I don’t know about you, but I hate to write. Getting what seems to be in my head down on the page is a bitch, to tell you the truth, and typing the first sentence is probably the hardest part. There’s something about the infinite snowy emptiness of the unspoiled page that just freaks me out.
As a result, I’m the world’s most accomplished procrastinator. I’ve been putting stuff off for forty years. You should have seen me back in the days before computers: all my pencils would have to be sharpened; the previous day’s work would have to be carefully squared with the edge of the desk, eraser detritus dusted from the innards of the typewriter, the window opened just so. Coffee, cigarettes, music perhaps, all had to be inexplicably aligned with the cosmos. A succession of now-dead dogs snuggled happily well-fed at my feet. God help me if my wife were feeling the least bit amorous just before the start of Chapter One. And then, if I did finally manage to glance in the direction of the old manual Olympia before ten AM, I had a very bad habit of re-reading my previous day’s work, and, of course, I’d set to “fixing” the words which once upon a time had been perfect.
Nowadays, when it comes to firing up MS Word and…just getting on with it, I stink. God. I’ve got the Drudge Report and the New York Times and iTunes and E2 and, well, I don’t have to tell you, partner. There’s an infinity of lesbians, monkeys and soy at our fingertips. It’s enough to drive a man, woman, or other into another line of work. An informal poll among associate members of the Procrastinators’ Guild confirms this fact: we writers, painters, composers and—yes—even captains of industry may ultimately love what we do, but we hate sitting down to do it.
One of my most fruitful acts of procrastination lately has been the devouring of Steven Pressfield’s eminently readable book, The War of Art. Mr. Pressfield, author of the best sellers The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, Tides of War, and Last of the Amazons is no slouch in the art of word-avoidance himself. But like a recovering alcoholic or a plastic surgery junkie who’s finally seen the light, he’s developed a program to see himself across the finish line, impossibly distant though it may sometimes appear to be. Mr. Pressfield’s thoughtful analysis of the syndrome is informative and energizing. In a brisk 163 pages he succeeds in breaking it down to this:
What I know
There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this:
It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.
What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.
By naming the enemy and flushing him out into the open where his ubiquity and persistence can be examined, Mr. Pressfield does all creative people a great service.
As he sees it, Resistance is a force of nature, a minion
of the Dark Side
, the essential yin
to Creativity’s yang
. If you’re “a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, or an entrepreneur
who never starts a venture,” you owe it to yourself and the world to meditate
upon the concept of Resistance.
Resistance is Invisible. Internal. Insidious. Implacable. Impersonal. Infallible and Universal. It never sleeps, it plays for keeps. It’s fueled by fear and it’s most powerful at the finish line.
For all of that, however, Pressfield assures us that resistance can be beaten:
If resistance couldn’t be beaten, there would be no Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, no Romeo and Juliet no Golden Gate Bridge. Defeating Resistance is like giving birth. It seems absolutely impossible until you remember that women have been pulling it off successfully, with support and without, for fifty million years.
There’s a single essential state of mind we must inhabit in order to break the back of Resistance. Pressfield calls it “turning pro.”
By this he means committing to the creative act Full Time. Completely. Every day. He means sitting down at the computer, the easel, the drawing board, the spread sheet and simply Doing It, consistently and with purpose. When we approach our work without judgment or false or heightened expectations, something mystical happens. We attract the Muse
, as the ancients put it. Ideas accrue. Connections and paths clarify suddenly. The work becomes something like a game
, a light and eventful enterprise
which, having run its course at the end of the day, leaves us spent but flush with a sure sense of accomplishment. We’ve put in our time and the rest of the day is ours to do with what we will. We sleep blissfully secure in the certainty that—for this day at least—we have conquered Resistance.
It’s a profound
business, the War of Art. It’s not for the amateur
or the conscientious objector
. It is, when you think about it, among the highest callings of the human spirit:
Every breath we take, every heartbeat, every evolution of every cell comes from God and is sustained by God every second, just as every creation, invention, every bar of music or line of verse, every thought, vision, fantasy, every dumb-ass flop and stroke of genius comes from that infinite intelligence that created us and the universe in all its dimensions, out of the Void, the field of infinite potential, primal chaos, the Muse. To acknowledge that reality, to efface all ego, to let the work come through us and give it back freely to its source, that, in my opinion, is as true to reality as it gets.
—Steven Pressfield, The War of Art, Warner Books, New York, 2003.
Killing time? Denying yourself and the world the wisdom of your unique soul? Feeling bad about it and yourself as a result? Read this book, roll up your sleeves, pick a font and seduce the muse with all your heart. Make a change, for once and for all. Overcome Resistance