“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”
I remember the first time I read that line in Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. It shook my world. It immediately made me think about the life that I was living and question the unlived life still buried within. My mind flooded with questions…Was I creating the art I wanted to be creating? Was I wrestling with the tough questions and creative blocks that come up as we create? Was I showing up fully with my teaching and in my relationships? Was I playing small with my vision because of fear or doubt? I read on.
In this small but powerful book Pressfield examines the myriad of obstacles we face when trying to pursue any calling we might have – whether it be with our creative endeavors, launching a business, self improvement in any capacity – be it physical, intellectual, financial or spiritual, in addition to learning new skills, committing to philanthropic work or any other act that requires us to forfeit immediate gratification in exchange for long-term growth and commitment.
A couple of the things that I love about this book, besides the fact that it is a very quick and humorous read, is that it carefully outlines the various forms Resistance takes then provides a very direct path to cut through this invisible, self-manufactured, insidious, impersonal, universal force so that we can get down to doing our work and creating the lives of our dreams.
I must admit I laughed out loud in more than one spot as I read about the hilarious and mystifying ways we resist getting down to doing our work, as I recognized myself and some of my shape shifting forms of resistance and procrastination over the decades. “Creating soap opera in our lives is a symptom of Resistance. Why put in years of work designing a new software interface when you can get just as much attention by bringing home a boyfriend with a prison record?” Okay…maybe it wasn’t that bad – he didn’t have a record!
Moving right along, Pressfield focuses his attention on how to combat Resistance in a move he calls Turning Pro (which is the title of another one of his books.) By making this move – a subtle but profound shift in our thinking – everything changes! He spends the remaining two thirds of this book outlining the difference between amateurs and professionals and how we can benefit by adopting a “Pro” mindset.
“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.” Somerset Maugham
While not all of us are full time practicing artists and designers we can definitely learn from Pressfield and his ideas. Some of the key points that he makes that I have found useful to work with in my own creative practice are to:
- Show up every day – even for a 15-minute practice session or to make one call that could move us forward
- Show up no matter what – despite the piles of laundry or dishes, the headache, the bad mood, the fatigue
- Commit to the long haul – by focusing on the day-to-day work and progress rather than immediate returns
- Don’t over identify with it – while I create and teach for my living and as a passion, I am also – a wife, step-mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, mentor, global citizen and much more. I love my work, but I am not my work.
- Be serious and dedicated while not taking it too seriously – I try to maintain a sense of humor about it – all of it!
I think this book is a great one to have in your personal library. I have found myself on more than one occasion going back to it for quick tips, strategies or a dose of inspiration. As he concludes the book Pressfield reminds us that…
“Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the artist. 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.”
So now it’s your turn, what are some of your favourite strategies to push through procrastination or resistance? What gets you into the studio to do the work? I’d love to hear from you!