I know, it really doesn’t matter much what the “content” of this blog is. What matters is that I am going through the “process” of writing it. And it is this process, or physical act, of writing that does the therapy I need. What therapy? Each week I sit down, face a blank screen and spool out what’s on my heart. As I said in a former blog, “all of us get down from time to time” and when you’re down, the best thing to do is write, run, walk, talk, jog, etc. Understand though, this writing, walking, talking, or jogging doesn’t have to be of quality. You’re “clearing the deck,” so to speak. Be careful who you talk with and write to. It should be someone who realizes that all this must be considered as “time out babble.” You Don’t Have To Get It Right… You Just Have To Get It Moving.
So let’s get it moving. One of the things you Alexandrites know I do is – read voraciously. You’ve all heard of the classic book, The Art Of War right? Well, I just finished a book called The War Of Art by Steven Pressfield, and Pressfield impressed me! This book spoke to me on a deep level. In The Art Of War, Sun Tzu wrote, “Know the enemy, know yourself, and your victory will be certain.” For anyone who is stuck at a level below their God-given potential, who can’t seem to get on track to do the things they need to do in order to achieve their most authentic goals, knowing the enemy and knowing yourself are one and the same. What I love about this book is how honest and from the heart it is. Pressfield had a wrap sheet of failure as long as your arm, and avoided sitting down to do his work hundreds of times–just like I have many times. This little gem is about more than being creative, though. I think it’s about fulfilling your potential as a human being! To do this, Pressfield says, you must overcome the enemy called Resistance (the “R” is capitalized, says Pressfield, to represent the fact that it is a very real entity, as real to your authentic Self as Charles Manson or Genghis Khan were to their victims).
The whole aim of Resistance, says Pressfield (who is the bestselling author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and Gates of Fire), is to prevent you from doing the work you are called to do. Resistance wants you to take it easy, to be ordinary and mediocre, to take the low road. Resistance is the reason so many people place a basket over the brilliant candle that shines within them. The fight against Resistance is, Pressfield says, a war to the death!
In this work Pressfield disputes the standard motivational cliché that you can have, do, or be anything if you follow the right formula and just work hard enough. Rather, he says “We are not born with unlimited choices…Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal that we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.” This really speaks to so many magicians in my field, myself included, who believe in finding where the market is and then developing an act for it.
I love this dose of reality. People seem to think that great writers are born great. It’s so helpful to see in this work that they are not. They too get stuck or emotionally jammed up. One of the ways to get yourself unclogged and flowing again is just to keep moving. Run, walk. Jog, write, do the dishes, what have you. But, for God’s sake, don’t just sit around waiting for a flash from Heaven, because it’s probably not going to come! Flashes of inspiration for corporate magic don’t come to me while I’m doing my work. They come to me later and in the most unexpected ways. I remember David Copperfield talking about how he came up with the idea of making time go backwards in his Death Saw Illusion. He said it came to him in the shower the next day. That’s how inspiration works. It won’t be scheduled.
Here is a little quirk of mine: I have a special way of taking notes on things I’m working on. I never know quite when they’ll strike, so I take my notes in the form of little nuggets of information as I walk through life. I put them into a voice recorder whenever they come to me. Later I spool them off into what I write. Yes, that includes what you’re reading right now. It turns out Pressfiled does this too. By the way, it’s important not to edit during this process.
A man I very much respect who was not above doing this sort of thing wanted to become a great writer and he was. What he did was take great books and copy them (in a sense he was actually writing them) in his own handwriting. He did this for a long time. Now here is something else he took the trouble to do: Since one of the books he wanted to write involved what it was like to cross the ocean under horrible conditions, what he did was travel the ocean himself in the bowels of rusty old freighters. Naturally, before he was finished he had an internal deep rooted “cellular” knowledge of the process of writing a good book and he also knew what it was like to travel the ocean in misery.
Did all of this pay off? This man’s name was Alex Haley and his book, Roots, was one of the best sellers of all time. The best way to become a great writer is by…writing great writing!
Apparently there are two occasions when Resistance will be the most relentless, and they are related. The first is when something really matters to you. “Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.” If your lifelong goal is to be a writer, a rejection letter from a publisher will hurt a whole lot more than if you submitted your manuscript on a dare. The second occasion when Resistance is most dangerous is related to what Pressfield calls “the mother of all fears,” namely the fear that you will actually succeed. Resistance builds as you get closer to the finish line. “At this point, Resistance knows we’re about to beat it. It hits the panic button. It marshals one last assault and slams us with everything it’s got.” There is a real paradox here. The closer you get to reaching that proverbial tipping point, where things are really starting to click, the more likely you are to engage in the self-sabotaging behavior that is the calling card of Resistance.
Pressfield offers a prescription for defeating Resistance. You must, he says, become “a pro.” But he does not mean that in the sense of earning a living at the work, in the sense of being a member of a certain profession, or in the sense of being looked up to by your peers. Rather, he simply means showing up every day with your lunch pail and getting to work. Much of the book has to do with how you make this transformation so that you can do the work that you are called to do.
Anyone who is trying to tap into the inspiration they sense burning somewhere inside them that tells them to go out and write – or to create any other kind of art – will benefit tremendously if they open their minds and prepare themselves for rigorous introspection. Whether you’re writing a screenplay, starting a workout regime, or opening a burger franchise this book will give you the kick in the a__ you need. This is not a simple self-help or how-to formula. It is a truly profound examination of the human mind and the quest for fulfillment that we all feel. Go read it.