“Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are & become it.” – Steven Pressfield
It’s the first in my monthly Rousing Reviews series! OK, it’s technically the second (I reviewed The Renaissance Soul in June of ’09, so that totally counts, right?), but it’s the first on a consistent basis. Let’s face it, our lives sometimes get in the way, & it’s tough to sit down with a book that you know will do ya a world of good, both for yourself & your fans/readers/followers/clients. So yes, this series is absolutely a structure I set-up for myself to make me accountable to read the books that I’ve been tagging along the way. See, I life coach myself sometimes! And duh – obviously I do this for you kids, too (say it with me: “Awwwwww!”).
I wanted to start off the series with The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield because it’s really a hell of a title. What artist wouldn’t want to go into battle, break through their creative roadblocks, & emerge victorious with the Writer’s Block Vampire’s head on a stick? And while I’d like to say that that’s what this book does, I can’t. Not to say it won’t help slay that Vampire, but it’s more about discovering all the ways the Vampire’s likely to attack you & instilling yourself with the mojo to make it not only not bite you, but to get it to leave you the hell alone, at least until tomorrow.
Let me explain. The War of Art is split into three books: Resistance (Defining the Enemy) Combating Resistance (Turning Pro) & Beyond Resistance (Higher Realm). As you can tell, Resistance is the Vampire here. The long & short of it is that every single thing that causes a creative person to shelve their creativity – whether it’s perfectionism, addiction, procrastination, or the million other excuses a creative person gives themselves to not do – is a direct weapon of Resistance. For me, Book One was eye-opening, powerful, & worth the price of the book a few times over. When I flipped the page to Book Two, I may or may not have clutched it to my chest & said to myself, “You will be beaten & dog-eared when I’m through with you.” And then I may or may not have kissed it. I couldn’t help it – hearing about all the different Vampires that get in the way of making Art, why, it was a wonder that any Art exists at all! The whole reason Resistance exists is to “shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work” & “the more call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel towards pursuing it.” How evil is that? It’s so evil that the more we discover something that’s authentically us, that’s calling us to do it, the more it attempts to stop us! That is so, so evil that I not only wanted it’s head on a stick, I wanted to chop it up into pieces & then stomp it to double death! Seriously, it pissed me off.
I’m ready, then, to find my weapon. How do I stop this evil monster? I must need a gun, an axe, a dagger, a…..wait, what? The only thing I need to do is do my work every day? That’s it? And not worry about how good it’ll turn out to be, or how much of it will get done, or where it’s gonna take me….I just need to sit down & do it? And then the Resistance Vampire is dead, at least until tomorrow? Well, that’s pretty awesome. I thought I’d have to lift iron or something & get big Buffy muscles….
In Books Two & Three, the author (who wrote The Leggend of Bagger Vance, amongst other things) goes into what we should be doing to get our work done (show up every day, stay there all day, be committed in the long-term, make money from it), how to be a professional about it (be prepared, ask for help, don’t show off), & how the angels get called around us when we do our work to empower us (it’s written less hippy-dippy than that, but it’s still fairly hippy-dippy stuff). It’s totally valid & worthwhile & really good stuff. But what I wanted, both as a Creative & as a life coach, was more tangible stuff to do. I wanted homework! I wanted to read about exercises & things I could do to help me not only change my mindset (which Mr Pressfield already helped me do), but to break my bad habits & allow me to get to work, strong enough to slay a fresh Vampire daily & beat that big bitch, Resistance.
Since I am that life coach, I’ll take this into my own hands & offer you these exercises, whether you read the book or not (but seriously, read the book. It would be an extremely worthwhile afternoon for you, as the book takes about 2-3 hours to read cover to cover):
- If you’re having trouble self-motivating & want the support of being part of a group that vows to be creative every day, then join, uh, Creative Every Day! While mostly geared towards artists, you could also write around the topics that are suggested every month, or write songs about them, or dance to ’em…you get the point. You can also make a commitment to blog every month by joining NaBloPoMo (join anytime!) or mark your calendars for November & resolve to write that novel that’s in your head by joining NaNoWriMo!
- Go easy on yourself. If being creative every day is too daunting (Mama’s gotta put food on the table, after all!), then let yourself off the hook & commit to X amount of time every week to your Art, even if it’s 15 minutes. I have a client who committed to doing 15-20 minutes of music each week, & when I asked her about how it went, she laughed at me. “15 minutes?! I did twice that the first day!” Yup, you might get swept away and/or find your groove & blow that number out of the water, but even if you don’t, you’re taking baby steps to get there. And even better – figure out a prize to give yourself every week that goal gets met. Kindergarden teachers have it right – those gold stars are really motivating!
- Answer this: How does Resistance work it’s evil way into your life? Write down all the weapons it throws at ya, & write down all the antidotes you can think of to slay it. Or draw what the Resistance Vampire looks like, labeling all of it’s evil bits & pieces, & then draw you, all Buffy-fied & kicking it’s ass. Sweet revenge.
- The author writes, “The years have taught me one skill: How to be miserable. I know how to shut up & keep humping.” Well, I write: “Screw that!” Make your creativity session as awesome as possible. Put on your favorite music. Light the orange ginger scented candle you love. Kiss that photo of your hot husband before you start. Seriously – you are not being tortured here! Find the fun & why you’re called to do this in the first place.
- On a sheet of paper, write “I am a ___________” 25 times, & then write “I’m meant to _______________” ten times. In a stream of consciousness exercise, fill in the blanks. No censoring! When every line is full, go through them one by one. If something doesn’t feel like it’s coming from you, or isn’t aligned with your values, strengths or passions, cross it out. What’s left? That’s a start to help you discover “who you are & become it”, like the quote at the top of the review says.
Have you read the book? If not, do you wanna? Do you agree with my Rousing Review, or should I go shove it? Please share your thoughts, insights, suggestions & awesomeness in the comments section. I’ll give you a topic: “Steven Pressfield is neither a printing press nor a field – discuss!”