My Reading of The War of Art.

Steven Pressfield’s best seller, The War of Art, is an easy to read playbook of key perspectives that, when applied, may turn anyone from amateur to pro. Resistance, Fear and Ego are the main foes standing in the way.  They are the ones that the writer must choose to battle, each and every day.

Here are some thoughts inspired by The War of Art.

Resistance.

Everything new causes Resistance; an invisible force that attacks us from every front. Resistance is what keeps us inside the protective walls of our comfort zone. Where every inch has been secured. Resistance is the way we think we are protecting ourselves from pain, from change.

Every summer, from the time I was a child, all the way to adolescence, I resisted my mother when she would signed me up for camp. I was OK with packing. I was less OK with going to that parking lot and getting into that cold bus, filled with screaming kids. I was not OK with the sleeping arrangements, the stress of daily “fun” activities, the bland food, the hikes, the river, the pressure to fit in somewhere.

I resisted every summer, and every summer I went. I never stopped resisting. It was my prerogative. I eventually outgrew summer camp. I was free to stay home and do nothing all summer like I always wanted to. Yet, a wonderful and unexpected thing happened. I went back to camp, and I do it almost every day, in my mind. I go into a memory box filled to the rim with thousands of camp anecdotes, stories, images and songs. Priceless.

The reason I resisted can be boiled down to one thing: Fear.

Fear.

I know fear. I was ashamed of my fear. For a long time, I believed my fear was a great weakness, a great flaw. The world was a scary place, full of unknowns. Competition was not for me, or rather, I was not made for competition. I hated to show my vulnerability, to be put in a position to prove to others that I could fit in, when I clearly did not.

Fear was the label outside the box where I hid all of myself. A selected few were in on the truth, I was actually creative. Fear was my master. I let it control my thoughts, my actions. I thought it was protecting me. But I had let it run wild. He could do whatever he wanted, while I did nothing.

Fear no longer rules my life. I have taken back control. How?

  1. I was forced. Change was brought to me, by someone who loves me.
  2. I was forced again. By the second and third time, I began to see change was not the end of the world. I felt resilient. I got a glimpse of myself.
  3. I forced myself. I did it my way. I aimed for small wins. I focused on progress.

Then, one day, I saw fear standing right beside me, watching the whole thing with an expression of astonishment and pride. I understood I could never be without fear. I would have to carry it with me. And that’s OK. I have transformed the fear that prevents me from new experiences, new challenges, positives changes and learning opportunities into my compass. Now, it actually shows me where I need to go.

The reason I was so afraid to be vulnerable and fail, can be boiled down to one thing: Ego.

Ego.

Years ago I wrote my thesis on Moll Flanders and Roxana. I went on and on about the fact that these women were self-made individuals, who advanced in their male dominated society, surpassing many of the limitations placed upon their lives, bodies and minds. Both characters fought successfully, and unsuccessfully, against the tide of social conventions, for the preservation of their self. Yet, after reading The War of Art, and its insights about the Ego, I’ve realized, I was a tinny bit off the mark.

Moll Flanders and Roxana’s obsession was not on “making” and giving voice to their “self”, it was definitely on giving voice only to their “ego”. They were superficially preoccupied, or occupied, with all aspects of material society, class, wealth, influence, power. Their ego was the only thing in charge of their self-made transformations. In essence, they both ended up with a very poor and under developed self.

The most important thing for us as creatives, artists, professionals, is to see the ego as the little bully that it is. It is small and weak, but if given the chance, if fed by our insecurities, by our fears, it grows, and gains  control of our thoughts, emotions and actions.

Instead, we need to feed the fertile landscape of our mind, that is the Self. It is there, all over the place, quieted down by the teeny tyrant. And while Ego is the voice of others, the critics, the social pressures, the superficial and material wants, the Self is you. Let it speak, let it flow.

The battle against resistance never ends. 

The fight against fear is futile. We must carry it with us.

The voice of ego will never go away. We must speak louder.

The war of art is not a one time event. It is an ongoing battle within us. Are you fighting? Are you learning? Are you giving up? You are the knight and you are the foe. Who will you let win today?

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