influencing our being. I did find many non-religious sections that I was able to identify with.
Pressfield writes that “Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we image we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.” When my daughter graduated high school last year, I found I could not convince her that college is not just about gathering knowledge – it’s a good next step to figure out who you are. Her Resistance prevented her from even looking at higher education opportunities. Thankfully, she found a path that is perfect for her right now.
I recommend The War of Art for anyone who finds themselves putting off their book reviews. Watching TV instead of journaling, cultivating your garden, training your dog, or even playing with your kids. Be a Pro.
The last paragraph of The War of Art sums things up, and I find it sticking with me.
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.
Consider my ass kicked – I’m giving you what I’ve got this Cannonball.