Sunday, October 25, 2009

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Internet Review of Books is putting together a Christmas gift list for readers and their request for suggestions set me to thinking about what books I would like to receive as well as give. And then I thought, "What books do I wish my loved ones would read."
I want my sons to read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

Both sons have the hearts of artists and all of the frustrations and economic stresses that accompany such a leaning. I know what they feel, to some extent because they inherited this 'heart' from me. Where I got it we have no idea.

Most of my family are hard working people who can do the same job endlessly for decades. If I last four years at any one task (other than marriage and children) it is by a miracle. Traditional employment with bosses upon bosses treating me like a piece of the furniture and never wondering who I am or what I'm capable of wears me out -- heart and soul and sinew.

It is the time when I'm caught in a nine-to-five job when my mind dwells obsessively on the 'what ifs' and the unlived life that Pressfield depicts so well. "Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be?"

He insists that the one thing that stands between the wannabe writer and the real writer is one thing: Resistance.

He writes: "Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust int he attic? Ever quit a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice? ....Then you know what Resistance is."

And he speaks of various kinds of resistance, how to feed it and what it likes. There's a reason the Bible has the passage: "Fear is of the devil." Fear stops more people in their tracks than anything. Resistance feeds on fear, according to Pressfield. And explains the fear is of consequences that come from following one's heart.

"Fear of bankruptcy, fear of poverty, fear of insolvency.

Fear of groveling when we try to make it on our own, and of groveling when we give up and come crawling back to where we started.

Fear of being selfish, of being rotten wives or disloyal husands; fear of failing to support our families, of sacrificing their dreams for ours.

Fear of betraying our race, our 'hood, our homies.

Fear of failure.

Fear of being ridiculous.

Fear of throwing away the education, the training, the preparation that those we love have sacrificed so much for, that we ourselves have worked our butts off for...."


Fear that we will succeed. And with this success we will move out of the comfortable niche, cut the ties and connections that make us a member of the 'tribe' or family where we know what to expect, who to trust, and how to survive and who will help us in that survival. All will be new and strange and foreign in this world of success.

So for a writer. It isn't the writing that is so hard, it is overcoming the resistance and the fear so that we can sit down and actually write.

Yes, definitely, this is a book I want my sons to read. But yet, part of me fears that if they read, if they go after their dreams -- I will lose them. But the artist in me knows that a new connection will grow and maybe if they succeed, there's still hope that I can find the life unlived and still give it a try.

1 comment:

Bob Sanchez said...

Working for years on end in the same job can be deadening, and I thank my lucky stars for getting past that part of life.

Resistance can also take the form of inertia, more of a passive sort than actually pushing back against change. Maybe we're not taking the right steps toward a goal simply because we don't get around to them. My treadmill gathers dust now simply because I've ignored it, but I don't know that fear is involved, nor is sloth. It's just that other things have crowded it out of my life.

By the way, the IRB link is Internet Review of Books

Interesting post!

Bob Sanchez