As a writer, I like to think I come in peace.
I shy away from books or websites or teachers that talk about things like War or Battles or Bootcamp and especially Hard Work.
But I was persuaded recently to look at Steven Pressfield's The War of Art, and hey, I loved it.
Now Steven Pressfield is a bestselling author, but this book feel so authentic you can tell it hasn't been all easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy-let's-just-write-and-make-money for him. The chapters are small but hard hitting. And they do hit hard - right at the smelly dark secrets most of us think we are hiding in our writing process.
Here's a flavour:
Are you paralyzed with fear? That's a good sign.
Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.
Yes! Punch those fists in the air right now. Oh but then, he brings me back to earth with the following quote. How does he know what I am thinking, and why isn't he being nice any more?
We get ourselves in trouble because it's a cheap way to get attention. Trouble is a faux form of fame. It's easier to get busted in the bedroom with the faculty chairman's wife than it is to finish that dissertation on the metaphysics of motley in the novellas of Joseph Conrad.
Oooo... now, of course, I've never actually been busted in the bedroom with the faculty chairman's wife, but I do recognise that feeling of 'actually, I'm a bit bored, I might just start an argument with someone' or getting myself into a little bit of a panic that I can 'share' with friends, or God forbid, twitter.
The WAR in this book is against resistance, and he's right. Resistance isn't our friend. In writing or in anything else. And he pin points exactly - for me - the places where I might be giving into it, albeit unconsciously. I found it so useful, and know I'll go back to it again and again.
But if there's one thing about this book I could love Steven Pressfield forever for, it's this:
In the hierarchy, the artist faces outward. Meeting someone new he asks himself, What can this person do for me? How can this person advance my standing?
In the hierarchy, the artist looks up and looks down. The one place he can't look is the place he must: within.