There are so many books that I want to read that I tend to immediately start a new one as soon as I’ve finished another. I occasionally go back and read something I’ve read before but only after enough time has passed that I’ve forgotten much of the story. I just remember that I love it.
I checked out Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles last weekend from the library. I’ve already read it twice. And I plan to read it again this weekend … and probably several more times before I have to return it.
It really is that good!
In this book, Steven Pressfield talks about why creative people don’t create and how to change it. While Steven is a writer (obviously) so his examples are particularly appropriate to my struggles as a writer, his thoughts apply equally as well to any creative endeavor: the painter who struggles to paint, the entrepreneur who struggles to get a business started, the musician who struggles to compose music.
The problem is every case is resistance. Resistance to doing whatever it is that our soul cries out for us to do.
He spends the first section of the book defining resistance—where it comes from, how it works, the symptoms it produces. I am still amazed by how much sense this all makes and how much of my experience it explains.
One of the biggest concepts that jumped out at me from the section was the idea that fear is best indicator of what we are really called to do. He says, “The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” As I struggle with trying to figure out my true calling, this is a wonderful rule of thumb for me to follow.
Another big ah-ha for me was his suggestion that we don’t need to wait until we are healed to be able to create. He says the following:
“Remember, the part of us that we imagine needs healing is not the part we create from, that part is far deeper and stronger. The part we create from can’t be touched by anything our parents did, or society did. That part is unsullied, uncorrupted; soundproof, waterproof, and bulletproof. In fact, the more troubles we’ve got, the better and richer that part becomes. The part that needs healing is our personal life. Personal life has nothing to do with work.”
The second section of the book is about how to combat resistance. His advice here is simply that one needs to become a professional. His descriptions and examples of what that means have given me much to think about and will have a profound effect on how I approach whatever it is that I decide to do. He has a way of making even the biggest changes sound so simple to undertake, and this brings a great encouragement to me to get going.
The third, and final, part of the book is about what comes beyond resistance. How we connect with our muse without over identifying with the mystery. How we make the work the best it can be once we conquer resistance enough to work at all.
The chapters in this book are very short, but each one is profound in its own way. Not only has this been a huge encouragement, it has also provided a re-adjustment of my thinking in a few areas that I think are going to be very beneficial in the long run. Now that I’ve read it all the way through twice, I think I need to go back and slowly savor each chapter to get every possible bit of wisdom out of each one.