Recently, on a lovely spring day, with my laptop open and my paints at the ready, I had arranged a luxurious block of time to work on writing, digital art and a painting project. This was the day I had planned and looked forward to, and the anticipation sustained me through some busy days. But as you know, things don’t always work out as planned.
In the middle of my creative indulgence the phone rang with an urgent message; the needy doorbell rang; a stereo was blaring nearby; the computer suddenly gave a malfunction message; and a car alarm began to ceaselessly bellow just outside my open window. My precious allotment of time to indulge in my craft was tick, tick, ticking away…
I only tell you this so that you can understand my mindset as I opened Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art. With clarity he writes of what he calls “Resistance”, according to him the most toxic force on the planet. Resistance is the enemy within, our creative block. Your block could be restlessness or boredom, a tug-of-war with the clock, or a life already filled with obligations. Perhaps you battle pessimism, melancholy or depression. Maybe you are dealing with self-sabotage or procrastination, which Pressfield calls the most common manifestation of Resistance. A closer look at how you procrastinate can actually provide some insight into what you enjoy. But if you are just flitting from distraction to distraction and not practicing or producing, you may be dealing with avoidance. Can we overcome these blocks? Yes, yes we can. But it will take work.
It seems creativity is a buzzword lately. Many articles and TED talks about creativity are easily accessed by a web search. Education leaders are concerned that our schools are depriving children of their creative potential. Business leaders are encouraged to develop their creativity and to recognize it in their employees. It’s about time the world notices how important creative thinking and production are to all of us. But just reading and collecting articles and advice will not get your artistic gifts out into the world. We need to make it happen. We all have creative capacity and with some discipline we can find a way to create. Pressfield’s advice:
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 answered by action. Do it or don’t do it.
So what does the work of creating actually involve? According to Pressfield, the artist must wear combat boots since she is at war. Why is Resistance in its many forms so powerful? His contention is that we feed it with fear. Fear of actually putting ourselves down in a chair to write. Fear of a blank white canvas. Fear of picking up our long-ignored instrument and realizing how degraded our skills have become. But with some new strategies, perhaps new ritual, some visualization techniques and a bit of interface with nature, we can once again access the flow of inspiration. That’s what the unstuck creative is all about. Together we start this excellent journey to self-mastery.
Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention…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. – Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
Ok, give us what you’ve got. Are you affected by “Resistance”?
Have you found a solution that works for you?