Thursday, May 3, 2012

The War of Art

I have a new favourite book these days. It's called The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. He starts out the book with this statement:

'Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.'

He goes on to explain the concept of Resistance as the force that keeps us living in the mediocre - the treadmill we never use, the career we never pursued, the passion we never followed. He defines Resistance as the thing that prevents us from achieving the life God intended for us.
It keeps us from our calling.

Otherwise knows as Fear.

As a writer, this is all too familiar. Anyone I've met who is pursuing their creativity struggles with it. When I was in Banff for the Writing With Style Series, this subject came up a lot. Here we were, artists surrounded by a nurturing, supportive environment. And yet when we were faced with reading our work in front of everyone else, we all felt the same. Scared silly.

Pressfield writes: 'Henry Fonda was still throwing up before each stage performance, even when he was seventy-five. In other words, fear doesn't go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.'

When I was writing the first draft of my first novel, I entered this battle every morning at my desk. Resistance was strong, urging me to give up. Fear had a tight grip around my throat. They whispered in my ear, 'Who do you think you are? As if you could ever write a book. Why don't you just check facebook, or watch a movie.' And every day, for six months, I fought, and just wrote. It was an amazing feeling, to stare Resistance in the face and win.

When I started my second novel, I figured I'd have it easy. I'd already battled, and won. The words would flow, the confidence would surge.

Surprise, surprise, Resistance was there again, ready and willing to go to battle once more. I wilted in it's presence, and backed away. Surely I couldn't still be struggling with the same old fears? Hadn't I learned anything?

That's why The War of Art is so great. It's a lovely kick-in-the-pants, get-off-your-ass and be professional about this, kind of message that I think many artists need to hear. Stop looking at what you do as 'special' and 'intuitive' (even though it is) and treat it like a job. Expect that fear will be lurking around every corner, and that every day will be a battle. And with that knowledge, don't ever let Resistance win. Be a warrior in your life, and amazing things will happen.

Next week, I'll delve into Pressfield's chapter on 'Turning Pro.' Lots of good stuff there.



N said...

Hmmm. Good thoughts.

Margie Schamuhn said...

Great post Val!

The most courageous people I know are the ones that expect that fear may be there, and choose to rise up anyway and press forward.
This take tremendous strength---it is a "win", and this is what is so admired.

You are courageous Val. Keep writing!

Kate said...

I definitely experience this with my painting. Great post - I just bought the e-book :)

Valerie Scott said...

Thanks, Margie. It does take strength, doesn't it? Kate, glad you bought the book. Let me know what you think!