Last night I read an excellent book given to me by a dear friend. It’s called “The War of Art”, by Steven Pressfield. The title is an obvious take on the Art of War by Sun Tzu, and this book is filled with the same short pithy statements to guide the practice of art. I knew it would speak to me as soon as I read the introduction, written by Robert McKee:
“Steven Pressfield wrote “the War of Art” for me. He undoubtedly wrote it for you, too, but I know he did it expressly for me because I hold Olympic records for procrastination. I can procrastinate thinking about my procrastination problem. I can procrastinate dealing with my problem of procrastinating thinking about my procrastination problem.”
Erm, yeah. Ditto. The book goes on to deal with resistance to creating art in all its forms – Pressfield capitalizes Resistance and I think he is right here as mine is certainly big enough to earn the capital letter. There are so many reasons for Resistance, from fear of failure to that old bugaboo, fear of success. It explains a lot of me to me. Why I have dozens of unfinished projects lying about my life; why I rarely fully commit to anything; why I change jobs and locations quickly. Right now I have a novel waiting for me to write the ending – it is languishing, unloved, in a file. I sign up for flash fiction and other contests with short deadlines so that I force myself to write anything, but also have an excuse for not doing well – “well, it was a short deadline…” Meanwhile I look about for “support” and other Resistance builders, things that waste time, and I spend way too much time on my personal crises and romantic life without accomplishing much in either. Want to come and talk over your entire life and your choices therein ? I’m your gal. Why, I even bought a puppy as my parrotlet had ceased being a writing distraction (though she does sit on my arm and occasionally bite me to keep me awake).
Pressfield offers solutions in Chapter Two – a lot of this sounds like that old “secret” mumbo jumbo, like attracting success by asking for it, but anyone who has experienced the magic of being subsumed in a writing or art jag knows that it IS true that the more your focus on your writing (or art) the more is given to you. It’s like magic. Suddenly the world seems more vibrant; things like flowers seem intricately detailed and in need of definition, people’s conversations appear around you and are mine-able for use, even the taste of your morning coffee slips from commonplace to slightly smoky, redolent of moist jungles. Pressfield suggests “turning pro” as a solution to combating resistance, and he’s so right. I don’t know why some of we artists (mainly we wanna be ones) spend so much time not doing our job – if we did that in a regular job, we’d be brought in by management for a sincere talking to, and perhaps a pink slip.
Now that I am off on disability with a chronic disease, it’s even easier to ask for days off from my muse. I’m often dead tired (or jangly from my new habit of slurping 4 espressos in my AM cafe au lait.) My body begs for a lie down. My brain feels tired. I need rest, I tell myself.
I also need exercise, and strangely, I have been able to hold myself to that commitment (with thanks to the puppy). So surely I should be able to hold myself to the writing one. But the old pal Resistance is fighting a good fight. Add in that little niggling voice of self-doubt, and it’s easy to get trapped before a blank screen with only blah running through your head.
I’ve tried different things. Now I have a swanky yellow fountain pen from one son that glides over paper like a knife through butter. So when my fingers don’t want to type think, they can write-think. My other son gave me an infinite teacup, so I can always have warm tea by my side. I have enough music on my iTunes that I can groove all day long with no need for radio distractions. I have an Alphasmart keyboard thing that allows me to type *without access to the internet* and then just download what I write. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AlphaSmart
So my production should be high. Hahahahaha. Well, the start of production is high. Heaven knows I have a lot of good starts of things. Now to finish them – a lifetime challenge. I’m over 50 now – by gods, I should learn to carry through. It’s time to turn pro.
Of course, if all fails, some disenchanted lover or other person has signed me up for queer personals. As I am very heterosexual, I doubt I will be an appropriate member. But it might help my plotting or storylines…
See how strong my Resistance is? It’s already trying to distract me. Enough. I’m off to work on that novel. And a short story. Wish me luck!