Every so often someone will recommend to me a good book, a must-read. When the same book keeps getting mentioned to me repeatedly, that usually gets my attention. I had this experience recently with The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. At first, I wasn’t quite sure why it was being recommended to me. I’ve never considered myself particularly artistic, much as I admire those who are. (I fall into the category of maybe I can draw a half-decent stick figure on a good day.) I read a few reviews here and there, all of which mentioned either procrastination or resistance. I’m not one to procrastinate typically and I didn’t really get what was meant by resistance, but still…….the fact that I kept hearing about it intrigued me.
Having just finished it, what I realize now is that it wasn’t really a book about being an artist, at least not in the way I was thinking of it. What it really was about, at least for me, was the 1001 ways we find to avoid the scary place of really putting ourselves out there, of discovering what it is that is inside us and somehow bringing that forth, however clumsily. This doesn’t necessarily mean the creation of a beautiful painting, or a great piece of literature. It can just as easily mean taking the risk to begin a new career or business, or explore the cultures and rainforests of the Amazon, if that’s something we’ve always wanted to do. What Pressfield’s mission really is with The War of Art is pushing us to live up to our potential, and not settle for less.
The resistance Pressfield writes about is really about how we hold ourselves back, consciously or unconsciously, from becoming all we are meant to be, from finding our purpose, and operating from that. Research confirms that those of us who live with a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives and work benefit in a multitude of ways. They’re healthier overall, live longer, have better relationships, and enjoy more life satisfaction in general. Why would anyone in their right mind resist that?
One of Pressfield’s main points in the book is that there is something each one of is here to do, is meant to do – that we each have a calling. Resistance is the myriad number of ways we find to avoid doing it: I don’t have the time, the right circumstances, the money, I’ll start tomorrow, when the kids are grown, and on and on. We are the ones who hold ourselves back, and only we can remove the obstacles that we have put in our path. Whatever keeps us from starting – or finishing – that which calls to us – that is our resistance and the only way around it is to get honest with ourselves. By acknowledging our blocks and letting go of excuses, we can get on with our real work in the world – expressing the creativity that resides in all of us, whether it lies in creating a sculpture, a second career, or our own version of a successful business.
The author doesn’t pull any punches; he calls it the way he sees it. As a result, it might not be for everyone. For myself, I’m going to read it again.