Advice for Winning the War on Art

I just finished ready an extraordinary book, “The War of Art: Break through the blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles”, by Steven Pressfield. It is all about how to battle what Pressfield calls “Resistance” and conquer it. Resistance is that part of us that keeps us from doing the things we were put on this earth to do. It is that constant, very loud voice in our head that finds other things for us to do, or tells us it can wait till tomorrow. It is also that thing that makes us jealous of real artists.

There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the sercret 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.

Resistance in the part of our brain that does not want us to take risks, that prefers conformity and following the rules. It is the thing that keeps us at work and working. As Seth Godin puts it, it is the lizard brain that fears, or as Julia Cameron says, it is the critic says we not worthy or not good enough. It is that part of our brain that does anything it can to prevent us from doing what we are meant to do.

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

The idea of Resistance that Pressfield is talking about is the thing that keeps us from showing up. And the secret to conquering Resistance is to “turn pro”. It is the idea that we don’t wait for inspiration, but we show up everyday, sit down, and do our job. Whether that job be writing, painting, or building a new business. Because once we sit down and put in the time and effort, then the inspiration comes, then the universe opens and blesses us.

This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writes don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favour in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.

Both Malcolm Gladwell in his book, “Outliers”, and Julia Cameron in, “The Artists Way”, echo this idea that work comes first and then inspiration comes out of that work. We need to show up, put in our time before we can expect the ideas to come. Pressfield recounts the 10 years he struggled as a write before anything was published and a mentor that he met along the path that encouraged him to show up and work.

I don’t think I am alone in believing that you have to wait for inspiration to strike before you can begin and letting myself give into resistance far too often. The more I read about this idea of “showing up”, the more I am convinced that I need to start. I need to start writing more and I need to start doing more art. I need to start showing up, putting in the work, and seeing what happens.

Before the universe can respond, I need to do my part. And that needs to begin today.