“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.”
– Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
I’ve read a lot of books about creativity, making art, and becoming a better writer. In many of these books, there are one or two great ideas, and then some ideas that I find are not useful, or not original, or both.
The War of Art is a different kind of book about making art, and I have found it to be one hundred percent useful. In this book, Pressfield looks directly at why people want to make something (books, screenplays, painting, clay-mation movies, the best apple pie ever, etc.) and the force that stops them from doing so. Pressfield labels that force Resistance and then proceeds to describe all the ways in which Resistance stops people from doing creative work. As I read these examples of Resistance in action, I found myself nodding (ruefully) again and again. Yes, I have encountered many of these forms of Resistance.
To counter resistance, Pressfield says that the solution is to turn pro (professional). He describes the actions of a professional, among them: show up every day; commit to the long haul; do not over-identify with your job; and master your technique. The good news is, you don’t have to do this all by yourself. The Muse will help you. Pressfield describes how to solicit the Muse’s help and why. He also notes that some people are uncomfortable with the idea of a Muse, and he suggests that they “…think of it as ‘talent,’ programmed into our genes by evolution.’ The Muse will reward those who turn pro with ideas, words, images, and so on; the professional’s job is to listen and to use the amazing stuff that is flowing through them.
Knowing that Resistance is an impersonal force is powerful– it means there’s nothing wrong with me for encountering it. Hitting Resistance doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be writing or that I don’t really want to create or that I should just spend all my time watching funny cat videos.
It means I am trying to do something important and I need to keep doing it.