Are you an aspiring author? Or painter? Or entrepreneur? Do you want to save the world or promote piece? Maybe help get clean drinking water to people in third-world countries?
Do you have a dream?
I’m betting you do, and I’m also betting you’re not doing anything to pursue it. I’ve found a cure for that.
You need to read “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles” by Steven Pressfield, who also wrote “The Legend of Bagger Vance.”
This book rocked my world. I read a lot, and I don’t review all of them. Maybe I should, but when I read this one, I had to share and discuss it.
In this book, which I would call a self-help manual even though I doubt that is what it is actually classified as, Pressfield tells the reader how to go after the dream. The best part is, the dream can literally be anything. Sure, he spends a lot of time referring to writing, but that’s what he does. It is how he relates it all, but the tips he provides and the points he makes are applicable to anything.
It blew my mind. Really. I had to read it twice and listen to in as an audio book on my iPod. It is that good and that inspirational.
I gained so much from this book that I don’t think I can truly give justice to all the points it made, but I’m going to highlight a few of my favorites.
First, if you want to do something creative (write, start a business, help the needy, whatever), the first step is to do it.
The mantra in the book was: “Sit down and do your work.”
Just do it . . . that’s not a reference to Nike, but it is accurate.
No matter what you are wanting to do, sit down and it. If you produce crap, so what. The important part is you are working toward your goal. You won’t get anywhere if you stay in your recliner and think about the task. You have to take action. Imagine Larry the Cable Guy is standing next to you and shouting, “Git ‘er done!”
But what stops you from taking action? Pressfield said it is one thing and one thing only, though it may take on many forms.
Resistance is anything that prevents us from doing our work. For example: procrastination is a form of resistance.
Here is how he first delves into the topic:
“Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is. Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease, and erectile dysfunction.”
Resistance is bad. It kills us, and what’s worse, it comes from the inside. It grows within us, and it is our job to crush it.
How do we defeat it? Fight it. As Pressfield said, Resistance hates nothing more than when we sit down and do our work.
Sit down and do your work!
This really struck home. In fact, it inspired me.
As some of you may know, I have published a novel (www.toddvogtsamazon.com). It published June 1, 2011.
That’s quite a while ago.
Then factor in that I finished writing it almost a year and a half before the publication date.
That’s a really long time ago.
The embarrassing part? I hadn’t written much except for a few short stories, a couple poems and various blog posts since then.
But Pressfield got me going. I sat down and did my work. I do it every night now. I write for at least two hours after I get home from work. It isn’t a lot, but I’m doing the work.
Now when people ask me how the next book is coming, I can answer honestly — “I’m working on it” — instead of saying, “Oh, it’s coming. Slowly,” which wasn’t true since it can’t move slowly if it isn’t really moving at all.
I haven’t been this happy in quite a while, and according to Pressfield, that means something.
It means I’m no long an amateur writer. I’m a professional. At least, I’m thinking like a professional. I don’t worry about if what I’m writing is any good. I don’t even care. I’m doing what makes me happy. I’m doing my work.
“There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.”
Talk about a light-bulb moment.
He’s absolutely correct. Making the effort to sit down is the toughest part. Once I’m into my zone, words flow. Sometimes they might be good. Sometimes they might be total crap. But they flow, and that’s what is important. Doing the work.
That is being a professional. Pressfield talks about “turning pro” a lot in the book. He said you need to view the work as what you do, but you can’t become so invested that it becomes who you are. You need to ignore the critics, and just do your thing.
If you’re a professional, success or failure is not personal. It just is. Pressfield summed it up like this:
“The professional keeps his eye on the doughnut and not the hole. He reminds himself it’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.”
Toward the end of the book Pressfield discussed determining the motivation behind the work. He suggested you ask yourself this question:
“If you’re the last person on earth, would I still do it?”
If you answered yes, he suggested you were doing it for the right reasons. You were doing it because it was what you do. What you are. If you said no, you were doing it to gain praise and approval from others. This, he suggested, isn’t the right reason to pursue a creative venture.
If I were the last person on earth, I would still write. It is my outlet. It is how I process the world around me, and it is how I relax and find my center. That’s the main reason I write for the different blogs I run.
Basically, you need to be a writer (or painter or whatever) for yourself. If others enjoy and benefit from what you do, that’s just gravy. You need to please yourself, or, as Pressfield said, you need to please your Muse.
That was another thing I liked. Pressfield expressed his belief in everyone being a creative person. The difference, he said, was that some people listened to the Muse and acted upon that creativity.
I agree. I think anyone can accomplish creative work. I hate when I hear people say, “I’m not creative.” That’s garbage. You have to keep your heart and mind open. You have to let — God, the Muse, the Angels — speak through you. Pressfield said creativity was a spiritual thing, and I agree.
Speaking of spiritual, nobody feels closer to God than when they are faced with death. Pressfield talks about how when people get a death sentence from a cancer diagnosis or whatever, they suddenly focus on what is truly important. They quit their jobs and pursue the dream with all they have because the fear their time on earth is short.
Why? Why should impending death be what spurs us to action? It shouldn’t. Even if I never publish another novel, I’m going to keep trying. I’m going to collect rejection letters. I’m going to live.
Of course, the crazy thing is sometimes people fully recover after giving up everything to pursue the dream before they die. Here’s how Pressfield wrote it:
“Miraculously, cancers go into remission. People recover. Is it possible, Tom Laughlin [“Billy Jack” actor, lecturer, author and Jungian-schooled psychologist who works with people diagnosed with cancer] asks, that the disease itself evolved as a consequence of actions taken (or not taken) in our lives? Could our unlived lives have exacted their vengeance upon us in the form of cancer? And if they did, can we cure ourselves, now, by living these things out?”
Such a notion is quite interesting. Even if it isn’t true, it is something to consider. It makes you think, doesn’t it?
That’s what this book does. It makes you think. It makes you analyze your own actions. It lights a fire and makes you want to sit down and do your work.
I read it at just the right time. I was needing a kick in the butt to get moving, and this book delivered.
There is so much more in this book that struck home for me, but I don’t want to just rewrite it here for you. Go buy it. Read it. Listen to it. Do whatever you have to in order to get this message.
I will leave you with how he ended the book:
“Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answer by action.
Do it or don’t do it.
It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.
You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God.
Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”
I think I might get “Sit Down And Do Your Work” tattooed on my body.